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Overholt sets sights on big dealers, playing matchmaker for trial lawyers

November 18, 2010
Self-styled whistle-blower Duane Overholt is creating a nationwide referral service that will funnel complaints of dealership fraud from consumers and employees to trial lawyers, Automotive News reported. Overholt, a former car salesman, drew attention to himself last year when featured in a "Dateline NBC" report criticizing dealership F&I practices. He will launch the service, Stop Auto Fraud Attorney Referral, this month with a TV infomercial before the annual NADA convention. From the report: "(Overholt) wants to embarrass major dealers and public dealership groups that he says victimize buyers with dishonest finance and insurance practices." His program will air initially in five states. In addition, Overholt has hired a public relations firm to place opinion columns in newspapers across the country. Overholt said he would announce 17 lawsuits across seven states-some of which will target the nation's largest publicly traded dealership group, AutoNation. The lawsuits reportedly will accuse the dealerships of illegally reducing sales employees' commissions by carving "packs" out of gross profits on new vehicles. Overholt contends that the practice violates federal and state wage laws. Overhault served as a consultant to the plantiff's lawyers in a 2002 lawsuit involving AutoNation, but the case was thrown out of a Florida court three times, with the judge punishing the plaintiff and his lawyers for filing a frivolous lawsuit. The trial judge ruled the classaction lawsuit lacked merit and ordered the plaintiff to pay AutoNation's legal expenses.