American Express v. Courtney Love and Vice-Versa

Last Updated Jan 11, 2010 12:24 PM EST

Here's a burning question for you.

Does Courtney Love, blowsy lead singer for various alternative rock bands (and widow of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain), owe American Express $352,060 in unpaid charges or does American Express owe her an apology and damages?

Back in May, the card company sued her for the overdue balances on three accounts -- one for $279,080, another for $69,246, and a third for $3,734. Amex wants its dough plus reimbursement for collection and legal expenses. In a countersuit filed on Monday, she says that she doesn't owe a dime.

What's her story? She now says that starting in 2004, American Express began issuing "an inordinate number" of credit cards, reportedly 104, in her name, using her social security number and other personal information. She neither asked for nor consented to such a card barrage. She wants an unspecified amount of damages, for what exactly, is unclear.

Some consumer advisers contend Love is a victim of identity theft and caution everybody to be very careful about releasing their SSN and other private info to all and sundry. That advice makes good sense, but I tend to come down on the card company's side. First, court documents Love filed don't offer any proof that there were 104 accounts. Amex identified only three on which she's defaulted, and her countersuit never says that those three weren't her cards.

Now it is true, as Love contends, that banks can be sloppy. After all, they often issue new cards to people who are up to their eyeballs in debt, even though they have access to credit reports and scores. But Amex should receive a figurative spanking if it did issue 104 cards to Courtney Love. Whoever approves credit would have to have wondered how Love, with all her varied activities -- launching rock bands, cutting CDs, writing her memoir Dirty Blonde, designing a line of guitars, breaking her boyfriend's windows, admitting to abusing heroin, cocaine and pain-killers and losing, regaining and losing custody of her daughter -- would have the time to sit down and fill out 104 credit card applications?
What's more, where would a credit underwriter think that Love would stash 104 Amex cards? I have never seen her carry a handbag, and her dresses couldn't hide one credit card, much less an entire deck of them.
I guess we'll just have to wait for the verdict.
  • Marlys Harris

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