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Friday, March 30, 2012

NARS 2012

I attended NARS this past week and found it to be very informative, and a great opportunity to meet old and new friends, to do some business, and to stay informed about our industry. I'll be better prepared next year so I can attend more of the discussions as the one's I saw were well organized and informative. Great job by Les and the ARA and the article below by Kevin Armstrong really says it all. See you at NARS 2013! NARS 2012 A Huge Success! Las Colinas, TX – March 27, 2012 – If you weren’t at this years North American Repossessors Summit (NARS) held at the Omni Mandalay in Dallas, you missed without a doubt, the most important meeting regarding the future of the repossessions industry that’s been held to date. With over 500 Repossession company owners, employees and vendors, this was probably the largest meeting in the industries history. This massive attendance can be largely attributed to the tumultuous times the industry has been going through and this years NARS delivered with some lively and timely debate and conversations from industry leaders addressing many of the important issues facing the industry today. The two day seminar was highlighted by two separate sessions with a panel of industry leaders. Representing their respective associations were Mary Jane Hogan (ARA), George Badeen (AFA), Patrick Altes (TFA), Ed Marcum (RSIG) and Jennifer McDaniels (NFA). They appeared before an energetic audience armed with some pointed questions. The session was moderated by Auto Sales Trade Association leader Jack Tracy, with an open question and answer period on the topics of “Acting on the Challenges of Our Industry – From Talk to Action” on Friday and “What Should You Expect from An Association or Industry Organization?” which was conducted on Saturday. Starting Friday afternoon, after introductions, was the “Technology Innovations and Opportunities” panel that focused on ALPR and remarketing, which featured Zach Hollowell, Business Line Director of OPENLANE, Rick O’Connor, Director of Remarketing of Sales of SMARTAUCTION, Kyle Kolsky, VP Marketing and Brand Management of LEAP Auto Loans, Inc. and Chris Metaxas, CEO of DRN. Each explained their market edge and shared some conflicting views on several points. Zach Hollowell of OPENLANE and Rick O’Connor of SMARTAUCTION disagreed on whether or not online auctions have truly gained acceptance in the industry, while Scott Jackson of MVTRAC spoke of the virtues lenders expanding of ALPR on portfolios before assignment for repossession. Some of the attendees laughed out loud when Chris Metaxas, CEO of DRN apologetically stated “I don’t think we’ve done a very good communicating with our affiliates.” Ed Marcum of RSIG followed by Joe Taylor, VP and Stamatis Ferarolis, President of RISC spoke of the critical contributions their respective companies play in compliance and education play in the industry in their session “RISC/RSIG: Why it’s Critical to Your Business”. There was a private meeting for DRN Members held before finally breaking out for the evenings cocktail party hosted by DRN and finishing for the day. Did you go to NARS? If so, please take this survey If not, Why? Please take this survey On Saturday morning, Keynote speaker Mike Goins, Head of Deficiency Recovery for TD Auto Finance made a presentation to the industry called “Déjà vu, is this the Future?” and presenting “Direct Forwarding and Facilitation Models; Know, Understand. Educate and Adapt” was a panel consisting of Steve Norwood, President & CEO of Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems, Inc.; Scott Jackson, CEO of MVRECOVERY and Debra Durham, owner of Midwest Adjusters, Inc. who discussed the many issues both good and bad about the forwarding industry. A panel of industry professionals like Michael Eusebio, Owner of Digital Dog Auto Recovery and Premier Recovery Service and (CA), Clark Thomas, PHD of Texas Hide and Seek Recovery (TX), Dave Kennedy, owner and CEO of First Credit Resources, Inc. and John Lewis, founder of MasterQueue and Find John Doe provided their views on survivability and profitability in these profit thin times called “Additional Revenue Opportunities”. Each spoke of cross selling opportunities existing in additional services as well as the importance of understanding exactly what it costs to repo a car for agency owners. After a great lunch hosted by OPENLANE, Attorney Michael Dougherty presented, what I felt was one of the more illuminating sessions of the seminar regarding the industries future expectations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau called, “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – Is It a Legal Minefield.” With the rumor of clandestine attendance of one or more persons from this Federal Bureau, it highlighted the important role that this bureau may play in shaping the future of the repossession industry. While largely feared the industry might be regulated or licensed by the bureau, Mr. Dougherty reported that a source close to the CFPB advised him that the focus would be on education, certification and compliance from the industry, which would be enforced through more stringent due diligence requirements placed on the lenders creating a need for the industry to follow suit. Aside from the superior speakers and information provided, the networking and catching up with friends old and new was worth the trip to Texas alone. The 2012 NARS transcended being an association event, it was a true gathering of the industry. While not everyone agrees with each other on exactly how to accomplish it, industry unity is alive and growing. Every year the event gets bigger and every year it continues to improve. If you’ve never been to NARS or had once before, be sure not to miss the NARS 2013. Whether you are a lender, collector or repossession industry professional, you owe it to yourself to participate.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The FEDS laid down the gauntlet

The FEDS have laid down the gauntlet, and its about time. Owning a skip company can be risky business if you don't insure your employees are in compliance at all times. This means not only the obvious things, pretexting, no breaking phone numbers, no threatening people, no harassment, no profanity, etc. This also means the things that have not been as obvious, and things I've never seen a client audit, but given the statement below, the lenders will likely start rethinking If you don't have software that monitors compliance, specifically the compliance of your employees and your vendors as it relates to how they communicate with the public, you will likely squirm a bit, or a lot, when the FED walks in your office and asks you to open up your Kimono. Many software's claim to monitor compliance, but if that software is not also your workflow software, how can it tell you when a call was placed to a person who the law says cant be called, how do you know what your people are doing when you let them go to Facebook, how do you really know what your vendor is doing if you cant fully audit their actions as you are not familiar with the software they work in so you have to take them at face value when they deny they did what your customer has accused them of doing. masterQueue addresses these areas and many more, and given what the Chief said yesterday, if my employees or my vendors were operating out of compliance, I'd be looking for a solution in a pro active manner instead of waiting for the FED to walk through my front door. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Chief Richard Codray stated yesterday: "Through our supervision team, we examine non bank providers of consumer financial products and services, many of them for the first time at the federal level. The enforcement team that I helped build can commence actions against market players who cheat consumers – and their competitors – by not following federal consumer financial laws. GOOD- and he did this last year by filing the largest suits against illegal debt collection activity in the history of the FED - and they got multi-million dollar judgments in every case. "Those who follow the law are placed at a competitive disadvantage in contrast to those who do not, and their reputations are harmed when they are lumped in with their competitors who engage in illegal activities. OMG- this is like when the State of Calif started licensing repossession activity, eventually putting an end to large scale illegal repossession activity. It's tough to compete when you know your competitors are not playing by the rules, but you dont want to rat them out as you'll sound like a whiner, but when you fire people for breaking the rules, or worse breaking the law, and they all end up at your competitors shop, you know they likely haven't changed their bad habits, but you wonder why doesn't the client seem to care? We'll maybe the client doesn't care, but now the FED seems to care. Good for the FED. Codray continues..."Our goal is to help the honest debt collectors do their jobs responsibly and see that the rest are either rehabilitated or run out of business once and for all. When this proposed rule becomes final, our supervision authority will then allow us to go on-site with debt collectors, examine their operations from the inside, and determine whether a collector is complying with the law. We will set forth our expectations through public examination procedures, encourage robust compliance programs, communicate expectations confidentially to the entity throughout the examination and rating process, and ensure appropriate corrective action where necessary. These supervisory efforts would cover more than 60 percent of market activities. By comprehensively assessing large collectors, as well as many of the bank creditors who originate the debt, supervision would allow us to understand and address the systemic problems posing risks to consumers. By proactive coordination among federal and state law enforcement, we can help Americans dig themselves out of the residue of this financial crisis, without being plagued by the indignity of illegal debt collection tactics." Good job to whomever set this agency up.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As we enter 2012, it still amazes me that companies are not moving faster to mitigate HEADLINE RISK. HEADLINE RISK? It’s the risk that a major event or story will spread throughout various media publications, and will negatively impact a company’s stock. The risk is due to the harmful nature of the story, even if the news is not justifiable. • CEO OF XXX Bank resigns after vendor loses laptop with two million customers social security numbers. “I take full responsibility” says John Doe of XXX Bank. I should have: 1. Paid more attention to my Risk and Security teams 2. Hired better people to manage my Risk and Security teams 3. Asked tougher questions so our customers identities were always protected to the best of our ability 4. Hired better vendor managers to audit our vendors. They made the audit trips, but in hindsight, (after seeing the pictures of them golfing and partying on Facebook) I may need auditors to audit my auditors in 2012. When I started Find John Doe in 2007, I spent Ten Grand to have Fulbright & Jaworski give me a legal opinion in writing on what I could and couldn’t do when it came to skip tracing. I started the first skip company in 1998, and ten years later, I knew the rules had changed, and so had the www dot playing field dot com, so I figured I’d lawyer up and get an opinion. As we enter 2012, it amazes me the now obvious things I was told then that I couldn’t do are still common occurrences by companies that range from Large First Party Lenders, to their Servicers, and mostly, by the vendors whom the large, medium and small lenders hire. Why don’t the lenders pay more attention to the HEADLINE RISK they face? • No “PHONE BREAKS”, as now the person requesting it is just as liable as the person providing the info, thanks to Private Investigators hired in 2006 by Hewlett Packard leaking details to the media about how they allegedly were hired by the Chairwoman of the Board of HP to access the phone records of the other Board members and Nine Analysts who covered the company. After Congressional Hearings and President Bush Signing the Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006, hiring companies to break phone numbers is just as illegal for the person doing the “break” as it is for the collector, or his boss, who authorized it; wink…wink. • No “UTILITY BREAKS”. Yes Mister CEO, your collectors still do request this information brokers who illegally access the utility records of public and private utility companies to see if your customer still lives at the last known address. This should make every CEO, VP of Operations, Risk Manager and anyone accountable for the protection of their company to ask and INSURE their company, or the companies they hire are not doing this, or THEY might be the one the DA goes after and puts in jail, and it’s a ten year sentence, BTW. This leads to the obvious question…Is your Collection Supervisor or those accountable really on top of Privacy, Risk and Security when it comes to how you manage risk and how you work your higher risk accounts? As we hit 2012, those still breaking phone numbers have significant issues, but ladies and gentlemen, the bar has been lowered, and if you are not in the fire yet, get ready, because it’s scary, and it should be as there are bad people out there and they will mess with you, AND YOUR CUSTOMERS, if you give them the opportunity. Ask yourself, and your staff some questions, but don’t take the answers at face value. Do some in depth auditing and find out the real answers, and make sure your auditor is craftier than the skip tracers, repossessors, collectors, collection supervisors, risk managers, operations managers etc. are, or better yet, promote your best skip tracer to the Risk audit team. Some other questions to ask within your organization are : Do you still access public records data on your customers via web-based sites? YES,…Oops. That’s Old school….and a huge RISK. Do you have printers, or worse, can these documents be stored and downloaded en mass on a zip drive, or emailed, and if they are emailed, do you even know what your new employee is emailing from their CPU? These reports are accessed through the data providers web site and they come in the form of a .pdf report that can be fifty pages long. It’s a challenge to read a fifty-page document on a 15” screen, so many times I see these reports printed and sitting on people’s desks, or in a “file” in their drawer. A file is a large envelope that is used to hold papers, its what people used to use in business back before there were paperless requirements put in place by the companies who avoid headline risk like the plague. Walk on your collection floor and if you see papers, you have issues. Are you tracking everything your staff is doing during the collection process? Are you auditing your vendors who do collections, skip tracing and repossession? Oh Really, good for you. How often do you visit them? Quarterly, Annually, Semi-Annually? Is it dinner and drinks, or an actual audit? How in depth is the audit? Is it a surprise, or planned with a list of what they want so it’s “easy on everyone”? I hear one of my competitors down the street knows when the audit is coming and they hire temps to make them look like a bigger company than they are to help convince the large lender they can handle their business. Would your auditors catch that? Apparently not, as they keep growing. How detailed is the audit? How do you dig to find out what they really do? Do you use vendor managers or auditors, or should you use a skip tracer or at least bring one along? What web sites do they visit? Oh, you let them access Facebook, cool. That’s a great site to get info from people who don’t protect their privacy. What about the people who mark their Facebook pages private. Do you let your employees or Vendors “Friend” people? Of course not ! Really, how do you know? Well… How do you REALLY know? Ok, let me be frank….if your people have access to Facebook and if you have no record of what they’re doing, you have …. MAJOR HEADLINE RISK. Google “Facebook Collection Agency Lawsuit” to see what I mean, lots of HEADLINE RISK opportunities here. You may still subscribe to the “old school theory” of what goes in the TOP SLOT and comes out the BOTTOM SLOT is OK, as long as “I don’t know what happened in between”. OLD SCHOOL. The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act says you are not only responsible to know what is happening, you also can spend TEN YEARS in the slammer if you are accountable, but if I’m a CEO of XXX Bank, I can care less about the Three Years my Ops Mgr got in the pokey, because I just lost my job because I didn’t know what was going on. How do they “Friend” people on Facebook? They log in with an account they created that is only used for finding people. Oh, you didn’t think they would do that cause you told them they might get fired? Are you giving them a bonus if they find more people? Are you in a city where there are more jobs for collectors than there are collectors? If you fire them will your HR department tell the company calling for a reference that they got you in a class action lawsuit over Friending hundreds of people on Facebook and then repossessing their cars, hammering them for payments, posting on their walls and embarrassing them? If they’re looking for a guy, your collector will have a site with a hot chick’s picture, and if it’s a chick they’re looking for, it’s a photo of some dude with a six pack; abs not beer, well, maybe beer. Chances are there are a lot of “friends” on each page who have already been repossessed, or know someone who got repossessed. Class Action. In my next blog I’ll talk about Repossession and the HEADLINE RISKS here as this is even worse as the stakes go up, and so do the lawsuit settlement amounts and HEADLINE RISK potential as people get killed, customers and repossessors.