The old saying, “When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” appears to be the guiding maxim today in our industry as it deals with the portfolios of debt it is either sold or assigned by financial institutions. And it is fair to say that JPMorgan Chase is one of the biggest dogs with the biggest fleas.
Readers of insideARM.com yesterday were treated to exactly what this maxim means to our industry when a major article critical of JPMorgan Chase’s credit card collections – referencing now-famous whistleblower Linda Almonte – was published in response to a major expose piece just released in American Banker.
This first of a three-part series which will all be published this week was important enough for insideARM.com to devote front-page status to it, even reaching out to Linda to substantiate some of the details. That was a good thing. But, where were this publication and others, and members of the ARM family, when Linda Almonte fought Chase for almost two and one-half years for wrongful termination?
[editor’s note: insideARM.com has published Mr Ashton’s content regarding Ms Almonte.]
Other than a posting on Forbes of a piece I wrote originally titled: Damned if you Do, Fired if you Don’t, precious little.
[editor’s note: Please use the search function on the homepage to search for “Almonte” where you will find many stories regarding Ms Almonte and Chase.]
Add up the column inches in almost any publication and on any website in our field and you will find more time and energy is spent in defending our line of work than in curing its ills. We need to stop this; and this just may be the right time and the right atmosphere in which we can turn this thinking around.
Stephanie Eidelman in a brilliant and well-written blog in Forbes properly placed a good share of the blame where it belongs for our industry’s poor reputation and public image. “Creditors Play an Unrecognized and Powerful Role in the Debt Collection Process” laid out these facts:
- Agencies represent the creditor “and hold their reputations in their hands;” however
- Creditors hire collection agencies for their recovery rates and price, not for their well-trained staff or complaint rates; and
- Even if the creditor in its assignments require “quality control” policies for account handling, the bottom line is that what gets measured are the dollars recovered.
“There isn’t nearly enough money in the debt collection industry to lobby Congress for rules that could force creditors to perform appropriate due diligence…provide complete documentation…” And, ends the article by responding to critics:
“We can all complain about collectors, but the reality is that you’ve got to go upstream to address the issue.”
Which leads me to ask the question – is our industry willing to do that? When we get obviously flawed accounts on our desk, whether by assignment or purchase, do we as a matter of practice and ethics go back to the creditor and cause them to be accountable – and to correct the situation or even be reported if the matter were serious?
I think we know the answer.
That “Big Dog” might just bite us – or take away the bone they threw us. Maybe, just maybe, it is worth putting up with those fleabites.
What we need to do is to foster and develop “Whistleblowers” of our own, people in our own offices who will stand up – as Linda Almonte did to her employer – and say, “This isn’t right!” And then to be willing to risk their jobs if need be, so as not to be accomplice in further illegal and arguably immoral activities.
On the other hand, we could simply curl up with those Big Dogs and hope that the extra-strength flea powder we dusted ourselves with will work. Oh yes, and only dog whistles allowed.