The president of an accounts receivable management company that was featured prominently in a Dateline NBC story Friday night on the debt collection industry responded to the spot in a letter addressing some hidden camera footage aired in the piece.

The segment, part of Dateline’s series “Inside the Financial Fiasco,” aired Friday night on NBC. In it, debt collectors from an agency near Buffalo, N.Y. were shown discussing their business outside a bar after work. The person asking questions and engaging the conversation – under the guise of inquiring about employment opportunities — was outfitted with a hidden camera and microphone.

The footage showed a handful of people claiming to be debt collectors discussing behavior that is not allowed under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Collectors said that they led consumers to believe lawsuit filings were imminent, called consumers’ supervisors at home, and even reveled in the fact that illegal actions were necessary to effectively do their jobs.

Although involving no more that four collectors, the exchange was held up as an example of the attitudes in the ARM industry as a whole.

Wayne Lewis, president of the company that employs the people on camera, LHR, Inc. of Hamburg, N.Y., issued a response letter Friday after viewing the footage on Dateline’s Web site in advance of the airing.

“These comments were completely irresponsible and not reflective of our company’s practices,” said Lewis in the letter.

Lewis told insideARM that they are diligent about hiring the right people and offer extensive education and training once they bring employees on board. Even then, “you can’t control what people say outside of work,” he noted.

The letter also said that LHR was in the process of terminating the employees shown on the video. Lewis confirmed Monday that the workers were no longer with LHR.

“The comments shown on Dateline are not representative of the ARM industry as a whole,” said Mike Ginsberg, CEO of ARM advisory firm Kaulkin Ginsberg. “Dateline’s approach was to over-exemplify the renegade practices of a few individuals rather than portraying the ethical, law-abiding practices of the masses of collection professionals every day.”

 


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