Joann Needleman (article size)

In 2020, the Consumer Relations Consortium (CRC) launched its inaugural Legal Advisory Board (LAB), an exclusive membership group of outside counsel with expertise in the accounts receivable industry who have each pledged their time and resources to support the mission of the CRC. Throughout the year, the LAB served as a legal resource to the CRC and iA Innovation Council membership and assisted in fulfilling the mission of promoting forward-thinking approaches to the issues raised by regulatory policy and technology innovation in the accounts receivable industry. 

Today's spotlight, which showcases LAB members in their own words, highlights Joann Needleman of Clark Hill PLC.

Editor's Note: The application period for the 2021 CRC LAB is open until 10/31/2020. Learn more about the application process here.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

Both my father and grandfather were lawyers so I guess it's part of my DNA.

Other than the CFPB rules, what is a hot topic in legal/compliance you think industry members should be paying attention to in the next couple of months?

I think the industry will need to pay attention to supervision and enforcement, especially in the areas of credit reporting. Regardless of whether Director Kraninger remains as Director, it appears that the CFPB is going full throttle with its oversight authority over covered entities.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far and why?

Certainly being asked to be on the CFPB Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) as the first debt collection representative was humbling. I think I have had great success in matters before the CPFB. I believe the alliances I developed on the CAB were instrumental in convincing Director Cordray to remove the substantiation provisions from the Outline of Proposal for the Debt Collection Rule.

What industry behavior keeps you up at night and why?

Failure to properly invest. If the industry wants to be taken seriously, then it can't cut corners on crucial compliance infrastructure that will have long term sustainability.

If you could give one piece of non-legal advice to the industry, what would it be?

I think that the COVID-19 pandemic finally resulted in better collaboration within the various factions of the industry. I would like to see that continue. We cannot be our own worst enemy. Collective support and a united front will only better serve this industry in the future.

About Joann Needleman

Joann is the leader of Clark Hill's Consumer Financial Services Regulatory & Compliance group, serves as a navigator to her clients seeking advice and guidance in the complex regulatory environment facing the financial services industry. She provides counsel, consultation, and litigation services to a wide array of financial institutions, law firms, credit reporting agencies, as well as venture capital firms looking to invest in the fin-tech space. A former member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Advisory Board, Joann has been able to provide her clients with useful strategies in order to prepare for new areas of regulatory scrutiny. Often asked by clients to quickly assess new policy statements or guidance issued by federal and state regulators, Joann is able to break down the issues and provide common-sense solutions that ensure her clients’ policies, procedures, and business operations are fully compliant with current regulatory expectations. Joann also has far-reaching litigation experience in state and federal courts, successfully defending creditors against a variety of federal consumer protection claims including but not limited to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as state statutes.

Joann is frequently quoted in American Banker and the Wall Street Journal for her insight into the CFPB. Joann is the immediate past President of the Board of Directors of the National Creditors Bar Association (NARCA). 

Joann is the host of the podcast "Credit Ecosystem to Go: Curbside Thought Leadership for Financial Services." Listen to recent episodes here


About the Consumer Relations Consortium

The Consumer Relations Consortium (CRC) is an organization comprised of more than 60 national companies representing the diverse ecosystem of debt collection including creditors, data/technology providers and compliance-oriented debt collectors that are larger market participants. Established in 2013, CRC is evolving the debt collection paradigm by engaging stakeholders—including consumer advocates, Federal and State regulators, academic and industry thought leaders, creditors and debt collectors—and challenging them to move beyond talking points and focus on fashioning real-world solutions that actually improve the consumer experience. CRC’s collaborative and candid approach is unique in the market.  CRC is managed by The iA Institute.

Learn more at

About the iA Innovation Council

The iA Innovation Council is a collaborative working group of product, tech, strategy, and operations thought leaders who envision the future of collections and map how to get there. Group members meet throughout the year to engage in substantive dialogue and whiteboard sessions with the creative thinkers behind the latest innovations for the industry, the regulators who audit and establish guardrails for new technology, and educators, entrepreneurs and innovators from outside the industry who inspire different thinking. 

Learn more at

Next Article: Hopefully the End of the Debt Itemization ...