Mike Ginsberg

A couple of days ago, Chicago’s business wire announced that Bill Bartmann, CEO of CFS II, took his 50-state “Stop These Criminals” campaign to Chicago where he appeared on nationally syndicated “First Business” television news program and met with other members of national media. Yesterday, insideARM ran this announcement too.

Is this news worthy?  I suppose that’s debatable.

Bartmann is infamous in the debt collection industry for his legendary company’s dramatic rise and fall in the 90’s.  No one can dispute his success as a salesman and as a businessman.  And no one can dispute that we will read press announcements about him because he is compelling.

However, those of us who were involved in the ARM industry at that time know that his company’s claims of producing significantly higher liquidation results justifying its elevated pricing of the debt his company purchased and securitized were flawed on numerous levels.  And this is only the beginning of the accusations that ultimately brought down the largest debt buyer of its time and negatively impacted an industry and its participants then and for years to follow.  By participants, I mean grantors, too.  But this is not what compelled me to blog this morning.

What got my blood boiling was Bartmann’s quote that, “Complaints against debt collectors are skyrocketing because the industry is overrun with scum bag collectors who harass consumers and practice illegal tactics to collect on late bills.” Wow.

Like I said before, he is shrewd enough to know that comments like this sell the media on promoting his campaign.  I was tempted to ignore and not give Bartmann any mind.  However, as a proud participant in the ARM industry for 20 years, and as the son of a bill collector that worked an honest living for a reputable collection agency until he passed away, I felt compelled to come forward and say, as ESPN commentators would say on Monday Night Countdown (football is fast approaching and I could not resist), “Come on, man!”

Who are all of the “scum bag collectors” that he is referring to?  Is he talking about the many tens of thousands of upstanding men and women who come to work every day and perform an honest and value-adding service?  Or is he referring to the disproportionate few criminals who break the rules and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law?

It gets better.  The announcement states that consumer-minded elected officials are seeking Bartmann’s experience inside the collections industry to close loopholes and end predatory practices. Really?  It states that Bartmann met with Congressman Barney Frank in June on recommendations for updating parts of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Here is a fact that can’t be disputed:  Bartmann is out there making a case for himself, whether you like it or not.  Are you?  Are you meeting with your Representatives and telling them about your business, your industry, the number of people you employ and the amount of money that you’re returning to their businesses and governments through the service that your reputable company provides?  This includes recovery managers, collection attorneys, debt buyers, vendors and agencies alike.   Many of you are taking the time needed to make a difference and I loudly applaud your efforts.  Unfortunately, many more of you are not doing anything except focusing on Bartmann and that’s a shame.  Get out and make a difference.  Know that regulatory changes will come and they may impact your business for entirely the wrong reasons.

So, here are two calls to action as we enter the last holiday weekend before the summer ends.  First when Bartmann’s 50-state “Stop These Criminals” campaign comes to your town, be sure to attend and voice your opinion.  When he comes to Washington again, I will be in the front row.

Secondly, and more importantly, contact your Representatives directly.  They want to hear from you. And yes it will make a difference.

Mike Ginsberg is President and CEO of ARM advisory firm Kaulkin Ginsberg, and can be reached by email. The firm is celebrating its 20-year anniversary in the ARM market.

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