Handicapping Today’s FTC Debt Collection Event

In a couple of hours, the Federal Trade Commission will hold its second Debt Collection Dialogue event, this time in Dallas. What’s different this time is that the FTC has invited not just fellow regulators to participate as speakers, but also professionals from the collection and debt-buying industries. Rob Foehl, the general counsel of ACA International is speaking, as are Patricia Baxter, the president-elect of DBA International, and Michael Frost, general counsel of CBE Companies, a collection agency. Also speaking is Joann Needleman, the practice leader at law firm Clark Hill, the president of the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys, and a member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau‘s Consumer Advisory Board.

But while the industry will be represented at the sold-out event in Dallas, what is the ultimate objective of the meeting? If you asked those who went to the first event in Buffalo in June, they would tell you that the objective was for regulators to stand up, puff out their chests and tell everyone exactly what the bad apples in the industry are doing wrong. But we already knew what the bad apples were doing, because the FTC and CFPB are great at letting everyone know exactly when they catch someone doing something wrong.

“What is their endgame,” Needleman asked yesterday when discussing the objective of these events. “It’s not protecting consumers because that’s a philosophy. The industry has spent millions of dollars addressing their concerns and it still is not enough. We can’t pack up and go away.”

Needleman said she had some specific questions she was hoping to get to ask her fellow panelists during the event. When asked what she would consider to be a win for this event, she replied:

“A win would be an acknowledgement of best practices; a willingness to continue to work with the industry and highlight the good practices. The don’t seem to do that. They are only focused on the bad apples.”


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