Painting The Industry With A Very Negative Brush

An author, who back in 2014 wrote a book about the debt buying industry, has written an article in The New York Times that asks: Will Guys With Guns Replace the Agency Elizabeth Warren Created? 

The author, Jake Halpern, is the author of “Bad Paper: Inside the Secret World of Debt Collectors.” For his book, Halpern followed around and profiled a number of debt buyers, brokers, and sellers, including Brandon Wilson, a well-known industry figure. In his column yesterday, Halpen re-tells the story of how Wilson once “rounded up a posse of armed men, drove to Buffalo, tracked down a stolen file of debts, and retrieved it — at gunpoint.”

It sounds like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie, but this kind of mess is exactly what one might expect in a country that is driven by profit, mired in debt and not fully able or willing to tame the marketplace that is created when these two forces meet.

Using a campaign promise made by Donald Trump that he would repeal the Dodd-Frank act that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Halpern asks if all of the “progress” made by the agency in the past five years will be undone and debt buyers will have to resort to using a “savvy fixer” like Wilson.

Halpern reached out to Wilson last week and asked about what a Trump presidency will mean for his business.

“There’ll be less intrusion from the government, more lending, and more defaults — which creates more business for collectors,” he said. That means Mr. Wilson’s services will be in high demand once again. He concluded, “We’re back in business.”

All of the progress of the CFPB, as cited by Halpern:

  • Roughly 30 public enforcement actions against debt collection companies, including collection agencies, debt buyers and sellers, and service providers. Those actions have led to $5 billion in canceled debt.

Who benefited from this? More than a million Americans — the victims of companies that broke consumer protection laws. In addition, the agency also monitors 175 of the nation’s largest debt collectors, which account for more than 60 percent of the industry’s annual receipts.

That progress is now “imperiled,” according to Halpern. Regulators have been “outgunned” until the CFPB came around, according to Halpern. The government had done “surprisingly little” to protect consumers for harassing and abusive debt collectors, until the CFPB came around.

Granted, the article written by Halpern is a column and is meant to take a position and argue why that position is right, but this is nothing more than a chance to play up stereotypes and paint the collections industry as the villain. Someone needs to speak up before the image of debt collectors is even further tarnished.


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