What the Industry Will Remember About 2021

The end of December is always a time where people look back on what happened during the past year and think ahead to what’s on the horizon once the calendar changes to a new year. To help summarize and celebrate those two events, AccountsRecovery.net reached out to a number of professionals from across the ARM industry and asked them different questions. Today, we see the responses from people who were asked: What they will remember most about 2021?

Dennis Barton, Barton Law Group

The biggest thing I learned this year is how much my collection firm is dependent upon the ability of my collection software provider to engineer appropriate updates in a timely manner. I was also reminded of the need to thoroughly review those updates to verify they are correct and complete. The most significant software updates related to Regulation F. Although they are done for now, judicial opinions will demand additional alterations as interpretations of Regulation F fluidly evolve in coming years.

Joann Needleman, Clark Hill

2021 was frenetic. I felt that I never came up for air before another crisis or issue hit the industry. From Reg F to Hunstein, the industry spent the year playing “whack a mole” despite a decline in complaints and lawsuits. Evidence of change was in the air and industry spent an entire year realizing that operations going forward in 2022 will be very different and they reacted accordingly. Buckle up friends, the states will be the lightening rod in 2022 and navigating new laws and regulations will be challenging.

Many thanks to Mike Gibb and AccountsRecovery.Net for being such a tremendous resource for the ARM Industry.

Happy New Year to all.

Mike Frost, Malone Frost Martin

Like most years, our memories of specific years within our industry are usually premised on some form of regulatory scrutiny or crazy judicial decision that created a whirlwind of compliance initiatives and technological solutions. 2021 was similar but different. Similar as it relates to similar business problems we attempted to define and solve. Different in terms or scale and scope of impact of those problems. What was most impactful in 2021 for me, was not these business challenges. We have and will continue to find ways to overcome these business challenges. Most impactful to me in 2021, was the losses felt from our societies battle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the business and personal challenges it has created.

This past year the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry implemented the most wide sweeping regulatory change that we have experienced since 1978, which is the year the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted. Debt collectors tackled significant problems that have been created from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus (CFPB) release of Regulation F. While Reg F was enacted by the CFPB to provide clarity to the FDCPA, it also created significant ambiguity and challenges as it relates to the dissemination of data, system and infrastructure modifications to provide automated compliance protections, and, as always, differences in the form of legal interpretation. As we embark upon 2022, we shall continue to learn and evolve our business processes as the impacts of Reg F unfold.

As if Reg F was not enough to tackle, the ARM industry was surprised with one of the most illogical judicial decisions in Hunstein v. Preferred Collection & Management Services, Inc. This industry-disrupting decision that a debt collector may violate the FDCPA by transmitting private information to a third-party commercial mail vendor while absurd, sparked more than 1,400 lawsuit filings nationwide. This litigation is continuing and we should get more direction from the court in 2022 to drive our business decisions in this regard.

These business challenges will be solved in the coming year, but the impact felt by COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. COVID-19 not only impacted business strategy, but found us all grieving for those we lost to this horrible disease. This industry lost the most dynamic defense litigation attorney that I have ever met. My partner Robbie Malone past away in June of 2021. Her endless contributions to the ARM industry will be forever missed. I will continue to miss her tenacity, competitive spirit, compassion, drive and love for the law, family, friends and her team. Our boutique firm had a very clear vision, a vision that was developed by Robbie. We will do our best to build upon that vision and continue her legacy.

Judd Peak, Capital Accounts

I’m going to run the risk of breaking the rules as I have two memories for 2021. For, externally in our industry, I will remember (not so fondly) the rash of national media outrage (in the Reg F aftermath) that debt collectors are going to start posting on consumers’ Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media outlets. “Debt collectors are now allowed to DM you!” That was a lot of fun. Internally, I will remember how compliance changes and solutions that seem simple in theory actually are a lot of work, and there are usually unknown factors that complicate things. Just building call frequency and contact trackers for Reg F purposes involved a team of individuals, third party vendors, trainers and programmers. In a complicated world and complex industry, few things are easy.

Jack Gordon, WebRecon

There are a few things I’ll remember.

First, the sense of optimism that started to come back after such a depressing 2020, followed by the inevitable bumps and setbacks as we find our way through this pandemic. I see this most clearly through the lens of the cautious resumption of live gatherings. Will they, won’t they, will they try and fail, will they be forced to cancel? Who knows?

Second, in the realm of consumer litigation, I found it remarkable how unremarkable 2021 turned out to be. Numbers and trends have barely shifted from their pre-2020 trajectories. It turns out that even a global pandemic and recession can’t impact the broad strokes of the litigation machine.

Finally, I’ll remember how resilient this industry is. In the face of two major operational challenges (Hunstein and Reg F), our clients keep plugging away, doing the best they can in the face of seemingly never-ending challenges. This space is not for the weak-of-heart. I admire everyone who gets up every day, puts their game face on and goes to work facing these challenges head on.

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