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The National Creditors Bar Association (NCBA) Supports Exemption of CARES Act Stimulus Payments from Garnishment

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 16, 2020
April 16, 2020

[UNIVERSITY PARK, FL] Consumers are faced with many challenges as they deal with the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and the resulting state of emergency.  In response, Congress enacted the CARES Act to “provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic” and provides for stimulus payments to be dispersed to the public.  While the CARES Act does not explicitly designate these payments as exempt from garnishment, the NCBA believes that these funds should be treated similarly to other government payments that are exempt from garnishment (e.g., social security, disability, and veterans’ benefits).  NCBA already has and will continue to encourage its members to lead in identifying, offering, and utilizing existing hardship policies and extending hardship accommodations, including the cessation of garnishments, to any consumer who is adversely affected  by the current health crisis.
 
As the CARES Act authorizes the Treasury Department to issue “regulations or other guidance as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of” the Act, NCBA supports the Treasury Department to establish regulations that would allow banks to preclude these much needed stimulus payments from any form of garnishment.  The NCBA is committed to ensuring that the much-needed emergency assistance be utilized exclusively by the country’s most vulnerable in their time of need.
 

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Court Brief: Graziano on Chopping Block Before 3rd Circuit En Banc Hearing (Part II: Conclusion)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, March 31, 2020

by Andrew M. Schwartz

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP

On February 19, 2020, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani’s Appellate Practice Group Co-Chair Jack Cohn, with the assistance of GRSM partners Peter Siachos, Sean Flynn, and Andrew Schwartz, argued before the en banc panel, seeking the overruling of the holding in Graziano v. Harrison, 950 F.2d 107 (3rd Cir. 1991). 

On March 30, 2020, the 3rd Circuit issued its decision on the en banc review of Riccio v. Sentry Credit.

The questions before the en banc panel were (1) “Does 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(3) allow debtors to orally dispute a debt’s validity?” and (2) “Should [the] en banc Court resolve a circuit conflict by overturning a three-decades-old panel decision which has been eroded by intervening Supreme Court authority?”

The 3rd Circuit answered both questions in the affirmative.

The March 30, 2020 decision concluded that Graziano was no longer good law in the 3rd Circuit and, in doing so, fell in line with the 2nd, 4th and 9th Circuits. The en banc panel resorted to a contextual reading of Section 1692g, as a whole, and reached the conclusion consistent with its fellow Circuits, that Section 1692g permits both oral and written disputes.

The 3rd Circuit acknowledged that the holding in Graziano ran afoul of this interpretive canon, the rule against surplusage. As the Graziano decision rendered Section 1692g(a)(3) meaningless (a trivial “amuse-bouche” for 1692g(a)(4)).

Ultimately, the 3rd Circuit determined that the plain meaning of Section 1692g(a)(3) permitted a debtor to orally dispute her debt.

Importantly, the Court rejected Riccio’s request to curb the retroactive application of the en banc holding, so that Riccio’s claims against Sentry, and the claims of many other matters of equal import pending in the district courts, would be determined under the Graziano precedent. Further, in footnote 5, the 3rd Circuit provided an “out” for those debt collectors that followed the Graziano holding by adding an “in writing” requirement in its Section 1692g(a)(3) disclosures.

During the en banc argument, Jack Cohn argued that the least sophisticated consumer standard was an anomaly that did not fit within the contours of the FDCPA. While the en banc panel did not address this issue, footnote 6 sets the stage for this fundamental fight – whether the least sophisticated consumer standard comports with the ordinary meaning of the FDCPA.

Read the Riccio v. Sentry decision and judgment.

 

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Largest Federal Response in U.S. History Passes U.S. Senate

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 26, 2020

The CARES ACT, the largest federal response in U.S. history contained in H.R.748, provides immediate relief to those affected by COVID-19. The bill passed the United States Senate by a vote of 96-0. NCBA was pleased to see that the bill does not specifically include any prohibition on debt collection.

The CARES ACT provides, among other things, medical assistance to our first responders and patients on the front lines, monetary assistance to the middle class and those who have lost their job, relief to small and large businesses who have been forced to shut down, and direct aid to states and municipalities to continue providing essential services.

A few of the major provisions of the legislation that may be helpful to you, your businesses, and employees include:

  • For eligible small business, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals, the measure provides loans that can pay for utilities, rent, mortgage, and payroll. The borrower is eligible for loan forgiveness for the first eight weeks of the loan. The Small Business Administrator has no more than 15 days after the date of enactment to issue regulations. 
  • For eligible businesses that are not small, the measure provides $500 billion to the Treasury’s exchange stabilization fund. This fund will provide loans, loan guarantees, and other investments with direct lending of $25 billion for passenger air carriers, $4 billion for cargo air carriers, and $17 billion for businesses important to maintaining national security. The remaining $454 billion is eligible for direct lending if they meet certain criteria. This includes prohibitions on stock buy backs and the loan must be used to retain at least 90 percent of the workforce.
  • For those who lost employment due to the pandemic the measure provides robust unemployment insurance. Self-employed, independent contractors and those with limited work history will be eligible for assistance. The assistance will include an additional $600 per week for each recipient and provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who remain unemployed after state unemployment benefits are no longer available.
  • In addition, all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married) are eligible for a full $1,200 (2,400 married) rebate. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. Americans will not be required to do anything to receive a rebate check as the IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return or their 2018 return if they have not yet filed. The rebate will reduce by $5 for each $100 of the taxpayer’s income that exceeds $75,000 and completely phases out at $99,000.
  • The bill ensuring that all testing for COVID-19 is covered by private insurance plans. Additionally, there will be free coverage of a vaccine within 15 days for COVID-19 when such a vaccine is available. 

 

Our work is not over yet:

While this bill does not specifically include any prohibition on debt collection, the passage of H.R.748 is likely not the last action that the Executive and Legislative branches will undertake. Additional bills and efforts may be added to help defeat the virus and its punishing impact on the health and economic well-being of the nation. Many of you have already participated in our “Call to Action”, this effort is very important and we encourage you to participate if you have not already.

 

Next Steps for CARES:

Over the coming days and weeks, the Senate and House of Representatives will be working remotely on more measures to assist the American people who have been subject to personal and economic harm through no fault of their own.

H.R.748 now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives. Pursuant to the message sent by House Majority Leader Hoyer, Members of the House will convene at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, March 27th for consideration of H.R.748. He further advised that due to the limited flight options, Members participating in self-quarantine, and several states mandating stay-at-home orders, they expect the bill to pass by voice vote on Friday.

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NCBA Submits Letter to Trump Administration Regarding Flawed COVID-19 Legislative Proposals Harmful to the Credit Ecosystem

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 20, 2020

In a letter to the Trump Administration, NCBA President Mark Groves and Executive Director Liz Terry addressed concerns that have arisen out of suggestions by certain lawmakers that eliminating the work of the creditors rights attorneys is a prudent action that should be taken in response to COVID-19. House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) in a March 18 memo proposed prohibiting debt collection during the pandemic. This provision would ban the collection of all consumer debt for 120 days after the pandemic ends. In the letter to the White House we outline the harm these proposed pieces of legislation would have on our industry and the ways in which NCBA attorney members help consumers. 

 

NCBA attorneys: 

  • Remain committed to helping consumers resolve their debt.
  • Play a critical role in educating consumers about legal proceedings and ensuring that they can continue to access credit and services.
  • Work with creditors to help consumers make arrangements that best suit their unique financial situation.
     

View the complete letter to the White House.

 

Additionally, NCBA is working, together with our sister trades (ACA, RMAi and CRC) to execute an appropriate strategy to voice broadly the value of our businesses within the financial ecosystem. 

 

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Federal Court Holds that Service of Complaint on Consumer Represented by Counsel Permitted Under FDCPA Exception for Direct Communication With Consumer With Express Permission of Court

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 19, 2020

by Ronald S. Canter, Esquire

The Law Offices of Ronald S. Canter, LLC

Lori Lynn Hague received an initial collection notice from a New Jersey based Law Firm attempting to collect on a credit card debt. After Ms. Hague received the letter, her counsel sent a notice of representation to the Law Firm.

The Law Firm then filed a debt collection Complaint on behalf of a credit card issuer and provided the Court with Plaintiff’s home address to serve the Summons and Complaint in accordance with a New Jersey court rule permitting the Clerk to mail the Summons and Complaint to the Defendant. After Ms. Hague was served, she filed suit, claiming that the Law Firm violated the FDCPA’s prohibition on communicating with a consumer after the collector knows the consumer is represented by counsel.

The Law Firm moved to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that the FDCPA provides a specific exception in 15 U.S.C. §1692c(b)(2) allowing a communication directly with a consumer represented by counsel where “there is express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction.”

The Court dismissed the consumer’s suit, holding that the New Jersey Rules of Court furnish express permission to permit a Complaint to be mailed directly to the consumer. The Court explained that “the FDCPA expressly contains an exception for Court-permitted communication, and numerous courts have relied on this exception in finding that a communication to a represented debtor did not violate the FDCPA when it was permitted by court rules.”

(Case No. 18-11293, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, decided March 18, 2020.)

Ronald S. Canter, Esquire, a three term member of NCBA’s Board of Directors represented the Defendant Law Firm in this case.

 

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Court Brief: Graziano on Chopping Block Before 3rd Circuit En Banc Hearing

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 4, 2020

by Andrew M. Schwartz

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP

On February 19th, something unusual took place in the Third Circuit. A 29-year old precedent stood on the chopping block before an en banc panel. On “trial” was the continuing viability of the holding in Graziano v. Harrison, 950 F.2d 107 (3rd Cir. 1991), requiring that all consumer disputes be reduced to writing. The argument was whether Section 1692g(a)(3) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act should continue to be read to include an “in writing” requirement. As Graziano held, for a dispute to be effective, it must be in writing. Graziano, 950 F.2d at 112.

And so it went, in the 3rd Circuit, that all effective disputes must be reduced to writing. And 29 years went by and collectors adjusted to this 3rd Circuit precedence despite the Court’s reading of language into Section 1692g(a)(3) of the FDCPA. However, in 2018, the plaintiff’s bar advanced a new theory of liability, that a debt collector’s use of the language in Section 1692g(a)(3) in its initial written disclosures violated the FDCPA. The logic pressed by the plaintiffs’ bar was the failure to include “in writing” language in the 1692g(a)(3) disclosure created confusion in the minds of the least sophisticated consumers as to whether the consumer could orally dispute the debt where the 3rd Circuit deemed such disputes ineffective. Generally, debt collectors prevailed on motions to dismiss or motions for judgment on the pleadings, but a minority of the District Courts in the Third Circuit, in reliance on the holding in Graziano, and its progeny, determined that a debt collector’s use of the Congressionally-mandated language set out in Section 1692g(a)(3) in initial disclosures violated the FDCPA. Lawsuits rained down. Motion practice ensued on a grand scale. A vast majority of judges in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey rendered decisions in favor of debt collectors, whereas judges in the United States District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania consistently favored the plaintiff’s side of the argument.

Because of the conflict in the District Courts within the 3rd Circuit, a number of appeals were taken to the 3rd Circuit. In the faces of these appeals, the 3rd Circuit consolidated of four appeals: Magana, et al. v. Amcol Systems, Inc., Reizner v. National Recoveries, Inc.; Robinson v. Northland Group, Inc., and Riccio v. Sentry Credit. Inc., with a number of other appeals resolved at mediation in the 3rd Circuit and other appeals stayed pending determination of the consolidate appeal. The District Courts, in turn, stayed motion practice (voluntarily and involuntarily) pending the results of the consolidated appeal. Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani represented Sentry Credit, Inc., at the District Court and before the 3rd Circuit. Oral argument for the consolidated appeal took place on September 12, 2019 before Judges Hardiman, Greenaway, Jr., and Bibas.

During the oral argument, it became clear that the 3rd Circuit panel was troubled by the Graziano holding. All three judges on the panel directed questions to counsel as to whether Graziano was wrongly decided and whether its logic remained viable in the face of decisions rejecting Graziano in all other Circuits that have opined on the “in writing” requirement (the 9th, 4th and 2nd Circuits).

Rather than issue a decision on the consolidated appeal, the 3rd Circuit ordered, sua sponte, en banc review of Graziano. The 3rd Circuit ordered Appellate Counsel from Gordon Rees to advance the argument on reversing Graziano before the en banc panel at oral argument on February 19, 2020. On February 14th, the 3rd Circuit issued an order requesting supplemental briefing on the retroactive application in the event of a reversal of Graziano. Additionally, the Circuit stayed related appeals pending in the 3rd Circuit.

During the hour-long en banc argument, it became clear that the 3rd Circuit was strongly leaning toward reversal of Graziano. Of particular interest was the 3rd Circuit’s inquiry into the retroactive application of reversal of Graziano. The 3rd Circuit spent time considering the holding in Suesz v. Med-1 Sols., LLC, 757 F.3d 636 (7th Cir. 2014) on the issue of retroactivity and the prospect of a bona fide error exception for debt collectors that added “in writing” language in the 1692g(a)(3) disclosures because of Graziano. In passing, the 3rd Circuit expressed skepticism with the holding in Oliva v. Blatt, Hasenmiller, Leibsker & Moore, 864 F.3d 492 (7th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 1283, 200 L. Ed. 2d 469 (2018), but that is a battle for another day.  

 

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NCBA Files Amicus Brief with Supreme Court of Florida Arguing That Florida’s Reciprocal Attorney Fee Statute Does Not Apply When a Creditor Sues on an Account Stated Cause of Action

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 26, 2020

In the case of Ham v. Portfolio Recovery Associates (Case No. 18-2148), the Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction to resolve a conflict between rulings by Florida’s District Courts of Appeal on the issue of whether attorney fees may be awarded under Florida’s reciprocal attorney fee statute where a creditor sues to collect a debt under an account stated cause of action. Earlier, two of the five Florida District Courts of Appeal, its intermediate appellate tribunal, reached differing conclusions. The first District Court of Appeal in Ham v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, 260 S. 3d 450 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) denied a consumer defendant’s motion to recover attorney fees after the defendant prevailed in defeating a suit on an account stated. The Second District Court of Appeals in Bushnell v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, 255 So.3d 473 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2018) reached a contrary result, awarding the consumer debtor over $100,000.00 in fees for successfully defending an account stated suit on a debt of slightly over $4000.00.

NCBA along with the Florida Creditors Bar Association requested leave to file an Amicus Brief. The Florida Supreme Court granted their motion and their Brief was filed on February 24, 2020. A copy of the brief can be accessed by using this link

The Brief explains that most consumers admit the debt and are willing to enter into payment arrangements. The brief also points out that when consumer attorneys get involved in defending credit card claims sued on an account stated, it increases the likelihood that the case will go to trial, thereby further congesting the Court’s docket. At that time, it is the consumer attorney who has a conflicting aim from the client. The consumer most often desires to pay the debt and resolve the suit but the attorney seeks to churn the litigation in the hopes of convincing the Court that Florida’s reciprocal attorney fee provision applies even where the creditor did not base its claim on a written contract with an attorney fee provision. The Amicus also argued that creditors who elect not to sue on the contract give up the right to collect fees, thereby reducing the amount of the consumer’s obligation. It follows that if the Court allows recovery of attorney fees when suing on an account stated, creditors will then revert to suing for breach of contract resulting in awards of attorney fees in the overwhelming majority of the cases, a result not benefiting consumers who owe the debt.

The court has not scheduled oral Argument. At this time, there are two vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court. If the case is decided while the two vacancies exist for the seven-member tribunal, a binding decision can only be entered if four of the five justices concur given that Florida law does not permit a Supreme Court ruling agreed to by less than four Supreme Court justices. 

 


The NCBA Amicus Brief was authored by Ronald S. Canter, a three-time member of NCBA’s Board of Directors and a frequent contributor at NCBA conferences.    

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Federal Appeals Court Contemplates Overruling Two Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Rulings

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 20, 2020
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2020

by Ronald S. Canter, Esquire 

The Law Offices of Ronald S. Canter, LLC

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in a text only order entered on February 11, 2020, directed parties in a pending appeal (Ricco v. Sentry Credit, Inc., Appeal No. 18-1463, 2018 WL 638748 (D.N.J. Jan. 31, 2018)) to submit supplemental memorandum on the issue of whether if “this Court overrules Graziano v. Harrison, 950 F.2d 107 (3rd Cir. 1991) and Caprio v. Health Care Revenue Group, LLC, 709 F.3d 142 (3rd Cir. 2013), such decision should be applied retroactively”. 

The Third Circuit’s rulings in Graziano and Caprio have generated compliance challenges for debt collectors. In Graziano, the Third Circuit interpreted the FDCPA’s validation of debts provisions (15 U.S.C. §1692g) as requiring all disputes be in writing. This decision conflicts with holdings from several other Federal Circuits that an oral dispute is effective to preclude a collector from assuming the debt valid. See, Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 430 F.3d 1078 (9th Cir. 2005), Hooks v. Forman Holt, Eliades and Ravin, LLC, 717 F.3d 282 (2nd Cir. 2013) and Clark v. Absolute Collection Service, Inc., 741 F.3d 487 (4th Cir. 2014).

Several lower courts within the Third Circuit have held that a debt collector’s initial letter, which quotes verbatim the validation of debts disclosure as it appears in the FDPCA, nonetheless violates the law because the notice fails to disclose that all debts must be disputed in writing, as mandated by the Third Circuit’s decision in Graziano. See, e.g., Guzman v. HOVG, LLC, 340 F.Supp.3d 526 (E.D.Pa. 2018). Guzman is one of many cases where consumer attorneys have leveraged the holding in Graziano against collectors who repeat verbatim the statutory disclosures in §1692g. 

Collectors have also faced compliance challenges in light of Caprio, which, applying Graziano, held that a request for a consumer to “please call” if the consumer believed the debt was not owed was a false representation as prohibited by the FDCPA because this request can lead the least sophisticated consumer to believe a dispute could be made by a call, even though Graziano requires that all disputes be in writing.

The Ricco appeal was argued in September, 2019. The Court’s recent text entry directing the parties to brief the question of whether, if the Court overrules Graziano and Caprio, the decision would be applied retroactively, appears to signal a pending ruling by the Third Circuit overruling these two prior decisions. However, as any seasoned legal practitioner knows, it is a foolhardy endeavor to predict how any court will rule. The Third Circuit has given no indication when it will rule on the Ricco appeal. Nonetheless, it is advisable to pay close attention to rulings issued by the Third Circuit in the event that the Court decides to overrule either Graziano, Caprio or both.

 

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5 Topics in 5 Minutes

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 6, 2020
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2020

by Mark Groves, President

NCBA members help consumers understand and work toward a fair resolution to resolve debt.

1. How was your firm’s 2019 – poor, fair, good, great?

In interviews with a large number of you over the past few months, 91% answered that 2019 was a great year for your firm. Why was the year great? The leading reasons cited were a) the economy and full employment; b) steady new client and business referrals; and c) moderating regulatory uncertainty. The leading reasons cited by the 9% of respondents who reported a good year were: a) fewer foreclosure and bankruptcy referrals; b) meritless FDCPA litigation; and c) higher costs of compliance, insurance, technology, and staff.

 

2. NCBA means business

75% of NCBA members report having received new business referrals from a fellow NCBA member. If you want to maximize your firm’s visibility with your peers, make sure your firm’s listing(s) is/are up to date in the member directory. Make plans to attend the Spring 2020 Atlanta conference. Join a committee or task force and volunteer for NCBA. These small action steps will help you increase business opportunities in 2020 and beyond.

 

3. February’s topic and poll – Bench Warrants, Civil Capias, Body Attachments

You probably have seen stories on “Debtors' Prisons” that report on the practice of bench warrants aka capias. Even though debtor prisons were abolished in the United States in 1833, modern media accounts about the practice rarely examine how and when they arise (and how rare such proceedings are used). Many of these stories reflect a misunderstanding of the law and our role as creditor attorneys in the process. In fact:

  • Not a single consumer today is jailed for failure to pay a debt.
  • Creditors have no ability or authority to request or issue an arrest warrant because a debt is unpaid.
  • Only a judge can order bench warrants and that will only occur in response to a complete and utter disregard for a court’s prior orders, summonses, or subpoenas.
  • A great number of clients specifically and expressly direct NCBA attorneys to avoid taking action that would risk arrest as an outcome.

Poll:

1. In the last year, have your firm’s attorneys used statutory remedies or court rules that have resulted in a bench warrant?

2. Would you support a NCBA resolution that NCBA members will not request a court to issue a bench warrant, capias, or body attachment in a consumer debt action that would result in a consumer being arrested?

Take the poll

Note: The results will be announced in my March column. All responses are anonymous.

 

4. Why I love being a consumer debt resolution attorney?

Like many of you, each month, our firm’s collections department holds a floor meeting at our office attended by attorneys, managers, and staff. We go over key points and reward excellence (and eat!). Invariably, the highlight of our meeting is our reading and recognition of the compliments we have received the prior month from consumers, attorneys, court clerks, judges, and clients. The most rewarding of these are always those from consumer debtors that tell a story of how we listened to and empathized with them, and how we arrived at a solution that brought relief and satisfaction to the consumer.

Here are two “debtor declarations” from recent meetings at our office:

“I wanted to thank the entire call center for your understanding and willingness to help. I feel as though every representative I've spoken with has been generous and I really appreciate you working with me. After losing my husband during active duty last year and battling breast cancer myself, I went through a hard time and appreciate you all for your compassion and eagerness to help.”

“I appreciate all you did to help me resolve this situation that would leave me in a better financial position. You had no incentive or reason to help me and you did anyway; you have no idea how appreciative I am of that. We often forget that we are all humans and that a turn of events could easily change our entire life, so I very much appreciate all that you have done taking this into account while still representing the best interest of your client. I wish all the best to you and I am certain this will come back to you, even the simplest of good deeds do.”

As Dr. Seuss famously said, “[t]o the world you may be one person. But to one person you may be the world.” I am confident that your firms are also receiving, logging, and rewarding similar shout outs.

Please share your firm’s story and how you incentivize and reward 5-star service by sending a short email to me at mgroves@glasserlaw.com.

 

5. First impressions – powerful introductions fuel favorable feelings

Researchers have concluded that we only have 7 seconds to make a first impression. As creditors rights attorneys, how do we introduce ourselves (including what we do for a living) to our friends, neighbors, and local legislators? Is it interesting? Is it relevant? What problems do we solve and what value do we add? How do we make a difference?

Here are three possibilities:

  1. Hello, my name is __.  I am an attorney in consumer debt resolution and my passion is to facilitate fair and transparent processes to enable consumers to understand and resolve debt.
  2. Hello my name is __.  I am an attorney engaged in creditor rights law and I have committed my practice to helping consumers get through the stress of past due debts through compliant, professional, and courteous methods.
  3. Hello my name is __.   I am an attorney practicing debtor-creditor relations and I believe in helping consumers work through past-due debt issues while helping lenders do the right thing even when a customer has failed to repay money loaned.

Which, if any, do you like?  Please vote here. Do you have a suggestion on making a great introduction?  Please email me at mgroves@glasserlaw.com.

 

Mark

 

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Advocacy, Lobbying, and The Grateful Dead

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 30, 2020
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2020

by Nathan Willner

NCBA Government Affairs Officer

What does The Grateful Dead have to do with advocacy? More on that later.

I am happy to report that 2020 has started off with NCBA’s advocacy effort running on all cylinders. To organize all of the Association’s advocacy efforts and initiatives, advocacy now has its own pillar with multiple sub-committees focusing on those areas that are of primary importance. This pillar is being Co-Chaired by the very capable Brit Suttell and Chip Stacy. As we monitor and engage members of congress on both pending legislation and our own legislative initiatives NCBA will be establishing an annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. All members interested in meeting with members of the U.S. Congress and their staff members please save the date of April 20-21, 2020. More information on this exciting event will be coming soon.

Another exciting new initiative is the State Creditors Bar Association Leadership Forum. This Forum, led by Adam Cleveland and Brian Cloud, will meet via conference call monthly and have a dedicate lunch reception at our bi-annual conferences. We already had our first monthly call that was extremely well attended. Besides hearing from multiple state leaders on what legislative issues they are dealing with in their local legislatures, we heard a presentation on testifying effectively before your state legislative committee. We intend to blend information sharing and short informative presentations on these calls to support and promote our State Creditors Bar Associations leaders.

Our desire is to make sure that our practice area’s story of professionalism and compliance is properly told to the general public; we are in the process of developing clear forward-facing policy priorities for 2020 as well. Part of an effective advocacy strategy is to have a PAC to be able to support and engage legislators. To that end we are taking a deep dive look at our PAC and, under the leadership of Scott Morris, we are doing just that. Stay tuned for more information on PAC activities as we review this important segment of NCBA’s advocacy.

Another segment of our advocacy efforts is to build and maintain coalitions with other industry and legal organization participants. To that end NCBA participated in multiple coalition calls including federal legislation and state-focused groups. States that have already established coalitions include Florida, Massachusetts, Washington, and Maryland, among others in formation.

NCBA is also fortunate to have a robust Amicus Brief Committee, led by Crystal Duplay and Ron Miller. The committee was fortunate to be able to engage veteran attorney Ron Canter to draft an amicus brief on behalf of NCBA and the Florida State Creditors Bar Association in the case of Ham and Foxall v. PRA, now pending before the Supreme Court of Florida. Filing an amicus in cases that have potential national ramifications and affect our members is a key segment of both promoting and advocating for NCBA practitioners.

Finally, as we await the CFPB’s final rule on debt collection and the release of a supplemental proposed rule on time-barred debt, we continue to develop NCBA’s strategy of CFPB engagement. Planning educational sessions and post rule strategy is a primary focus of NCBA leadership. Meetings with key members of the CFPB’s staff are also being scheduled as part of this critical engagement.

So now back to The Grateful Dead. These poignant lyrics of Jerry Garcia always bring home what makes an advocate effective:

“The story teller makes no choice,

soon you will not hear his voice,

his job is to shed light, and not to master.”

As we craft our message both in the media, the halls of Congress and state legislatures throughout the country, our task is to shed light, make the story bigger than just one issue or circumstance, and present a message that places our members and practice area on the highest professional and ethical levels of the practice of law. Together, NCBA will continue to be recognized as the premier advocate for attorneys practicing creditors rights law.

It is going to be a productive year ahead.

Tags:  advocacy 

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