This year has seen vast, unexpected change for the credit and collection industry. As many professionals work to navigate this new world of remote work and prepare for the months to come, attorney John Bedard has been a dominant voice, guiding collectors through the struggle.
We recently spoke to Bedard about his journey in the industry, his observations on doing business during Covid19, and his vision for the future of the industry.
- Can you tell me about your background in the accounts receivable industry?
I started my career representing mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers in the late 1990’s. At the time, my practice focused on helping lenders and brokers comply with the myriad of state and federal laws which regulate their businesses across the country. I also defended those clients against civil actions brought against them by consumers, the government, and each other. These compliance and defense litigation skills applied nicely to the accounts receivable management industry.
Soon enough, I began representing debt collectors, defending them against consumer litigation and helping them build compliance programs in their nationwide businesses. Since the early 2000s I’ve been representing debt collectors, debt buyers, creditors, and attorneys.
My practice looks similar today, except I spend a lot more of my time defending government investigations and civil litigation brought by state and federal regulatory agencies.
- What made you decide to focus your practice in financial services and more specifically in the debt collection industry?
It was really by accident. Our law firm employed a paralegal who was related to the president of a local collection agency. One day she announced to the attorneys in the firm that her family member needed legal help at his business and inquired whether we could help. Although our firm was comfortable serving the mortgage industry and my practice kept me quite busy, I volunteered to help.
I met the client at his office and that meeting served as a slight turn on my career path. My bosses encouraged me to join several industry trade groups. Soon, one client became two; two clients became four, and the rest is history. I’ve been representing debt collectors ever since.
- What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) you and your clients have faced doing business during Covid19
Covid19 has brought many challenges to our firm and to our clients, not the least of which include: managing a remote workforce, keeping up with law changes and executive orders across the country at the federal, state, and local level, managing client expectations, and reductions in business volume.
- What recent cases or Supreme Court rulings stand out to you as most important for ARM professionals to pay attention to?
The two most significant cases decided by the United States Supreme Court in the last 12 months impacting the ARM industry the most are: Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, 140 S. Ct. 2183 (2020) and Barr v. Am. Ass'n of Political Consultants, 140 S. Ct. 2335 (2020). At bottom, these cases emphasize the importance of our judicial branch of government, which is the very last protector of our individual liberties.
When Congress oversteps its lawmaking authority, the only check against that unlawful behavior is our judiciary. These two cases confirm that Congress’ power to legislate is not unbounded and that we must ensure the appointment of judges to our federal judiciary who are willing to follow the law despite their own personal beliefs which might cause them to reach different conclusions about certain cases.
- You talked in one of our past webinars with Joann Needleman on how agencies can use digital communications strategically. How do you see text and email changing the way debt collectors and consumers communicate in the time of coronavirus? Do you see potential for greater use in the coming year, with anticipated rise in delinquency?
Electronic communications between consumers and debt collectors are here to stay and provide benefits to consumers and collectors alike. Despite the government’s delay in addressing electronic communications in the collection industry, consumers are demanding this communication channel and collectors are obliging. As mobile technology reaches ubiquity in our society, consumers are finally beginning to receive the benefits of this better-faster-cheaper means of addressing their delinquent debts.
My prediction is that electronic communication between debt collectors and consumers will become the primary channel(s) through which collectors and consumers communicate in the next few years, far outweighing the number of traditional letters and telephone calls made by debt collectors to consumers. Everyone in the marketplace benefits from these lower cost, higher contact communication channels.
- What resources do you recommend for professionals in the ARM industry in order to stay up-to-date on regulations and laws impacting them?
There are many ways for the industry to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the legal landscape. Industry trade groups and private news agencies provide a tremendous amount of valuable resources to help industry remain current.
Some, but not all, of those resources which are must-haves for anyone in the marketplace needing to remain current on ARM industry legal developments include: The ACA Daily, accountsrecovery.net, insidearm.com, kaulkin.com, creditorsbar.org, rmaintl.org, collectionadvisor.com.
- What is the proudest moment in your professional career?
I have enjoyed a handful of what I refer to as “career highlights” over the years. A few which stand out include: arguing my client’s case before the chief judge of a bankruptcy court on behalf of a client against whom the full weight of the federal government (CFPB) and 13 states’ attorneys general took action; making equity partner at the law firm where I started my legal career; receiving the Integrity Award from the industry’s leading trade group of asset purchasers, Receivables Management Association International; and testifying before Congress in the House Financial Services Committee on proposed debt collection legislation.
- In life?
Some of my proudest moments in life are eloping with my wife to Italy, sitting by her side when she delivered each of our three boys, and watching my children create wonderful relationships with their grandparents.
- What do you see as the biggest opportunity that will come out of the challenges 2020 has brought to the industry?
Restaurants which heavily invested to grow their take-out and delivery businesses are not going to abandon those significant investments when patrons return to their dining rooms. The debt collection industry should not abandon the tremendous investment it has made into the remote workforce it deployed as the result of pandemic risk to their call centers.
The take-out and delivery business will forever augment the restaurant’s dine-in business. The remote workforce will also forever augment the call center workflow model for the collection industry. Lower costs and higher efficiencies in the collection industry benefit all stakeholders in the credit cycle.
About John Bedard
John H. Bedard, Jr. is the managing attorney of Bedard Law Group, P.C. located in Atlanta, Georgia. John represents creditors, asset buyers, and debt collectors helping them stay in compliance with state and federal law. He also manages the nationwide litigation for several collection agencies and focuses his litigation practice on FDCPA, TCPA, and FCRA defense.
John’s practice also focuses on defending regulatory actions including CFPB investigations and travels the country performing CFPB readiness assessments for the collection industry. He received his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and his undergraduate degree in Economics from the Pennsylvania State University.
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