Q. Please explain the following regarding your standard collection process:
Who performs what and when?
It is important to first note that every claim will be analyzed and the collection process will be chosen based on the unique facts of that case and their application to state law. The following should be seen as a mere road map which will assist in understanding the general collection process.
Upon receipt, each claim file is evaluated and a computer file is opened by an attorney. That attorney will immediately acknowledge receipt of the claim from the client contact.
At a minimum, this evaluation will include a review of all available documents, a search of records with the Secretary Of State, in order to determine if the debtor is incorporated and if that protective corporate veil can be pierced, and a search of bankruptcy records to determine if an automatic collection stay is in effect. It may also include initial skip trace efforts.
Following a determination that a viable debtor and theory of recovery exists, the file, along with any pre-litigation collection or settlement guidelines are given to an assigned account manager. That account manager will develop a proposed, FDCPA required, 30-day verification letter, for mailing, following the attorneys approval and signature. (In non-FDCPA controlled cases, this period of time may be adjusted to meet the needs and desires of the client) The account manager will also calendar the file for review and action in thirty five (35) days.
During that thirty five (35) day period, the account manager will immediately respond to any telephone or written inquiry or document request by the alleged debtor. (S)he will also attempt to resolve the debt through voluntary payment arrangements.
If the verification letter fails to garner a response or if full payment of the debt is not received within the thirty five (35) day period, the account manager will develop a proposed, fourteen (14) day demand letter, for mailing following the attorney’s review and signature.
The account manager will calendar the file for review and action in twenty (20) days. During that twenty (20) day period, the account manager will immediately respond to any telephone or written inquiry or document request by the alleged debtor. (S)he will also attempt to resolve the debt through voluntary payment arrangements.
If the debtor still refuses to pay the amount demanded, a Petition, Summons, and Request for Service will be submitted by a firm attorney. Where appropriate, the Petition will also seek civil enforcement of any criminal restitution order then in effect.
Any subsequent Discovery, Hearings, Trials, Pre Judgment Motions, Journal Entries, Garnishments, Pay Orders to Banks, On-going Wage Garnishments, Special Executions, Aids in Execution, Citations in Contempt, Bench Warrants, Dismissals, Satisfactions of Judgment, Garnishment releases, Dismissal of Judgments and Appeals will be handled by the assigned attorney.
The assigned account manager will remain available to calendar all actions and respond to any judgment debtor inquiries and payment proposals. The assigned attorney shall also supervise all collections on behalf of the client, through criminal restitution orders, fines and disgorgement.
All collected Client funds will initially be placed in a client trust account. This is done in order to allow the Client maximum accountability and access for audit purposes, while recognizing other Client and debtor rights to privacy under both federal and state law.
On a monthly basis or as required by the Client contact, a report will be initiated reflecting all transactions during that reporting period. This report may be developed by our staff computer programmer in almost any format desired by the Client. This report will accompany a firm check reflecting the Client’s portion of any funds collected. If desired by the client, a second report is also available which will reflect the names and file information on any debtors which Newman, Reynolds & Riffel has been unable to locate within ninety (90) days after the account has been referred to the firm. When applicable, a third report is offered which will reflect any accounts which have not achieved collection after one year. These reports will be drafted by the Topeka office manager, with input from account managers and reviewed by attorney, Bill Newman, prior to submission to the Client contact.
What is the length of time in each step of the process?
Acknowledgment of receipt of all accounts................within 48 business hours
Attorney evaluation of claim received...........within 48 same business hours
Issuance of 30 day verification letter.............within 48 same business hours
Response to debtor request for information.......................immediate
Response to debtor offers of payment or settlement..........immediate
Issuance of 14 day demand letter...........................within 45 days
Request for permission to file Court action.......................within 65 days
Filing of petition or other Court action......within 48 business hours of receiving written permission
Discovery, hearings, trials, motions, judgments post judgment letters, garnishments, pay orders to banks, aids in execution hearings, citations in contempt, bench warrants, dismissals, garnishment releases, other post judgment pleadings.....................as needed
Reports and distribution of funds collected................monthly (or as directed)
Other requested reports...........................as directed
Q. At what point do you deem legal action is necessary?
If there is no response or no approved payment plan in place within twenty days after issuance of 14 day demand letter, legal action should be taken. Immediately prior to trial, our attorney will again attempt to resolve the case through a stipulated judgment and voluntary payment plan. If unsuccessful, (s)he will try the case and attain judgment. This step may require the attendance of fact witnesses in order to dispute any false allegations by the debtor.
Armed with a judgment, NRH will give the debtor two weeks to pay the Judgment sum due or set up a voluntary approved payment plan. If unsuccessful, following passage of the allotted two weeks, the attorney will seek garnishment or a Special Execution Order which will allow the Sheriff to go into the debtor’s place of business and take the sum necessary to satisfy the judgment out of the business cash register. If the debtor does not own a business, NRH will attempt to locate his/her place of employment and garnish his/her wages. The option to garnish his bank or other non wage account is also available.
Q. Do you perform your legal work in-house, or do you use outside legal counsel?
All legal work is done in-house. In those limited cases where Courts have set hearings which conflict with other court dates, NRH has contracted with other attorneys who are members of the various collection bars to cover those hearings. Those instances have been rare and, if it occurs, we will use only well experienced attorneys and we will pay any subsequent expense out of our contracted attorney fees. Newman, Riffel & Hesse, P.A. will remain responsible for all work performed by outside legal counsel.
Q. When do you consider the collection process over?
A Judgment, if properly renewed, remains in effect for the life of the debtor and may go against the debtor’s estate, when (s)he dies. There is no “Statute of Limitations” on a properly renewed Judgment. The collection process is over when the debt is collected.
Q. What do you do to keep your clients informed?
Regular reports and letters advise our clients of all collection activity. All collected funds are disbursed on either a regular monthly or quarterly basis, as chosen by the client. Finally, through the use of three attorneys, an office manager for each of the two offices and a large number of account managers, there is always someone available to immediately address any telephone, e-mail or other inquiry by clients.
Q. In general, what skip-tracing methods do you use?
Our major resources include RNN Group, Work Number, TransUnion, TeleTrack and Accurint. A variety of other sources such as Bankruptcy Court records, District Court files and public state and federal records are also used.
Q If a debtor files bankruptcy, will you represent the client merchant in the bankruptcy case? If so, upon what attorney fee terms and conditions?
If it is only necessary to file a “Proof of Claim”, that will be provided at no charge to the client. If it becomes necessary to contest dischargability of a debt or provide any other Bankruptcy service, an hourly rate may be negotiated at that time.