President’s Address

Robert G. Markoff

October 16, 2009

 

It is hard for me to believe that this is my last address as NARCA President.  In reflecting upon my two year term of office, I wonder where the time has gone.  There is so much more that I want to accomplish that I am reminded of the song “Just a Little More Time!”  Then I remember the years I served on the board as a member, secretary and president-elect and I know it is time for me to pass the gavel. 

 

When I first assumed office, our founding president Don Kramer gave me some sage advice, “don’t try to do everything, do one or two things and do them well.”  Thank you, Don, I have tried to follow your advice and do a couple things to the best of my ability.

 

I am very proud of our association and what it has accomplished in the past several years.  Of utmost significance, we have adopted a statement of Ethical Aspirations which announce to our members and the public, the ethical goals that we seek to achieve above and beyond the heightened obligations of our legal profession.  Do you remember four years ago the outcry at one of our conferences of “No way, Never!”  Just taking one of our aspirational statements, the desire never to garnish exempt funds, NARCA has shown outstanding leadership in working with courts and those who would regulate our practices to diminish the adverse effects of garnishing funds that are exempt. 

 

In the past several years, through the help of our public affairs counsel Waggener Edstrom, NARCA has turned from an inwardly focused association to one that is taking its place among sister collection industry associations.  We have not attempted to speak for everyone in the collection industry, but to advocate for our members and express our concerns.  Our media outreach has found favorable mention in many highly respected national publications including the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post and USA Today.  In addition, NARCA is regularly quoted in collection industry publications and invited to participate in many related conferences.

 

Our outreach has brought us to several conferences of regulators including the National Association of Attorneys General, Consumer Protection Division and the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association.  We have had meetings and developed contacts with AARP, Public Citizen, Better Business Bureau, NCLC and other consumer advocates as well as the Military Line publication.

 

NARCA’s legislative outreach includes meeting members of Congress who serve on relevant committees. NARCA is also working with our membership on state and local matters.  We are supporting efforts in New York to overturn the onerous burdens imposed by the City of New York.  Beyond our legislative concerns, we have funded numerous amicus briefs on matters vital to our members and have hired one of the most prestigious law firms in Washington, D.C. to present our position on “bona fide error” to the members of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Jerman v. Carlisle case.

 

For all that we are doing, I feel that we are a bit like Sisyphus pushing that rock up the hill.  In our case, though, when it looks like we are about to reach the top of the hill, the hill gets higher.  The issues that affect our legal collection industry are popping up so frequently that it is almost like playing the children’s game at Chuck E. Cheese called “Whack-A-Mole.”  We wonder if we will ever fully get our hands around all of these fast-breaking issues. 

 

Your NARCA leadership is taking action to better address legislation in Washington, D.C.  After two and a half excellent years with Waggener Edstrom, we have mutually agreed to part ways in order to allow NARCA to refocus its limited resources on current events on the Hill.  The proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency is, at this writing, little more than an idea on paper.  However, like the “Whack-A-Mole” game, we need to be prepared for whatever may pop up.

 

NARCA has spent a great deal of time and effort in working with the Federal Trade Commission not only on their Washington, D.C. debt collection workshop in 2007 but also on their regional roundtables in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  We are appreciative of the FTC staff members who have allowed us to share our concerns relating to the litigation and arbitration process.  Even though we were not able to have a panel discussion on “extortion” litigation, panel members were able to express their thoughts about the process in the course of their discussions with representatives of the consumer industry.  On a note related to the Chicago Roundtable, Judge Donnelly of the Circuit Court of Cook County, a known advocate for consumers, made a statement to the effect that local courts do not need federal regulation.  Judge Donnelly felt that perhaps better metrics would highlight problems in the area of litigation, but that the local courts were quite capable of working with all parties concerned to correct problems.

 

Turning to our homefront, NARCA has said goodbye to its management company of many years. Management Options, Inc, (MOI) had served NARCA very well, but  we reached a point where we knew that it was time to move on.  NARCA has now established its own independent office in Washington, D.C.  As part of the transition process, Cindy White, our long serving and diligent Executive Director is also departing.  Even though Cindy was an MOI staff member, she stayed with us to ensure a smooth transition to new management.  I am thankful for her years of advice, support and hard work in bringing our association to the level that it has achieved today.

 

As I leave office, among the many suggestions that I have shared with Fred and our board, I would like to bring one in particular to your attention.  The NARCA president-elect works every bit as hard as the president.  Therefore, the term of NARCA president is more like three years of voluntary servitude.  In fact, the first year of a president’s term in which there is no president-elect to assist with the work is extremely difficult for a new president.  In addition, the work load of our association’s president has become so great with both management issues and public outreach, that I recommend changes to the term of office.  There are many excellent approaches available, but I want you to be aware that NARCA should address the situation.  Many fine volunteers are not capable of assuming the NARCA presidency because the cost to their practices would almost be insurmountable.

 

 

It is now time for me to say some thank you’s.  To our Executive Committee including Fred Blitt, Bill Hicks and Joann Needleman, who wound up doing more work for NARCA than they ever envisioned when they ran for office.  To the NARCA board, where almost everything is done by consensus, you have been a dream to work with. May the collegiality we have shown each other continue to inure to the benefit of our association.  To the many unsung NARCA members who have worked on committees, task forces and projects, thank you. You are the reason NARCA is a successful and vibrant association today.

 

As a very personal thank you, I want to thank my wife, Diane. Also, I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to my partner Jim Krasny, for allowing me to serve our association.  Little did he know of the time commitment!  Jim, thank you.

 

Everything that I have done as NARCA President has been based upon those able leaders who have preceded me.  I have stood on their shoulders and now, Fred Blitt, I invite you to stand on mine.

 

Thank you, NARCA, for allowing me to be of service to you.

 

NARCA WORKS!