Attendees heard from engaging speakers about the CFPB, FCC, the 2020 presidential election and what to expect from Congress in the next few months! Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.
Discussions about the legislative and regulatory outlook for the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry shaped ACA International’s highly-successfully 2020 Washington Insights Livestream. For the first time in its history, ACA’s traditional “Washington Insights Fly-In” was held via livestream enabling more members to participate in this popular, informative event – without leaving home!
A record-breaking 200 ACA International members participated online from their homes and offices in New Jersey, Illinois, California and other areas of the country as legislators provided interesting political updates and other policymakers presented on topics related to news and information from the Federal Communications Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Real-time feedback typed in the “chat box” throughout the daylong event ranged from “loving the discussion” to "thank you messages" to members of Congress who spoke.
Indeed, in his opening remarks, ACA CEO Mark Neeb said, “We hope that after today you’ll have a better understanding of the political and policy landscape and work with ACA.”
Members heard from Washington insiders on ACA’s staff and those working with legislators and regulators on Capitol Hill about various pending legislative issues, particularly those that impact the industry crafted in response to COVID-19.
ACA continues to advocate for ARM industry consideration in legislation such as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives May 15 and ongoing packages proposed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
“There is a saying that all politics are local, but all politics are personal. Your relationships with your local representatives are vital. Lawmakers want to hear from you,” Neeb said. “ACA International has a constant presence on Capitol Hill, we will continue to be your voice and be seen, but member engagement will continue to be extremely important.”
Providing the first political updates of the day, U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., who serve on the House Financial Services Committee, covered the importance of constituents and legislators banding together as well as an outlook for the 2020 election.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Congress have been holding virtual hearings, Emmer said, noting that legislators will be in Washington fewer days between now and September, meaning they will be working remotely or in their home districts.
“You do need to stay involved,” Emmer said. “Keep up the good work you’re doing.”
Lauren Valenzuela, who serves on ACA’s Federal Affairs Committee and is corporate counsel with Performant Recovery Inc., talked with Huizenga about CFPB guidance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, his outlook on progress or any changes on the CFPB’s proposed debt collection rule and the future of the bureau’s leadership structure.
When asked by Valenzuela about his advice for members in the industry in the current environment, Huizenga said, “Communicate, communicate, communicate. You have a great team out in Washington advocating for you. There is no better advocate than yourself.”
The Legislative Outlook for the Remainder of 2020 for the Debt Collection Industry After the COVID-19 Outbreak
Delving into industry specific issues, Neeb, and ACA staff members Leah Dempsey, vice president and senior counsel, federal advocacy; Andrew Madden, vice president of state government and unit affairs; Patrick Russell, federal advocacy director; along with Roger Weiss, ACA board president; Travis Johnson, principal 1607 Strategies, and Tamar Yudenfreund, senior director, public policy, Encore Capital Group, stressed the importance of member engagement with regulators and legislators.
“Any time you get an opportunity to develop a relationship with a legislator or regulator, they might reach out to you,” Weiss said. “We want to tell our story rather than have our story told for us. It starts at grassroots; it starts with each of us as a member.”
The panel shared their insights on the debt collection industry’s legislative outlook for the remainder of the year, especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Madden said the industry’s agenda was already packed this year with more than 750 bills to track at the state level and since COVID-19, there have been more than 1,000 executive orders on state closures and requirements for employers and agencies licensed in the industry.
“It just shows how important it is for your association and you as members to continually educate your lawmakers about what is out there,” Madden said.
Now is also an important time to let your legislators and regulators know about programs to help consumers.
“I think right now talking to your legislators and letting them know about the type of hardship programs you as a company and your clients have in place is critical,” Madden said.
Navigating Medical Debt Legislation on Capitol Hill
Members G. Scott Purcell, ACA president elect and president of Professional Collection Service in Springfield, Oregon, and Tim Haag, president of State Collection Service in Madison, Wisconsin, took the lead on covering the complex medical debt legislation trends and flawed proposals at the state and federal levels.
Eric Ellman, senior vice president, public policy and legal affairs with the Consumer Data Industry Association, discussed medical debt and credit reporting and credit bureaus’ response related to COVID-19 during his presentation.
When it comes to the credit bureau’s response, Ellman said lenders and creditors may offer customers forbearance programs and payment holidays to help consumers through financial distress for financial hardships, including those caused by natural and declared disasters.
From an advocacy perspective, panelist Paul Miller, partner, Miller Wenhold Capitol Strategies LLC, in Washington, D.C., said there is a “growing drumbeat” to get more done in debt collections.
The uptick in virtual meetings, while the result of a crisis, has increased the opportunity to connect with regulators and legislators.
Haag, whose agency works with medical debt collections, said to use that opportunity to advocate for the industry in medical debt legislation, such as H.R. 5330, the Consumer Protection for Medical Debt Collections Act.
Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., H.R. 5330 would prohibit the ARM industry from engaging in activities to collect or attempting to collect medical debt for two years. H.R. 5330 would also delay the ability to report medical debt to credit reporting agencies for one year and would create a ban on reporting debt arising out of “medically necessary procedures.”
FCC Rulemakings in 2020 in the Wake of the TRACED Act
Switching gears to regulatory updates, Mark Brennan, lead innovation partner with Hogan Lovells LLP, talked with Dempsey about FCC rulemakings now that the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act is a law.
Joined by Arielle Roth, wireline legal advisor with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s office, and Alex Sachtjen, legal assistant to U.S. John Thune, R-S.D., also a speaker during Washington Insights, the group discussed implementing components of the TRACED Act and work that has yet to be done in providing clarity of the TCPA and caller ID authentication.
Roth said the goal of the TRACED and caller ID authentication requirements is to target illegal scam calls, not the legitimate, legal calls.
“My view is that debt collectors provide a very important service to society, perhaps now more than ever,” Roth said.
ACA also continues to focus on industry advocacy for the implementation of the reassigned numbers database, the need for a definition of called party, and ongoing petitions for clarity under the TCPA.
“It is fascinating to see what has happened under the current chairman of the FCC on TCPA issues,” Brennan said.
Tom Pahl, policy associate director for research, markets and regulations at the CFPB and a previous speaker at ACA’s conferences, presented highly anticipated news on the bureau’s regulatory outlook for the remainder of the year.
Pahl said the industry can expect a final debt collection rule in the fall and a universal compliance data for out-of-statute debt disclosures and validation notices, for example.
He said the CFPB has heard of how debt collectors are helping consumers throughout the COVID-19 crisis and reviewed updates to the consumer complaint database.
“There are positive things collectors are doing in their actions with consumers, and we want to continue to encourage that,” Pahl said.
U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., concluded the presentations Wednesday with a political update.
Working with Thune, who is Senate Majority Whip and co-sponsor of the TRACED Act, and his staff has been a core part of ACA’s advocacy efforts. Those efforts paid off to ensure protections for ensuring legitimate calls get through to consumers remained in the bill.
ACA, its members, and advocacy team look forward to continuing the momentum from the Washington Insights Livestream and thank all the speakers and participants for sharing their insights.
Thank you to the 2020 Washington Insights sponsors, VoApps, (title sponsor), Solutions by Text, FICO, Applied Innovation and Kaulkin Ginsberg.
ACA Board Member Courtney Reynaud joins the livestream from her office in California
ACA Federal Advocacy Director Patrick Russell from ACA's office in Washington, D.C.