The Federal Trade Commission’s second Debt Collection Dialogue event, held Tuesday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, focused on regulatory compliance and the complexities of the current collections climate. Several industry leaders participated in panel talks at the event, including Michael Frost, chief legal officer and general counsel for CBE Companies.

Frost, a board member for ACA International, took part in a panel focusing on federal and state enforcement activities. The panel included FTC officials and representatives of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. DBA International also participated on the panel.

The key strategic enforcement priorities for the FTC in the next 12-18 months include student loan debt collection, data transfer and security and faulty debt collection practices, according to ACA International, the largest industry association representing collection agencies.

Frost focused on exam preparation, pointing out that costs are up to 15 times higher than in the past, and the overall high costs of regulatory oversight. Frost pointed out that the industry is seeking regulatory clarity and help understanding the rules.

The first Debt Collection Dialogue event took place in Buffalo, N.Y. in June. Members of the FTC and the New York Attorney General’s office gave presentations at that event on collection issues, existing laws and the enforcement of fair practices. Audience members had the opportunity to ask panelists questions.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at the Buffalo event, said that while there are strong state laws and enforcement against deceptive collection practices, collaborating with the FTC sends a strong message. 

"There are a lot of folks trying to do this legitimately, and a lot of folks who try to take advantage of debtors when they’re feeling weak," he said, adding that the goal is to not just catch the illegal companies but to have laws in place so there are fewer bad guys to catch.

Unlike that meeting, in Dallas, the FTC asked collection and credit industry members to send in questions about regulators and the industry can work together. The audience asked how the FTC plans to go after the multitude of illegal so-called collection firms without in turn harming legitimate collection businesses.

Robert Föehl, ACA’s vice president and general counsel, said the FTC was more focused Tuesday in how to engage the collection industry in meaningful dialogue. According to the ACA, Föehl said industry members attending the event demonstrated that collection agencies are legitimate businesses that seek to work with federal and state regulators to ultimately help consumers. 

Föehl served on a panel with representatives from the FTC, CFPB, the Office of the Texas Attorney General and the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys. That panel discussed collection litigation, coordination between state and federal regulators and the potential costs and effects of federal regulation.

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