ARA finalizes partnership with Bridgecrest Acceptance for training and vendor vetting

IRVING, Texas - 

The American Recovery Association (ARA) landed an enhanced relationship with a finance company on Friday.

ARA announced a new partnership with Bridgecrest Acceptance, a licensed third-party servicer, servicing loans for DriveTime and other affiliated finance companies.

As part of this agreement, ARA will assist Bridgecrest in its vendor vetting, training and monitoring program. 

ARA president Dave Kennedy highlighted that the organization seeks to be a viable industry solution to the high cost of vendor training. He sees this partnership is a major benefit to Bridgecrest’s current vendor network, as it significantly reduces the financial burden placed upon them.

“We are honored to be chosen as the exclusive training program by Bridgecrest and are happy to help reduce the cost burden on vendors,” Kennedy said.

“We still believe repossessors should only have to choose one training service, but until our compliance program is accepted by everyone, we are determined to provide the best value,” he went on to say.

For more information about ARA, its partnerships and its member benefits, visit

The partnership arrived about a month ahead of ARA’s annual event — the North American Repossessors Summit (NARS) — which is reaching its 10th anniversary.

NARS 2018 will be hosting more than 600 professionals from the collateral recovery and remarketing industries to gather and network. This year’s speaker lineup includes Tom Jones, scientist, author, pilot and veteran NASA astronaut, as well as other industry professionals who will focus on open and collaborative discussions about the future of collateral recovery and remarketing.

NARS now will include a two-hour open forum meeting exclusively for business owners who will be able to participate in crucial discussions of the challenges and complexities repossessors currently face in order to find solutions that help lay the foundation for the future of the industry.

The theme for the 10th annual summit is “Stronger Together: Celebrating 10 years of Leadership, Education and Unity,” with a keynote by astronaut Tom Jones delivering an inspiring story of adventure, teamwork and inspiration to motivate audiences to work hard together to overcome obstacles to their own particular mission.

This year’s schedule also includes other insightful speakers and powerful roundtable discussions, as well as other exciting events such as the sixth annual golf tournament, AT&T Stadium Tour, Harding Brooks Cocktail Party, and the Digital Recognition Network (DRN) closing party and live auction to end the summit.

The summit will be held at the Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, on April 19-20.

To register, visit

FTC and FCC hosting 2 events to examine illegal phone calls


As opposed to the legitimate collections efforts put forth by dealerships, finance companies and their service providers, federal regulators are looking to curb unwanted phone calls that are out to swindle consumers.

Two upcoming events will highlight cooperative efforts by two agencies to combat illegal calls and promote innovative solutions to protect consumers

The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission announced two upcoming events aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing. The agencies will co-host a Policy Forum later this month and a Technology Expo in April.

Unwanted calls — including illegal robocalls, spoofed calls and telemarketing — are a major source of complaints to both the FTC and FCC. Under acting FTC chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the agencies have combated this consumer problem through numerous policy-making efforts and strong enforcement actions.

“Consumers are fed up with illegal robocalls that disturb their privacy and often pitch scams,” Ohlhausen said. “We’re going to expand our fight against this scourge through initiatives like the upcoming Technology Expo and Policy Forum, which amplify our impact through close coordination with the FCC and other partners.”

“Scam robocalls and deceptive spoofing are real threats to American consumers, and they are the number one consumer complaint at the FCC,” Pai added. “We’re committed to confronting this problem using every tool we have. I’m pleased to announce these efforts in our continued work with the FTC to protect consumers.”

On March 23, the two agencies will co-host a Policy Forum at FCC headquarters to discuss the regulatory challenges posed by illegal robocalls and what the FTC and FCC are doing to both protect consumers and encourage the development of private-sector solutions. The live video feed and other information related to this event will be available here.

On April 23, the FTC and FCC will also co-host a Technology Expo for consumers at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C. This event will feature technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the illegal robocalls consumers receive. The FTC and FCC said they have worked closely with phone companies, tech innovators, and others to find solutions for consumers to the problems of illegal robocalls and malicious spoofing.

More information on this Expo, including how innovators can seek to participate, will be available here.

In combating abusive and fraudulent calls through early 2018, the FTC’s enforcement actions have resulted in 134 lawsuits against 789 companies and individuals alleged to be responsible for placing billions of unwanted telemarketing calls to consumers. The FTC has been awarded judgments totaling over $1.5 billion and has collected over $121 million from these violators.

Under Pai, the FCC proposed more than $200 million in fines last year alone for apparent illegal spoofing by telemarketers in first-of-their-kind cases under the Truth in Caller ID Act.

In addition, the FCC has adopted new rules to allow phone companies to block robocalls that are likely to be illegal, such as those purporting to be from non-existent numbers. The agency is also seeking public input on ways to help authenticate caller ID information and reduce unwanted calls to reassigned phone numbers.

Allied Finance Adjusters and Vendor Transparency Solutions finalize robust partnership

TUCSON, Ariz. - 

More collaboration developed in an effort to enhance the efficiency — and compliance — involving vehicle repossessions and recoveries.

Allied Finance Adjusters (AFA) and Vendor Transparency Solutions (VTS) recently entered into an exclusive joint venture agreement that executives say will add value to both members of AFA, subscribers of VTS and the clients utilizing the services of both groups.

Executives highlighted VTS subscribers that qualify will be given an exclusive offer from AFA to join the national trade association. They insisted this opportunity will provide those professionals who take advantage not only the benefits of being a member of AFA, but also access to the only crime policy formally known as the “bond” being offered by the national trade groups.

These professionals will also have access to an AFA’s on-staff attorney for legal consultation at no additional cost.

The organizations went on to mention this agreement will also create a new network of more than 400 professionals who are trained, vetted and carry the only crime policy offered by a national trade association. This network will also add value to the clients that utilize VTS, clients of VTS will have access to every AFA member, which will also give added exposure of AFA members to these clients.

“VTS is recognized as the most comprehensive compliance monitoring and continuing education service in the asset recovery industry,” said Max Pineiro, president of Vendor Transparency Solutions.  “We currently house the largest subscription base of compliant service providers and lending institutions in the industry.

“We look forward to our partnership with Allied Finance Adjusters and providing their members with VTS’s risk management solutions,” Pineiro continued.

VTS has given AFA access to its solution that now is called Allied Compliance Powered by VTS. AFA members will have access to all employee handbooks, policy and procedures manuals and continuing education training modules.

This will be at no cost to the members of AFA in an effort to deliver “the true transparency of members of AFA” to auto finance companies who leverage these services.

“Allied has always taken education and compliance training very seriously, this is just one more of many benefits to our members” said James Osselburn, president of Allied Finance Adjusters.

“I am excited to extend this exclusive offer to the professional recovery companies subscribed to VTS so they, too, can see the benefits of belonging to our great association," Osselburn went on to say.

SCUSA finalizes settlement with Connecticut banking regulator over repos

HARTFORD, Conn. - 

Santander Consumer USA cleared another legal matter regarding its repossession processes.

Connecticut Banking Commissioner Jorge Perez recently announced a settlement with SCUSA, for alleged violations of Connecticut banking law pertaining to its activity concerning repossessed vehicles. In addition to providing $2.9 million in relief to affected consumers, Santander Consumer USA has paid a $100,000 fine and has agreed to comply with all sales finance laws in Connecticut.

Following a 2016 investigation, the Department of Banking alleged SCUSA failed to calculate accurately the balance owed on repossessed vehicles for some Connecticut consumers.

In addition, the department alleged that SCUSA failed to provide written itemized statements to consumers showing how the proceeds of the sale of their repossessed vehicle were disbursed within 30 days, as required by law.

Finally, the department alleged that Santander improperly charged convenience fees on payments made by credit or debit cards from Oct. 1, 2016 through Jan. 19 of last year.

“I am happy thousands of Connecticut consumers have seen relief as a result of our department’s continued efforts to protect residents and ensure companies are following the law,” Perez said.  “It is critical that we maintain our vigilance with a watchful eye so we can minimize risks to our consumers.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Santander has already credited, refunded or waived $2.9 million in principal, interest and other fees and assessments, including convenience fees.

Complete settlement details can be viewed here.

Back in 2015, SCUSA reached a settlement with the Department of Justice for nearly $10 million to resolve an issue with repossessions and servicemembers.

6 questions to ask about your data security processes


Security for dealers and finance companies nowadays involves much more than just locking vehicles, the showroom and front door each night.

In fact, EFG Companies recently highlighted that data security is one of the largest areas of concern in 2018 for dealers, finance companies and their partners. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout, 1,579 data breaches occurred in 2017, representing a 44.7-percent increase year-over-year.

While retail automotive has been regulated under the Safeguards Rule of the 1999 Gramm-Leach Bliley Act, EFG Companies insisted that digital data was not considered an important area of focus until recent years.

This risk is driven in part by the rise of digital technology in the automotive market. From wirelessly connected cars to digital customer relationship management systems (CMS), data access points have increased exponentially.

A recent Frost & Sullivan report indicated that IT spending in the connected automotive market is projected to increase 17.3 percent from 2015 to 2025. However, the industry is just beginning to address how to protect private consumer information in a digital environment.

In the physical realm, it takes less than one minute and three pieces of information for a motivated thief to execute a security breach at a retail automotive dealership. In the digital realm, a computer hacker can gain access to payment processing software in seconds, grabbing data and exiting before the dealership is aware of the breach.

According to a 2017 study commissioned by IBM, the average cost of a single stolen data record is $141. The average total cost of a security breach was $3.62 million. The average probability of a company suffering a security breach within the next two years is 27.7 percent. 

“Machine learning and sophisticated hacking software will make data security an even more important component of the retail automotive sector,” said Maurice Hamilton, vice president, technology at EFG Companies.

“For example, we believe any company processing credit cards should complete PCI DSS compliance. Within three years, companies should also implement two-factor authentication. Granted, implementing data security technology is an expense. But, as research has shown, companies cannot afford a breach,” Hamilton continued.

Achieving data security

A study of more than 10,000 consumers by Gemalto revealed that 70 percent of consumers would stop doing business with a company if it suffered a data breach.

Furthermore, 69 percent of consumers believe that companies do not take consumer data security seriously.

EFG Companies recommends companies in the retail automotive buying chain utilize the acronym ADRIFT to ask the following questions as the first step in achieving data security.

1. Have I conducted a complete security risk assessment, including all access points and partners?

2. Does my written information security program document include procedures for each department that handles digital and physical consumer data?

3. Have I reviewed all reasonably foreseeable risks that could result in unauthorized disclosure or compromise of consumer data? Am I protecting customer information from collection to disposal?

4. Have I identified a designated person responsible for customer information security, with authority to implement the program?

5. How do I foresee manageable risks that could result in unauthorized disclosure of private consumer information? For example, am I overseeing partners that might have access to, or take possession of, customer information? Do my agreements with these partners require them to implement appropriate safeguards?

6. Does my company have sufficient training, oversight and procedures for securing private consumer data?

“From vulnerable photocopier hard drives to digital CRMs, we believe digital data security should be a key business objective for every retail automotive dealer, lender and partner,” said John Pappanastos, chief executive officer and president of EFG Companies.

“While important, simply locking a file cabinet or putting a screen protector on a monitor is not sufficient. We are calling on all participants in the retail automotive chain to lock down their data,” Pappanastos went on to say.

BB&T Dealer Financial Services to abandon flat fees


With regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issuing official requests for information about the implications of rules, investigations and enforcement actions, a sterling example might have arrived from BB&T Dealer Financial Services.

In a direct message to SubPrime Auto Finance News on Friday, the auto finance division of the North Carolina-based commercial bank indicated that it’s abandoning its flat-fee dealer compensation program first implemented nearly three years ago.

Brian Davis, BB&T’s director of corporate communications, explained the reasons for the bank’s decision; details that likely won’t come as much of a surprise to providers trying to compete for the best paper to fill their portfolios.

“While we had some successes with the flat fee program announced in 2015, BB&T also experienced an overall reduction in volume,” Davis said. “So to provide our dealer clients with more options and better flexibility, we will introduce a more traditional auto pricing program in mid-March.”

“BB&T remains firmly committed to the auto finance industry and to the fair and equal treatment of all consumers,” Davis added.

The bank originally made the switch to flat fees back in July 2015, just weeks after the CFPB published a rule that allowed the agency to supervise larger nonbank auto finance companies for the first time. The bureau already supervised auto financing at the largest banks and credit unions, but that rule extended that supervision to any nonbank auto finance company that makes, acquires or refinances 10,000 or more contracts or leases in a year.

When then-CFPB director Richard Cordray arrived for his semiannual hearing with the House Financial Services Committee that fall, lawmakers clashed with the agency leader over the rule, believing it was directly targeting dealer participation in hopes of moving the entire industry toward a flat-fee structure.

Rep. Scott Garrett, a New Jersey lawmaker, directly asked Cordray, “Are you working to eliminate dealer reserves?”

Cordray replied with, “We have been working to try to address a practice that we believe is discriminatory, discretionary markups.”

With dealer participation possibly coming back at BB&T Dealer Financial Services, perhaps the bank’s auto finance activities will improve.

According to the bank’s third quarter financial statement — the last one that included a carve-out of Dealer Financial Services performance as the institution changed its structure and reporting for Q4 — net income for its auto-finance division came in at $38 million, flat compared to the prior quarter and down by $2 million year-over-year.

2 more Hudson Cook partners recognized among industry’s best


Two more Hudson Cook partners are receiving accolades for their depth of knowledge and performance within consumer finance law.

Hudson Cook partners Lucy Morris and Ryan Stinneford have been elected as Fellows of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers (ACCFSL). Membership in the ACCFSL is limited to those attorneys who have achieved preeminence and made repeated and substantial contributions to the promotion of learning and scholarship in the field of consumer financial services law through teaching, lecturing and published writings.

A partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office and chair of Hudson Cook’s Government Investigations, Examinations and Enforcement Practice Group, Morris counsels financial institutions and others in complying with federal consumer financial laws and prohibitions against unfair, deceptive or abusive trade practices. She is an experienced advocate and litigator, representing clients in government investigations, examinations and enforcement actions before federal and state agencies; in particular, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), U.S. Department of Justice and state Attorney General offices.

 Before joining Hudson Cook, Morris served as a founding member of the CFPB Implementation Team that organized the CFPB after passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, and served as a CFPB deputy enforcement director for four years. Before the CFPB, she worked at the FTC for more than 20 years in a variety of leadership positions, including as assistant director for financial practices. She received the 2008 Chairman’s Award, the FTC’s highest honor.

 Morris is a frequent speaker on a variety of consumer financial services law topics. Speaking engagements include the American Financial Services Association (AFSA), Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Consumer Bankers Association (CBA), American Bar Association (ABA), Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) and numerous other national programs.

Stinneford — a partner in the firm’s Portland, Maine, office — assists clients with a wide variety of federal, Maine and Massachusetts regulatory compliance matters. His retail financial compliance experience includes prepaid access, consumer and commercial deposit products, electronic banking and payment services, consumer finance products (residential mortgages, home equity loans/lines, personal loans/lines, credit cards, student loans, auto loans and leases, and retail installment sales contracts), marketing and advertising issues, privacy and data security issues and vendor contracting/third-party risk management issues. His representative clients include community, regional and national banks, as well as non-bank lenders and service providers.

For the eighth consecutive year, Stinneford is listed in the 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice areas of banking and finance law and of financial services regulation law. He was named the Best Lawyers Banking and Finance Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Portland, Maine, for 2018 as well as in 2015.

Stinneford is a member of the Consumer Financial Services Committee of the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section, and served as chair of the committee’s Deposit Products and Payment Systems subcommittee from 2008 to 2011and vice chair from 2005 to 2008. He is also a member and former chair of the Consumer and Financial Institutions Law Section of the Maine State Bar Association. 

Like Morris, Stinneford is also a frequent speaker on a wide variety of consumer financial services topics, as well as legal ethics matters.  He has also authored or co-authored nine annual surveys of deposit and payment systems developments published by the American Bar Association in The Business Lawyer.

Morris and Stinneford join 12 other attorneys from the firm who have been previously named as Fellows, including:

—Michael Benoit of Washington, D.C.

—Thomas Buiteweg of Ann Arbor, Mich.

—Robert Cook of Hanover, Md., a founding member and current past president

—Patricia Covington of Richmond, Va.

—Anne Fortney of Washington, DC, a founding member and Lifetime Achievement Award winner

—Richard Hackett of Portland, Maine, a former regent and chair of the 2017 Annual Writing Competition

—Thomas Hudson of Hanover, Md., past president; ex officio Regent; and Lifetime Achievement Award winner

—Joseph “Jed” Mayk of West Chester, Pa.

—Nicole Frush Munro of Hanover, Md.

—Jean Noonan of Washington, D.C., a founding member; secretary; former Regent; former chair, Lifetime Achievement Award Committee and Writing Competition Committee

—Joel Winston of Washington, D.C. and part of the Board of Regents

—Elizabeth Yen of New Haven, Conn., and chair of the 2018 Annual Writing Competition

Induction of new fellows will take place at the ACCFSL’s Annual Dinner on April 14 in conjunction with the American Bar Association Business Law Section Spring Meeting in Orlando. The annual dinner is the ACCFSL’s premier event of the year.

Darwin Automotive updates platform based on latest Military Lending Act interpretation


F&I software provider Darwin Automotive announced on Tuesday that it has integrated smart disqualify technology into its F&I platform that can disqualify products based on Military Lending Act (MLA) qualifications.

The company said this technology is incorporated into the platform for all users, at no charge, to help protect dealers and finance companies and provide a high level of transparency to active duty service members.

Darwin Automotive recapped that the Military Lending Act was designed to protect active duty service members and their dependents in credit transactions and includes certain disclosures, arbitration provisions and a 36-percent interest rate cap on a finance agreement combined with ancillary and credit products.

Until recently, motor vehicle finance transactions were believed to be exempt from the act, and only auto title loans had to comply.

However, according to Darwin Automotive chief executive officer Phillip Battista, the Department of Defense's most recent interpretation, published last month, includes a set of rules that could retroactively put dealers and lenders in regulatory jeopardy.

“If a vehicle finance contract for active military members or their dependents includes financing for credit-related products or services, such as guaranteed asset protection or other types of credit insurance, or provides cash-out financing, the creditor, which would be the dealership or lender, must comply with the act,” Battista said.

“Products and services such as upgraded in-vehicle technology or extended warranties are related to the vehicle and are exempt from the rule. But credit-related products and services, such as GAP and credit life insurance, are related to the finance transaction, not the vehicle, so they are included under the act,” he continued.

“With Darwin, the needs of a consumer are paramount in determining which products and services can best fit those needs. Out of respect to men and women who have served, we want to provide the highest possible level of transparency at no cost and so have integrated MLA qualification screening into our Darwin platform at no charge to our dealer and lender clients,” Battista added.

FTC Act civil penalties rise based on inflation


In combing through the Federal Register this week, the National Automobile Dealers Association found that the Federal Trade Commission recently announced increases to various civil penalties amounts within its jurisdiction to adjust for inflation.

In particular, that could be associated with collections and repossessions. The regulator stated that the penalties for violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act — which can include unfair or deceptive acts or practices — will increase.

The FTC indicated the penalties would jump from $40,654 to $41,484.

This section of the Federal Register also mentioned that knowing violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act would increase, too, climbing from $3,817 to $3,895.

The regulator reiterated that it made the moves by “implementing adjustments to the civil penalty amounts within its jurisdiction to account for inflation, as required by law.”

The actions adjusted the figures since the FTC made its most recent update last January.

The FTC certainly keeps a watchful eye on collections activities such as asking for comments about its current rules.

2 newest F&I Express executives each possess 20 years of experience


F&I Express recently added two executives to its company team who each possess more than 20 years professional experience.

First, the company announced Gary Peek has joined the business team as chief information officer. Management highlighted that Peek will be a key contributor to the direction and planning of the strategic growth of F&I Express, including the development of expanded technology solutions to help continually drive innovation in the marketplace.

Officials added that Peek will be responsible for managing all aspects of information technology and shape product vision and technology strategy.

“I am excited to join F&I Express and be a part of the rapid growth that the company is experiencing and to work with Brian Reed, an automotive industry veteran,” Peek said.

“The F&I technologies that are being built for lenders, dealerships, and aftermarket providers is changing rapidly, and I am confident that F&I Express will continue to be at the forefront of companies providing software and services in this vertical,” Peek continued.

Peek brings more than 20 years of experience in the vertical market software industry including strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, business development, and product and software engineering strategies to F&I Express.

Before he joined F&I Express, Peek served as the vice president of IT business solutions for Rent-A-Center (RAC), where he managed a large technology team providing application development, quality control, product management, solution architecture and enterprise data services across multiple business units.

Prior to RAC, Peek was responsible for strategy, business case development and global vendor management for technologies used by KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurants outside the U.S. as the director of restaurant technology strategy for Yum Restaurants International.

Peek has also founded and grown highly successful software companies from the ground up with technologies primarily focused on the restaurant industry being used by companies around the globe.

F&I Express also welcomed Mike Llewellyn to the F&I Express team. As the Express Recoveries product manager, Llewellyn will be instrumental in supporting and leading the overall growth of the business for this complete solution for streamlined, compliant eCancellations.

The company indicated Llewellyn will work closely with customers and across technology and account management teams to ensure customer needs are met and solution strategies are successful.

“I am ecstatic to be part of the dynamic growth at F&I Express, joining this extremely passionate and talented team,” Llewellyn said.

“I am focused on further enhancing one of our best-in-class solutions, Express Recoveries, enabling lenders and dealers to obtain aftermarket product cancellations and refund data, while solving business problems that arise in our ever-changing marketplace landscape,” he continued.

Llewellyn has more than 20 years of experience in product management and a history of customer-centric focus in e-commerce environments.

Llewellyn held a number of roles at Sabre Airline Solutions before joining F&I Express, from manager of solution marketing ancillary sales to manager of solution marketing self-service to manager of e-commerce delivery. He successfully led e-commerce airline booking portals at global airlines as well as promoted new features driving an increase of ancillary revenues for airlines.

Llewellyn also reinvigorated the revolutionary MySabre agency point-of-sale portal with product enhancements, increasing adoption by 57 percent.

Prior to Sabre, Llewellyn was an account executive at American Airlines where he was recognized with both the Circle of Distinction and Bulls Eye awards for outstanding sales growth and visionary leadership.

“We are excited to welcome Gary Peek to our business team as chief information officer at F&I Express. He will be key to our strategic growth plan to expand and improve our technology solutions at an explosive rate,” said Reed, who is president and chief executive officer of F&I Express.

“Mike Llewellyn will be another valuable addition to the F&I Express team. We look forward to the contribution he will make to further develop the success of our eCancellation solution, Express Recoveries,” Reed added.