For whatever reasons, the practice of double assigning repossessions keeps rearing it’s ugly head. The causes range from; a collector receiving a new address in another area or the collector or vendor management staff feel that the assigned agency isn’t working the account or just good old fashioned brain cramps causing the collector to forget to close the assignment. Any way you look at it, it’s a bad practice and a deadly one.
If you’ve been paying attention over the last month, violence in the repossession industry has been on the rise. Already this year, we’ve seen one murder, one stabbing and numerous guns aimed at or fired on repossession personnel as well as the many unreported physical attacks. While none of these, from what we can tell, were caused by double assigning repossessions, the practice in itself creates confusion and a lack of communication that exponentially increases the probability of violent incidents.
Lenders Creating Trouble in the Field
One type of incident we hear about frequently, and I do mean frequently, is one where an agent arrives at an address and spots an assigned vehicle for repossession. Somewhere in the process, another agent shows up. Also assigned the same vehicle. While most agents will simply grumble and leave, there have been instances of fights breaking out between the agents. Isn’t it bad enough the borrowers can get violent? Do we really need people wasting their time like this?
From the collector’s chair, sometimes they may not feel that the agency or agent is really running their account or, not running it when THEY think it should be run. So, they assign another agent. Common sense tells you to close with the first agency before assigning the second, but for reasons unbeknownst to me or others, some people feel there is no need or simply wish to avoid a closing fee. Yes, that’s a real thing and some PROFESSIONAL lenders assign without contingent agreements and still pay them as they all should.
Just as bad, I’ve seen assignments reassigned with closing with the first agent and then recovered by the second agency without telling the first agency. The borrower pays the account current, gets their car back and reinstates their loan with the lender. The first agency, unknowing of the prior repo and reinstatement, is still spinning their wheels and of course, now that their account is current, the vehicle shows at the residence address and is an easy repo only for them to find it is a wrongful repossession.
According to one company, they had a client who had a new woman take over their repo department and she decided that all forwarders should compete against each other to prove themselves. She went from using 3 forwarders to using 10 forwarders in 2 weeks! She then started assigning the same account to three different forwarders and justified it to her team by telling them that she sent a different address to each forwarder to assign out and “if the agents or forwarders skip it and find addresses that cause them to trip over each other, that is their own fault.”
Frequently, agents will receive accounts from a Forwarder that they already had assigned direct from the Lender! Try communicating folks!
Another frequent discussed problem, is that a “particular forwarder” who only pays them $275.00 contingent (disgusting!) has sent them an account from a lender that they know they also do work for. Knowing this lender double assigns, they then will wait until the lender sends them the same account to their other forwarder so that they can pick it up for $320.00 and also get paid redemption fees.
Unfortunately, most lenders do not realize that regardless of how many forwarders they use, the same agents are being used. They also do not realize that agents know which forwarders pay the most and which ones pay the least and schedule their runs accordingly. Payback!
This is a phrase that makes everyone’s stomach queasy. It reeks of excuses, apologies, lawsuits and termination of employment and business relationships. Real nasty stuff when the tables are turned.
On another note, if a borrower or third party has threatened violence to the collector, lender or previous repossessors on other assignments, TELL THE NEXT AGENT! It is important to know and could save someone’s life. Just for a refresher, I’d like to revisit an old story that exemplifies this danger very well and with a tragic ending.
At 3:30 A.M. on Feb. 25, 1994, Tommy Deen Morris was hooking his tow truck to a Ford pick-up in an unincorporated section of Harris County, Texas, when he was shot through the neck and both lungs and killed by Jerry Casey Jr. with a .30-30 telescopic rifle. Police declined to arrest Mr. Casey, citing a frontier-era law, Texas Penal Code 9.41, an 1800’s frontier era law created to deal with cattle thieves, that gives Texans considerable leeway at night to kill thieves and intruders. Despite public outcry from not just the repossession industry, but from across the nation, 8 months later, Casey was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Harris County District Attorney, Johnny B. Holmes Jr., said the matter would simply boil down to whether a grand jury believed that Mr. Casey believed the repo man was an auto thief. Holmes defended the Texas law and seemed disinterested in prosecuting Mr. Casey and instead chose to question why T.D. didn’t call or give some warning that he was coming.
After the law failed to provide justice, Donna Morris, T.D.’s wife carried on the fight for three more long years with a lawsuit against the lien holder of the assignment, Donna Morris v. Charlie Thomas Used Cars (Steeplechase Motor Company) in a Wrongful Death suit and was awarded a $3.5 Million Verdict. During the discovery period of this case, it was discovered that Steeplechase Motors had already assigned this repossession with another agent who had just unsuccessfully been to the residence just one hour earlier.
To this day, Donna Morris and their now fully grown four children, mourn their belated husband and father and no amount of money can bring him back. The best we can hope for, is that someone in the collections and repossession assignment process takes heed of this cautionary tale and follow this one simple rule; “One Repossessor per Assignment at a Time.” That’s not complicated at all and, it may save someone’s life.
This is On You!
In the absence of any Federal or State regulations governing this issue, we are left with only the most uncommon of values in the Forwarding and Lending/Collections industry, “Common Sense.” With all of the misery that comes with a wrongful repossession, the loss of credibility that comes with being caught in a double assignment and the constant potential of injury and death that are always present, why would anyone with a shred of character or professionalism participate in this practice?
Obviously, they either just don’t care or are oblivious. If it is the latter, I hope that perhaps this enlightens them and they change their ways. If it is the former, then the blood will be on their hands.