Although my hat is off to those who are fighting the good fight in Florida, I have to say that an even greater battle is being waged far to the north. If things are heating up in Florida, there’s a conflagration here in Michigan, and if the struggle in Florida is a “David vs. Goliath” battle, than the battle in Michigan is “Opie Taylor” vs. “Godzilla”.
Over the past several years George Badeen,owner of Midwest Recovery & Adjustment in Detroit and his son John, an attorney, have been fighting these Forwarders for years. The Michigan law, as it is similar in many ways to Florida, requires anyone directly or indirectly involved in the collection or repossession of collateral to be licensed as a Collection Agency in the State. Further, this is a criminal violation under Michigan Law.
Over the past 10 years George has filed thirteen criminal complaints, written dozens of letters and met with countless State officials. All of this has resulted in three investigations, which all support his contentions. However, in the true fashion of a Politician, the State’s Attorney General (AG) has repeatedly refused to prosecute. Meanwhile, it is estimated that these unlicensed and unregulated Forwarders repossessed 1.6 (+) million cars from Michigan consumers.
So, since George couldn’t get the AG to do his job he waited until his Son John, graduated from MSU Law School, and as a graduation gift gave him his first case; a class action lawsuit to represent all Michigan Repossession Companies against the Forwarders. When George went to get his criminal cases back from the AG to give to his son for the suit the AG’s office claimed they had no such cases. After a lot of FOIA filings, some detective work, varied threats of legal action and a dash of “I’m going to hold a press conference”, the AG’s minions found the missing cases and turned them over.
Well, John has since done an outstanding job over the course of the last four years. This case has worked its way to the Supreme Court of Michigan, which by itself is a truly great achievement when you consider that this Court only accepts 3% of all cases brought before it. Oral arguments before the Court were held on April 2, 2014, and it appeared to all who heard the arguments, the Justices were not impressed with the Forwarders interpretations of the Law. Afterward, the Court went into conference and its final decision is still pending. However, I suppose the Forwarders agreed with our view that having 26 top Attorneys all of whom argue the wrong interpretation of the law, can all be trumped by the one attorney with the right interpretation.
Fearing that the Supreme Court will come out at any time and destroy their “Michigan Cash Cow”, the Forwarders hired lobbyist and public relations firms and last week actually attempted to surreptitiously railroad a law through the Legislature that would make everything that they have being doing illegally for decades; legal – and retroactively at that. This would of course, have the effect of nullifying any decision that the Supreme Court. Although they attempted to do this on the “QT” it wasn’t, and we caught them in the act.
Over the last 10 ten days we mobilized our forces. We printed off flyers and handed them out to our Legislators, we made endless phone calls, demanded hearings before committees, made numerous email blasts, met with Legislators face to face, and contacted the press; and yesterday afternoon it was official, this Bill is going to be reviewed in committee under a microscope. This should take about 5 or 6 months. Needless to say we won this battle because we took the tactics of our enemies and used them against them. As has been said in the musical “South Pacific”, “Anything you can do I can do better” and we did!
We were able to make the case to our politicians that they can take the money of the Forwarders but the votes of the people won’t come with it. Now, if an elected official supports the Forwarders they are rightfully painted with the stigma of siding with those who are responsible for repossessing half the stuff in our financially strapped State. Our Politicians are learning that if they take the side of the Forwarders, they better get enough payoff to move to Florida, because they won’t be welcome around here anymore.
As for the Supreme Court whose still in deliberation, we were able to get them the time they need to continue their deliberations and make the wise decision that we envision will presumably favor our point of view. Of course, ether way we can say that we stopped cold in their tracks, at least for the moment, these out of state Forwarders from hijacking our Supreme Court and from attempting to annul its ruling before it could be made.
We can only hope that their deliberations will be swift, because I’m not a fan of suspense, nor these shenanigans. To sum up – Great Job Florida! But for inspiration you need to look to Michigan.