Expert Global Solutions. It's got one of those corporate-speak, nonsense names just nebulous enough to defy Yellow-Pages categorization. But it is, among many other things, a debt collector -- the biggest around, in fact -- and it's headquartered in Plano, where the Federal Trade Commission says it has been harassing the shit out of people for some time now.
It also just paid $3.2 million to the FTC to settle a federal beef for flouting just about every tenet of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, passed into law to protect consumers from abusive debt collectors. It's the biggest settlement ever paid out under the law, though Unfair Park can't help but wonder how much a few million will chasten a company that logged $1.54 billion in revenues in 2011. EGS can take comfort in the fact that the settlement it agreed to allows it to "neither admit nor deny" any of the allegations listed in a federal complaint. It's the kind of non-apology apology we see all the time when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission fines financial firms for malfeasance.
Nevertheless, a spokesman for the FTC tells Unfair Park the regulator believes the settlement will telegraph an unmistakable message. "Expert Global Solutions is the world's largest debt collector. They're industry leaders and their practices could be influential to the industry as whole," he said. "And this order could provide insight to other companies in the industry as to how the FTC interprets the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, how we intend to enforce it and the standards we intend to hold companies to in the future."
Let's talk about some of the practices EGS is accused of but not at all admitting to, that the FTC would like the rest of the industry to avoid: For example, they called one man, over a four-month period, every day, 12 times a day.
They called some other poor, allegedly indebted schmuck twice an hour, every day for two months. During business hours, of course.
They called people at work who don't have the kinds of jobs where they can take personal calls.
They dropped a dragnet and phoned other people to locate the debtor, disclosing the fact that they're trying to collect a debt, then calling back repeatedly despite being told that person doesn't know how to get in touch with the debtor, or that the debtor doesn't live there anymore.
FTC won't discuss how many complaints make up the body of its investigation, but it spans several years. Now, an enormous, multibillion-dollar titan of the industry will shell out a few million. All the while, it admits nothing.