Having navigated the commercial debt collection process for over 80 years, we are always learning how to improve and get a better rate of return on our calls. Experience has taught us that it’s important to have processes and procedures in place in order for success.
In this discussion, we’ll talk specifically about how FFGN handles commercial claims. Every case is unique and some clients prefer to bypass the demand phase and proceed directly to litigation, arbitration, or mediation.
Understanding FFGN’s commercial debt collection process can help both parties be on the same page as well as meet client expectations.
Beginning the Commercial Debt Collection Process
All our claims are reviewed by an experienced staff member. The information is reviewed to ensure the debtors’ correct corporate name, to confirm that we have documentation to support the amount that’s demanded, that the client performed all their duties as required, and that the claim is within the statute of limitations. We also check to make sure and confirm which state law governs, if any.
For most claims, we conduct our own internal analysis and assess collectability. Understanding the number of judgments, liens, and active court cases could result in changing how we approach and style our communication with the debtor.
A written demand for payment goes to the debtor by email, fax, mail — a combination or even all. In the first day of opening the claim, a call is placed to the debtor. Contact is often made by phone, email — or even text message. The result can be payment, an offer of settlement, request for substantiation of the charges, or no reply at all. The debtor then may offer a payment, settlement, lump sum or payout. If the debtor does not produce a payment, recommendations are made to the client about whether the amount is sufficient to warrant legal action.
In some cases, the demand phase can last months. For others, it may just be a day or two.
Once the client approves moving ahead with litigation and forwards the requisite suit requirements, an attorney will review the file. Litigation starts by preparing a summons and a complaint, which includes a cause of action for demand for monies owed, account stated, and other allegations if there are facts to support them. The summons is filed with the court and an index number purchased. The summons then gets sent to an independent process server to serve the papers on the debtor and any other parties named in the lawsuit.
The parties have up to a month to respond to the complaint once served with the pleadings — and an additional mailing of the summons, if required. A response is made by filing a “notice of appearance” or “answer with the court.” This is often a point when many debtors or their attorneys reach out to try and resolve the claim.
If the case is not settled there are two paths you can take:
The debtor can defend the case by filing an answer to block payment. There may be defenses and perhaps a counterclaim. Depending on what the defendants come back with, counterclaim litigation can take anywhere between a few months to years. Often, cases will settle days before or the eve of trial.
Or, the debtor does nothing. They don’t make contact, they don’t defend — they just do nothing. After the statutory period of time, we’ll submit a judgment to the court with the required supporting documentation.
Once the judgment is entered, we can execute on the judgment.
Many contracts allow arbitration. The process for arbitration is straightforward. The case begins by filing the fee and supporting paperwork with the administer. Notice is then sent to the customer letting them know the creditor has elected to arbitrate. In a short time, the parties select an arbitrator or more, and an expedited “discovery” phase will be agreed upon. In our experience, a hearing is usually scheduled within 90 days. The hearing can be done over the phone or in person, depending upon the arbitrator and who’s involved. A decision is usually rendered within 30 days from the time of the hearing.
Once the decision rendered, the award must be confirmed with New York state court. That award confirmation is made by special application. A decision can be handed down by the court from anywhere between a month and six months. Once the decision to confirm has been made, a judgment can be submitted to the court.
Some agreements require the parties mediate. Other times, the parties can request mediation. If the parties agree to sit down and talk, mediation can be scheduled within three months. If it’s successful, payment terms will likely be agreed upon. Should the parties disagree, the time and money spent meditating is lost. Depending upon the client’s engagement letter, the case may then move to arbitration or litigation.
If a case isn’t settled or otherwise disposed of, you’ll want to recover a judgment so that you can execute and hopefully collect. Whether you won an arbitration award, litigation, or if the debtor signed a confession of judgment — you should be in a position to submit a judgment. The document will be prepared by collection counsel and submitted for consideration by the clerk. The amount of time it takes for the clerk to review your judgment varies by county and court.
Judgment enforcement can be another way of bringing an unwilling debtor to the table. Success depends on the debtor’s assets. If there is a bank account with sufficient funds, then you will get paid. Fortunately, a judgment is good for 20 years. Because each step of the collection process can be time-consuming, our goal is to move the claim through as efficiently as possible — getting you paid in the shortest time possible.