I read the recent story on Bill Bartmann with mixed feelings of amusement and concern. Amused, because I find it ironic that Bill Bartmann, arguably one of the most notorious members of the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry, would be able to have his name next to the word “Ethical” in any sentence, much less one associated with a proposed state collection law. Concerned, because he was able to convince a state senator in Oklahoma to file it.

I have never met Mr. Bartmann, nor was I even a part of the ARM industry when his original company, CFS, was in business. I have heard many stories associated with the downfall of his company, and have even taken the time to read some of the legal documents associated with it. To call Mr. Bartmann the luckiest man alive for not having to go to prison is probably an understatement. He certainly earned the nickname “Teflon Man.”

Over the past couple of years I have met and spoken with several individuals who paid roughly $20-25k for Mr. Bartmann’s debt buying seminar, and subsequently paid his company a monthly fee of $1,200 or more simply to have access to opportunities to invest in portfolios that Mr. Bartmann’s company sources and/or access to CFS II to liquidate portfolios they have acquired. These individuals told me that they could acquire portfolios and generate 3-6 times their investment over a 3-5 year period. One individual called me several times because my feedback contradicted everything he heard from Mr. Bartmann’s organization, including Mr. Bartmann’s own son! Mr. Bartmann is truly a remarkable marketer and salesperson.

Mr. Bartmann is clearly jumping on the bandwagon and beating the war drums against the ARM industry with his 50-state “Stop These Criminals” campaign. The question I have is, who is shining the light on Mr. Bartmann’s involvement in the debt purchasing and collections industry? And, who is clarifying that he is in fact adhering to his own 10-point reform model as outlined in the bill (which, I agree with Mike Bevel from insideARM, that these points aren’t exactly new)?

I would also be curious to know what Senator Stanislawski — the Oklahoma bill’s sponsor — feels about Mr. Bartmann taking advantage of a large group of Main Street investors, many of whom are being sold a bunch of lies about their abilities to generate significant investment returns in a market where the vast majority of experienced and ethical debt buyers are struggling to find portfolio acquisition opportunities, and when they do the liquidation performances are typically peaking out well below three times over a period longer than 3-5 years.

It seems that this bill and Mr. Bartmann’s campaign may be nothing more than political grandstanding. If his true intent is to improve the ARM industry, then I am all for it. However, given Mr. Bartmann’s history and my understanding of his current activities within the ARM industry, I am having a really hard time believing it and I suspect we may see him once again putting on his Teflon Man suit at some point in the future.

Mark Russell manages M&A transactions for Kaulkin Ginsberg. To confidentially discuss your business interests, please contact Mark Russell at 240-499-3804, or by email.

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