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Profiteering in a Non-profit Industry: Abusive Practices in Credit Counseling

Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

Location: Room 342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

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Agenda

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a this hearing to address the problems facing the credit counseling industry. Once community-based and consumer-friendly, the credit counseling industry has undergone significant transformation during the past several years. New and aggressive profit-driven participants have entered the market, causing a rash of consumer complaints about high fees, misleading advertising, and poor service. The proliferation of for-profit, “back-office” servicing companies is threatening to change the industry into a debt collection mill instead of an industry whose focus should be on consumer counseling and education. The Subcommittee’s March 24th hearing reviewed the most egregious cases of misconduct among credit counseling agencies and their for-profit service providers and examine what solutions may be available to repair the industry. The Subcommittee heard from victims and ex-employees of the credit counseling industry, representatives of for-profit service providers and credit counseling associations, as well as a panel of government regulators.

In conjunction with the hearing, the Subcommittee issued a Subcommittee Staff Report entitled ‘‘Profiteering in a Non-Profit Industry: Abusive Practices in Credit Counseling."  The Report is available on p. 203 of the final Printed Hearing Record which can be accessed via the link at top left of this webpage.

Witnesses

Panel 1

  • Raymond Schuck
    Victim
    Cambridge Credit Counseling, Inc.
    Lima, Ohio
  • John Pohlman
    Former Employee
    Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
    East Granby, Connecticut
  • Jolanta Troy
    Victim
    AmeriDebt, Inc.
    Carlies, Pennsylvania
  • John Paul Allen
    Former Employee
    AmeriDebt, Inc.
    New Market, Maryland

Panel 2

  • Chris Viale
    General Manager
    Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
    Download Testimony (87k)
  • Matthew Case
    Chief Executive Officer
    AmeriDebt, Inc.
    Germantown, Maryland
  • Cuba Craig
    Chief Executive Officer
    American Financial Solutions
    Seattle, Washington
  • James Kroening
    Director
    FamilyMeans Consumer Credit Counseling Service
    Stillwater, Minnesota

Panel 3

  • John Puccio
    Chief Executive Officer
    Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
    Agawam, Massachusetts
    Download Testimony (264k)
  • Andris Pukke
    President
    Debtworks, Inc.
    Germantown, Maryland
  • Michael Malesardi
    Chief Financial Officer
    The Ballenger Group, LLC
    Frederick, Maryland,
    Download Testimony (142k)
  • Bernaldo Dancel
    Chief Executive Officer
    Amerix Corporation
    Columbia, Maryland
    Download Testimony (23k)

Panel 4

  • The Honorable  Mark W. Everson
    Commissioner
    Internal Revenue Service
    Washington, D.C.
  • The Honorable  Thomas B. Leary
    Commissioner
    Federal Trade Commission
    Washington, D.C.
    Download Testimony (89k)