Monday Morning Memo: Why Settlement Offers Have To Be Brought To You
Wilson Cole, President of Adams, Evens, & Ross (AER) and Samantha Cole, in-house counsel for AER, explore the specifics of what happens when a debtor makes an offer to settle part of their debt with a client. First and foremost, Wilson completely understands that these offers can frustrate clients even further, after already being frustrated from having to jump through hoops to get money owed to them by the debtor in the first place.
But he says AER is legally bound to present the offers to its clients, even if they are low offers, most of the times an offer is made. Samantha goes on explain it is important to relay offers to clients if the debtor has substantially changed the offer since the last time or if a long period of time has elapsed since the last offer. It is important both legally and ethically. Something important for clients to consider when hearing offers from debtors, even if they are offering below the minimum the client has said they are willing to accept, is the potential net gain if the case goes to court. Because if the case goes to court, then the fee goes up to 35% and the client also has to cover court costs. While the extra costs of using the legal process are not something clients look forward too, it is not all bad. Going through the legal process opens up some tools that are not generally available in the collections process. One of those tools is a stipulated judgement, which may go by a slightly different name depending on the jurisdiction. In essence, a stipulated judgement is where all parties have agreed on the amount to be paid along with a list of other terms such as by what date the sum needs to be paid or what happens if a payment is late. Stipulated judgements are great because if there is another issue with the client/creditor being paid, AER's forwarding attorneys can easily file some paperwork alongside the stipulated judgement for basically what equals an instant victory. In states that allow wage garnishment the creditor can obtain a garnishment on the debtor at that point. Court-ordered balloon payments are generally where the creditor will receive a small amount for the first couple of months of a payment plan and then the remainder will be due all at once at a later date. They are especially common in the real estate industry. The last note from Wilson and Samantha is that if anything doesn't add up on the payment schedule from a settlement agreement, clients should bring it to AER's attention immediately so they can double check with their records and/or the court.