Asked and answered.
HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO DO WHAT YOU DO?
In today's world, hardly a transaction can be effected without leaving some sort of paper trail. Armed with the right resources, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide in today's high-tech society. We use legal means of locating debtors and assets, including computer research, credit reports, public and non-public records, court research, mail and phone tracing, records obtained by subpoena and gumshoe tactics requiring in-the-field investigation. We have legal access to information not available to the general public and are approved to utilize "restricted" databases used by law enforcement and investigative agencies. We are authorized by the court to enter the 'secure' files area, which increases the efficiency of our research/investigations. The majority of debtors are ultimately located. We have the resources, expertise and resolve to make collection of your judgment a priority. We will conduct a thorough investigation to uncover any assets and income and take the necessary steps to levy on them.
what if the debtor files bankruptcy?
Your judgment can be legally discharged and your case closed. In some cases, however, if your judgment contains a court finding of fraud or the judgment was for an intentional tort, your claim may survive a bankruptcy if you file an adversary lawsuit to obtain an order of nondischargeability. One must move expeditiously to preserve creditor's rights in bankruptcy court. If the debtor's petition is fraudulent it can be challenged, and if the bankruptcy is dismissed, the debt may continue to be pursued. A bankruptcy discharge, however, is the death knell for most debts.
i cannot reach the debtor's assets because he has put them in another person's name (or) has changed the name of the business
This is not uncommon, especially with larger judgments. Under the Uniform Code of Fraudulent Transfers, assets can be recovered if fraudulently moved to another entity or person. If it appears that the 'badges of fraud' are present, a separate suite against the transferee can be filed. Moreover, there are other remedies available under California law which do not require initiating a lawsuit to seize transferred assets.
do you immediately contact the debtor? what is your strategy?
Once we have located the debtor it is rarely necessary to make contact. After an investigation when we have sufficient facts before us, we develop a strategy. If assets are located, we take steps to seize those assets without prior notice to prevent the debtor from transferring or concealing them. We obtain court orders to examine the debtor or other parties under oath and to subpoena documents. If assets have been transferred steps can be taken to claw back the assets. Once the debtor realizes his predicament, he will often attempt to pay the debt, although in some cases, will seek protection through bankruptcy.
do you think it's wise to push a debtor into bankruptcy?
Except in circumstances where it is in a creditor's interest to force an involuntary bankruptcy, it generally serves little purpose to push a debtor into bankruptcy. If the debtor has no immediate assets, a creditor's interest is best served if the debtor remains solvent, especially if there is a genuine willingness to cooperate. If the debtor has assets and refuses to pay, however, we will take aggressive steps to seek payment. Sometimes this will result in bankruptcy, although it is more often than not results in payment.
is there a statute of limitations on my judgment?
While there are time limits for collecting debts, once a court judgment is obtained, that limit does not apply. In California a judgment is valid for 10 years; however, if renewed prior to 10 years, it is extended for another decade. Criminal judgments do not require renewal.
DOES INTEREST ACCRUE ON MY JUDGMENT?
Yes, both state and federal judgments earn interest. California CCP §685.010(a) provides that interest accrues on state judgments at the rate of 10% per annum on the principal amount of a money judgment remaining unsatisfied. Federal judgments follow a more complicated formula, tied the weekly average 1-year constant maturity US Treasury yield, as published by the Federal Reserve System.
should i use a general collection agency?
Our method of proceeding against debtors is different from that of a collection agency. We do not engage in telephone calls to harass or annoy the debtor, nor do we send dunning notices. These methods are generally ineffective in obtaining payment. Many collection agencies deal in 'volume' and depend on commercial clients who regularly send them hundreds of accounts. Dunning letters are sent out in the hopes that a certain percentage will pay with little resistance. Those debts that never pay are often the ones that end up on our desk. Judgment enforcement is time intensive and requires substantial resources. With an emphasis on volume, the average collection agency usually cannot invest the necessary resources required for enforcement. It is a numbers game and as such they usually go for the low-lying fruit.
how long before i actually see results?
The majority of debtors are found within 90 days. Some are located immediately and a few can take several months or longer. Judgment enforcement takes time due to a number of factors. Even if assets are immediately located (not usually the case) the processing of the case through the "system" can add weeks, even months, depending upon which court issued the judgment. Although enforcement is a priority for us, other entities we deal with (Sheriff, Court, etc.) act within their own sphere of time. Moreover, with California's current financial crisis, the courts have laid off hundreds of clerks. The superior courts now close at noon on Friday and some have reduced hours even more. Some courts have been known to take six months to issue a writ of execution. Generally the federal courts tend to be more efficient as they are not subject to California's budget crisis.
There are existing laws which allow a knowledgable debtor to buy extra time. We make every effort, however, to thwart any such fallacious maneuvers by the debtor. It takes time, energy, patience...and lots of resources. The good news is that our efforts are generally rewarded. Ultimately, the key to recovery is "intelligent persistence™".
do you accept all judgments?
No. Each case is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In most cases we are unable to accept judgments involving medical, child support, consumer, rent, and small claims.
HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY?
The amount is determined by a number of factors surrounding each judgment. We purchase judgments outright or on a future-pay basis for a percentage of the net recovery. We would be glad to discuss this with you after an analysis of your judgment.
is there any guarantee you will collect on my judgment?
No. Sometimes judgment debtors are 'judgment proof', meaning they have no assets and their income is exempt from attachment. It's possible too that unless your debt can be excepted, it could be legally discharged in a bankruptcy. Debtors, however, do not always remain uncollectible. A change of circumstances, even years later, could make a difference. No file should be closed until it is collected or stayed by order of a bankruptcy court.
SHOULD I USE AN ATTORNEY TO COLLECT MY JUDGMENT?
The use of a lawyer in some instances may be a wise choice. If your judgment is large and you already know where the debtor's assets are, you may be best to hire an attorney on an hourly basis to seize assets and keep 100% of the recovery. This is rarely, however, the case. Most judgment creditors not only don't know "where the assets are", they don't have a clue where the debtor is. Too, in most cases, the attorney who was successful in obtaining the judgment generally wants nothing to do with collecting it! Judgment enforcement is a specialty requiring substantial time, special tools and resources. More often than not, attorneys will forward their own judgments to someone like us for collection.
must i pay for the expenses incurred in enforcing my judgment?
You pay no fees, expenses or costs to initiate the collection proceeding. We advance all costs and are reimbursed only if and when there is a recovery. If a court declares the debtor bankrupt, it is our loss and we have no recourse. Administrative overhead and 'time' are not factored as costs. Only actual expenses (credit reports, sheriff, court fees, online research) are calculated as costs. Some of these costs may even be added onto the judgment.
I want nothing to do with the debtor! how involved will i be?
Once the "Acknowledgment of Assignment" is filed, the court recognizes us as the 'new' judgment creditor. The filed Acknowledgment gives us 'standing' in court to enforce the judgment. In most cases you will never have to deal with the judgment debtor again.
my debtor moved to california but my judgment is from another state.
An out-of-state judgment is not enforceable in California until it has been 'domesticated' as a California judgment per CCP §§1710.10-1710.65. This is a procedure which involves filing an application with the court along with authenticated copies of the foreign judgment. It does require service and notice on the judgment debtor and there is a 30-day stay on enforcement, allowing the debtor to challenge the new judgment.
The process of domesticating a federal judgments is seamless and requires no such notice to the debtor.
What is your rate of recovery?
The rate of recovery is not readily determinable because each case has its own peculiar problems, and no file is closed until collected. Thus a debt which remains uncollected today may be satisfied tomorrow. In general, however, our recovery rate is over twice the national average, and we have been successful in locating most of the debtors involved.