Business Models Debt Relief Industry

Legal Helpers Debt Resolution Steps Up and Answers Questions Raised by Tipster

Not long ago I published a list of questions about Legal Helpers Debt Resolution. See Working on Legal Helpers Story. Need Help With These Questions.

I received an answer from Jason Searns, Esq., Managing Partner, from Legal Helpers. Below you will find his answers to the questions posed to the public.

The questions in that previous story looking for information on Legal Helpers were:

  1. Is the main Chicago office a “call center”?
  2. Are employees penalized for spending too much time on the phone with consumers?
  3. Are employees penalized for making notes that are too detailed?
  4. Is it a sales driven environment or is the emphasis on providing the best advice for the consumer?
  5. What is the “First Call Resolution” approach?
  6. Is there an emphasis to ” just set the appt up and get them to pay that damn retainer fee and lock them in somewhat?”
  7. How much training do representatives get before they begin to offer advice to consumers?
  8. What options are explained to consumers?
  9. Since Legal Helpers provides both bankruptcy and debt settlement solutions, is there one that is promoted more than the other to consumers?

Legal Helpers Answers

Mr. Rhode[sic],

We read your request for information to be used in your article regarding Legal Helpers Debt Resolution. Frankly, we have significant concerns that it will not be possible to engage you in a fair and even-handed discussion regarding our company. You have repeatedly singled-out and attacked LHDR on your website and published information that is simply false. Moreover, those questions you posed to your audience regarding our company are completely one-sided and self-serving. We can only assume that you are engaging in an LHDR “witch-hunt” because two of your most important advertisers and supporters are competitors of LHDR: Freedom Financial and Total Bankruptcy. That being said, however, we are going to take the chance that, despite any personal financial motives you may have, you are at heart a fair “journalist” and will publish this response in its entirety (including this paragraph) in order to provide full disclosure to your readers.

  1. The main office of our law firm, Legal Helpers Debt Resolution (LHDR) is in Chicago and it has both administrative offices and a call center. Our call center answers potential client questions about the services of the law firm and provides an administrative review of potential client files to determine if one of the law firm’s debt resolution services may be appropriate.
  2. All LHDR staff are trained to solicit from potential clients a list of objective criteria to determine if the law firm’s debt resolution services are appropriate. All LHDR staff are encouraged to spend as much time as necessary reviewing this information preliminarily with the client. At the end of the phone call, potential clients are offered the opportunity to sit down with one of our partners in their home state for a free consultation. The attorney reviews the file and allows the client to choose the appropriate resolution option. Only then is a retainer for services signed.
  3. See answer to #2
  4. Steve, clearly you are a business man as evidenced by all of the ads on your site for our competitors, so surely you understand that without a sales force you have no business. We sell debt relief. We, as a full service law firm, can monetize each of the three main debt resolution options. So when a person calls us, if they need or want a debt management plan that’s what they can get. Can you say that about Freedom Financial or Total Bankruptcy. Do you even realize that Total Bankruptcy is just a giant lead generation site selling its leads to hundreds of different unaffiliated attorneys around the county. There is no centralized quality control around the performance of these bankruptcy attorneys.

    As a business, LHDR will have more satisfied clients and goodwill moving forward by matching a client’s financial situation to the appropriate legal service.

  5. Any good company with good customer service tries to resolve a customer’s questions on a “first call”.
  6. As explained in #2 above, we do not take any money nor have any type of retainer signed by our clients until after the face to face consultation in which we provide bona fide legal services.
  7. As I am sure you realize, non-attorneys cannot offer specific legal advice. Our support staff is trained to provide general information to clients when requested, and gather information from clients to use as a basis for the potential legal services we can provide.
  8. Information is given to the clients on debt negotiation, debt management and bankruptcy. In fact, important disclosures are provided in our retainer agreement that the client signs acknowledging that they have been advised about all three debt resolution options. The firm uses a specifically designed software program to determine initially which debt resolution option may be appropriate for the client. In addition, our clients are provided, as a part of the our retainer, with full service litigation defense. Finally, we advise our clients to be aware of any FDCPA violations by collection groups and provide representation for such claims to recovery damages.

    There are law firm models out there that do not take the steps we do to ensure compliance with state and federal standards or to protect our clients with assurances such as our minimum performance standard. They haven’t gone to the trouble of setting up a partnership with over 300 attorneys across the country to properly service and meét with their clients. They don’t offer litigation defense, bankruptcy or advocacy on FDCPA claims.

    As for the performance model companies out there, they don’t have the options we have nor do they have an attorney sit down with their clients. Of critical importance is that they do not provide clients with full defense on collection lawsuits as we do. They use low paid call center employees who give advice to consumers and then provide a “one size fits all” debt settlement plan. Many of these consumers will fail in their attempt to save funds and will be eventually meeting with an attorney to explore all their options.

    After considering the above, maybe you can investigate those companies that sell a “product”, just to avoid compliance with the FTC rule, as a way to make money enrolling someone in a debt management plan or all of the “non-profits” that take money from both the creditors AND the consumer knowing that a large percentage of those consumers will never finish their debt management program.

  9. LHDR provides its clients with a full range of bona fide legal services for debt resolution, including debt management plans and financial workouts, debt negotiation, collection litigation defense, representation in FDCPA enforcement actions, and bankruptcy. We perform an initial review of each potential client’s financial circumstances and determine which of our offered services is consistent with our client’s goals. We have over 300 partners and offices in every state, so our attorneys are able meet with each client in their own community. In the event of a change in a client’s financial position or circumstance over time, it sometimes becomes apparent that a different legal service would be a more cost-effective, and perhaps the only truly viable, option for that individual. Examples include a client moving from a debt management plan to debt negotiation, or, if appropriate, from negotiation to bankruptcy. – Source

Jason E. Searns, Esq.
Managing Partner/General Counsel
Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC
Macey, Aleman, Hyslip & Searns
303 East 17th Avenue
Suite 340
Denver, CO 80203

My Response

Mr. Searns,

If I have ever published anything that was “simply false” please bring to my attention and I will gladly investigate the fact in question. If you ever have such a concern in the future, the quickest way to raise such a concern is to post it in the comments on the story in question.

Your observation about the ads that are displayed is interesting. For information about ads on the site, click here. I have no control over what ads you or anyone may see most often.

I have no important advertisers since I don’t personally run the ads or exercise control over them. I have no advertising relationship with the entities that appear through the ads. In fact I remember seeing a LHDR ad appear at least once.

Typically the ads displayed for the individual user are heavily weighted by the page you are on and the sites they have previously visited. I don’t remember seeing a display advertisement for Total Bankruptcy while surfing the site.

Your assumption that I was working on a “witch-hunt” story is an incorrect assumption. But since you’ve raised that allegation let me respond openly to it so you will understand how it came about.

My questions were an attempt to independently research the statements I received from a tipster (send in your tips here) who said they were a previous employee of Legal Helpers.

I did not seek out the story. It was sent in unsolicited by the tipster (send in your tips here). The tipster (send in your tips here) said:

I just wanted to say thank you for having this site up. I was actually just fired from Legal Helpers at their main Chicago “office” (basically just a call center.) They didn’t give me any exact reason but I’m pretty sure it was because I was giving the potential client too much info and basically being honest even with current clients. I guess they want me to be as vague as possible, even in the client’s notes.. because I would type out long entries because they ALWAYS call back, regardless. First Call Resolution was something not even mentioned in our pointless ONE WEEK TRAINING and ONE WEEK WITH A MENTOR (on phones with them.) Two full weeks of training for something so delicate to someone’s LIFE?! Unbelievable, they wanted us to just set the appt up and get them to pay that damn retainer fee and lock them in somewhat.

Disgusting.

I published the questions previously in an effort to independently investigate the allegations raised by the tipster (send in your tips here) so I could report on them fairly. I was hoping to hear from others regarding these issues to hear what they had to say. I am most appreciative of your response. Thank you.

I do feel I am a fair journalist and always try to be factual in my reporting. As you will see I have published your response in its entirety, but I would have done that anyway without the challenge.

I’ve written previously at length about the success or failure rates of the different debt relief options. In your response you said “knowing that a large percentage of those consumers will never finish their debt management program,” which made me wonder what it the success rate of the Legal Helpers Debt Resolution program is?

Can you please share what percentage of consumers that enroll, eliminate 100% of their debt through your debt settlement program alone and please provide detailed statistics I can publish, which I will gladly do, to help inform consumers so they can compare your solution effectiveness against that of the solution you mentioned?

In your response you also said, “Examples include a client moving from a debt management plan to debt negotiation, or, if appropriate, from negotiation to bankruptcy.”

I’d also be very interested in the success rate of consumers that moved from a debt management program to your debt settlement program and eliminated 100% of their debt that way. And those that moved from negotiation to bankruptcy. It would be very interesting to look at the effectiveness of doing that as you mentioned you do.

Feel free to post your responses directly in the comments section below.


I can always use your help. If you have a tip or information you want to share, you can get it to me confidentially if you click here.

READ  Legal Helpers Debt Resolution Contract Review. Is This Really The Best Deal Possible?

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

63 Comments

  • Well, looks like after a trip to Chicago to go down with Legal Helpers Debt Resolution and then their partner company The Mortgage Law Group that they had Steve Vanderhoof work, old Vanderhoof is back in Orange County, California SO BUYERS BEWARE !!! Word on the street has it that old Steve Vandercrack is RENTING (of course) in Huntington Beach, California…..now that is a long ways’ from the RENTED mansion in Laguna Beach and the RENTED home in Chicago with the LEASED exotic cars…..again, BUYERS BEWARE CUZ HE IS BAAAACCCCCKKKKK !!!!

  • Good.

    Each and every day that Legal Helpers continues to exist, they wage a blatant affront against the FTC, the consumers they aim to protect and every company that is compliant with the FTC rule.

    Legal Helpers and their affiliates should pack it up now and sneak out the back door under cover of night. If they’re patient, I’m sure they’ll find plenty of other opportunities to prey on consumers and circumvent the law.

    • Good.

      Each and every day that Legal Helpers continues to exist, they wage a blatant affront against the FTC, the consumers they aim to protect and every company that is compliant with the FTC rule.

      Legal Helpers and their affiliates should pack it up now and sneak out the back door under cover of night. If they’re patient, I’m sure they’ll find plenty of other opportunities to prey on consumers and circumvent the law.

      • I was a ex-employee of The Credit Exchange in Orange County, CA.  I saw the massive harm Vanderhoof did with that company and was relieved when I heard about the over $16M judgment that had been awarded innocent people associated with Hess-Kennedy.  I am sure that was ONLY the tip of the ice berg as Steve had numerous companies involved.  The employees at The Credit Exchange were assured that the enrolles were being given excellent advice and successful programs.  We knew that was not true after unfortunate victims would start calling in months later in desperation.  The wiser employees bolted as new opportunities arrived and the more unfortunate employees would stay out of desperation for a mediocre income.  And the employees, believe me, were cheated as much as the consumers were.  I know many ex-employees tried in vain to collect past wagesThen came MoveMyNetWorth after The Credit Exchange crumbled and the doors were closed by the authorities.  I believe when The Credit Exchange closed their doors Steve owed the landlords over at Hutton Centre hundreds of thousands of dollars for back rent on his “penthouse office suites”.  MoveMyNetWorth went down the drain quickly as the concept was easily exposed as a convoluted scheme.The next Vanderhoof adventure was Legal Helpers Debt Resolution in Chicago, their main headquarters.  Legal Helpers Debt Resolution was already in trouble for basically the same reasons as The Credit Exchange.  They brought Steve Vanderhoof to Chicago to escape the heat he was being experiencing in Southern California after The Credit Exchange shut down and they basically needed someone to run their boiler room enrollment operations for debt settlement.  Vanderhoof has no legal background, no legal degree much less even a minimal junior college degree, but this was new fluff to get back into the debt settlement arena.  The laws had changed to try and protect consumers, stating that licensed attorneys could only collect upfront fees for debt settlement.  But Legal Helpers Debt Resolution was and is just as jaded at The Credit Exchange except they are obviously much larger and powerful.Last but not least with the mortgage foreclosure crisis sweeping over the country, Vanderhoof invented The Mortgage Law Group as the debt settlement arena at Legal Helpers Debt Resolution started to sink.  And remember again, Vanderhoof needed to stay out of California because of The Credit Exchange collection issues from various judgments.  Within virtually less than a year, The Mortgage Law Group has lead into the same diseased path of victims as other Vanderhoof smoke-and-mirror companies.  You will find many, many reports throughout numerous sites on these companies and 99.9% of the reports are accurate and true stories of innocent consumers that were victimized and lied to which resulted in their original problems becoming the real nightmares they were trying to avoid, i.e. bankruptcies, judgments and foreclosures.  The rare and few “success stories” are fabricated by Vanderhoof company employees for rebuttals.I am amazed this man can sleep at night, pretending to live the celebrity-party life and also portray a lavish and affluent family lifestyle.  Vanderhoof’s bragging on Facebook is almost a slap in the face to the probable hundreds of thousands of people he victimized.  The only remaining loyal followers are fellow employees who will bow to Steve, follow his commands and unfortunately also participate in his reported and well-known drug habits.I blame our legal system for not stepping in.  I blame The Federal Trade Commission for not putting the brakes on this before his fourth company was born.  If you read this and you have more to include, please do so.

  • Steve Vanderhoof is now the VP of Sales and Marketing for LHDR and Legalhelpers. He can be reached at

    [email protected]

    He has set up a call center in the Willis Tower at the LHDR/Legalhelpers HQ.

    I should point out that LHDR and Legalhelpers (bankruptcy law firm) are the same company. They use the same employees, computer systems, office space. It is not uncommon for an employee to work on BK clients in the morning, and then start working on LHDR calls in the afternoon. BK client files are sent to LHDR and back again. I’m sure there are all kinds of laws against this.

  • I have to jump in on this one:

    Mr. Searns states:

    “we do not take any money nor have any type of retainer signed by our clients until after the face to face consultation in which we provide bona fide legal services”

    Really? I worked at LH and LHDR for 3 years, and if memory serves me correctly, LHDR started up in late 2009. The call center now has roughly 8 people in the Willis Tower HQ. I NEVER ONCE saw a client come in to meet with an attorney. There isn’t even a room set up for meetings in the Willis Tower (check out the 49th floor where LHDR is). When asked about this, Jeffrey Hyslip would reply “we don’t need to meet them face to face.”

    For over a year, telephone reps were taking up front fees from clients. I can produce the names of all the reps to Mr. Searns if he does not believe me. I’m sure they are still collecting the upfront fees.

    And who is Mr. Searns anyway? I saw his name on the door, but never once saw him in the Willis Tower HQ, nor did I ever speak on the phone with him. He was a “mystery man.” He has absolutely no idea what goes on at LHDR.

    So let’s set the record straight right now

  • I have to jump in on this one:

    Mr. Searns states:

    “we do not take any money nor have any type of retainer signed by our clients until after the face to face consultation in which we provide bona fide legal services”

    Really? I worked at LH and LHDR for 3 years, and if memory serves me correctly, LHDR started up in late 2009. The call center now has roughly 8 people in the Willis Tower HQ. I NEVER ONCE saw a client come in to meet with an attorney. There isn’t even a room set up for meetings in the Willis Tower (check out the 49th floor where LHDR is). When asked about this, Jeffrey Hyslip would reply “we don’t need to meet them face to face.”

    For over a year, telephone reps were taking up front fees from clients. I can produce the names of all the reps to Mr. Searns if he does not believe me. I’m sure they are still collecting the upfront fees.

    And who is Mr. Searns anyway? I saw his name on the door, but never once saw him in the Willis Tower HQ, nor did I ever speak on the phone with him. He was a “mystery man.” He has absolutely no idea what goes on at LHDR.

    So let’s set the record straight right now

  • Jason,

    A reader asked me a very good questions about LHDR that really only you can answer. The reader wants to know:

    Reader Asks: On the LHDR site (source) it says “When potential clients contact us, our attorneys review the consumer’s current financial situation and tailor a debt resolution plan that is unique to their situation. ” That seems to me that the person I talk to first is the attorney to review my case and see what is appropriate. Is that what happens?

  • I wouldn’t say anyone was a true ‘loyal’ or ‘faithful’ employee. They just got paid a ton of money to do nothing but be ‘yes’ men and woman and feed the ego of the man.

    But I do agree with Joe Debt Jr., they were all part of the problem at that place, not the solution.

  • lol… you were a loyal and faithful employee of steve vanderhoof for all these years and finally gotten laid and u blow the whistle on steve vanderhoof lol? i wouldnt be upset at steve i be upset at yourself for be so naive and dumb to stick around till ur the last 5 people there. u were part of the mess for screwing consumers over so dont go pointing blames on one person that you had put your life on hold for.

  • soooo true Steve- settlement companies were freaking the heck out that they would have to spread fees evenly over HALF the length of the program- programs where the terms were usually under estimated on top of that! They were also freaking out about 18 percent fee cap too.

  • The Credit Exchange went out of business i am a former employee that was one of the last ones working as the doors were shutting they laid off most employees in april and the last 5 or 6 of us was let go in june as of now the doors are shut completly the owner Steve Vanderhoof who is a crook that ruined a lot of lives not only consumers but employees as well he has left to Chicago to help scam consumers through another comapny Legal Helpers so beware

  • Steve, your question touches on two semi-related challenges. First, the consumer that is ready to settle as you put it, generally doesn’t match the prototype candidate for debt settlement. This is because in most instances, ready to settle = funds on hand. Funds on hand generally = not so much in the way of a financial hardship. In most cases, the person that is ready to settle would be best served to use their funds in a self-guided manner and do whatever possible to maintain independence from any third party. Consumer Credit Counseling, if anything, might be the best route for folks in that particular bucket as long as they still have a normal stream of income. Of course there are exceptions, i.e. someone just lost their job, yet they have savings accumulated which they are ready to put towards settlements. The overwhelming majority of settlement clients are strapped for cash now and need to retain some cash flow while doing something to actively engage the debt problem. Ideally, there would be some reserve of funds to which they can turn if things go awry, but sadly this is usually not the case.

    The consensus of the FTC compliant companies is that settlements will come easier and faster and with less risk to consumers as long as the fees are back loaded. Under this model, no one has a lot of money to throw around, so service providers (back-ends) aren’t really “buying” this type of business as much as they are participating in shared risk with their affiliates because the client may opt out at any time. When this happens, the companies who handled that casework may never see a dime.

    Under the Legal Helpers model though, it’s business as usual and yes, the monies are paid out generously and quickly to their affiliates. They love to make the claim that they are somehow exempt from the rules that everyone else has to follow. This brings us to the second problem…

    As long as the Legal Helpers model is allowed to exist, marketing costs will continue to be excessive and companies trying to abide by the FTC rule will lack to ability to get their message in front of consumers that would be better served by companies who won’t charge them a thing until they have proven performance. This is what has the FTC compliant companies up in arms about Legal Helpers. The playing field is not level and consumers are not granted the protection afforded them by the FTC as long as ANY COMPANY thinks they are entitled to exclusionary benefits. If the Legal Helpers model is allowed to persist and every single affiliate company signs on with them the whole industry can enjoy the privilege of saying they are exempt from the FTC rule. Scared yet?

  • Steve, I was at negotiations with the Attorney General’s office of Illinois in April where we (TASC and USOBA) were offered 25% of the savings as the fee cap in the debt settlement law they were trying to pass. We turned it down on the basis that we should be allowed to charge up monthly fees up front before debts were settled ($50 – $75 per month, depending on debt size). The AG said “no way on monthly fees”, brought their bill to the floor for a vote, and the cap is now 15% of the savings. Not sure if you noticed in your NYC debt settlement hearing sheet but this Illinois law is now being shown as a “model” for what new legislation should look like. I called the IL Dept of Professional Regulation to inquire about “licensed debt settlement companies” the other day and they haven’t received an application.

    To say we have misplayed our cards on the regulatory front is understatement, but we’re so dumb politically consumers maybe left without an important option.

  • I heard the same rumor but had not looked into it. I do know there are a number of his past employees that are looking for compensation owed.

  • If debt settlement companies did not rely on affiliates and paid them huge commissions and enrolled consumers that were not likely to be sued, who were ready and willing to settle now, wouldn’t the demand for up-front fees from consumers be nearly eliminated?

    If so, then are not debt settlement models that are still charging consumers in advance of settlement simply passing on the expense of poorly screened candidates and/or poor business models to the consumer in the form of up-front fees?

  • If debt settlement companies did not rely on affiliates and paid them huge commissions and enrolled consumers that were not likely to be sued, who were ready and willing to settle now, wouldn’t the demand for up-front fees from consumers be nearly eliminated?

    If so, then are not debt settlement models that are still charging consumers in advance of settlement simply passing on the expense of poorly screened candidates and/or poor business models to the consumer in the form of up-front fees?

    • Steve, your question touches on two semi-related challenges. First, the consumer that is ready to settle as you put it, generally doesn’t match the prototype candidate for debt settlement. This is because in most instances, ready to settle = funds on hand. Funds on hand generally = not so much in the way of a financial hardship. In most cases, the person that is ready to settle would be best served to use their funds in a self-guided manner and do whatever possible to maintain independence from any third party. Consumer Credit Counseling, if anything, might be the best route for folks in that particular bucket as long as they still have a normal stream of income. Of course there are exceptions, i.e. someone just lost their job, yet they have savings accumulated which they are ready to put towards settlements. The overwhelming majority of settlement clients are strapped for cash now and need to retain some cash flow while doing something to actively engage the debt problem. Ideally, there would be some reserve of funds to which they can turn if things go awry, but sadly this is usually not the case.

      The consensus of the FTC compliant companies is that settlements will come easier and faster and with less risk to consumers as long as the fees are back loaded. Under this model, no one has a lot of money to throw around, so service providers (back-ends) aren’t really “buying” this type of business as much as they are participating in shared risk with their affiliates because the client may opt out at any time. When this happens, the companies who handled that casework may never see a dime.

      Under the Legal Helpers model though, it’s business as usual and yes, the monies are paid out generously and quickly to their affiliates. They love to make the claim that they are somehow exempt from the rules that everyone else has to follow. This brings us to the second problem…

      As long as the Legal Helpers model is allowed to exist, marketing costs will continue to be excessive and companies trying to abide by the FTC rule will lack to ability to get their message in front of consumers that would be better served by companies who won’t charge them a thing until they have proven performance. This is what has the FTC compliant companies up in arms about Legal Helpers. The playing field is not level and consumers are not granted the protection afforded them by the FTC as long as ANY COMPANY thinks they are entitled to exclusionary benefits. If the Legal Helpers model is allowed to persist and every single affiliate company signs on with them the whole industry can enjoy the privilege of saying they are exempt from the FTC rule. Scared yet?

  • “Charging some fees up front without an extreme front loading would not have harmed consumers in itself I believe. It’s the direction that it allowed the industry to take that forced the FTC to take action.”

    Interesting that the debt settlement trade groups fought agains the UDMSA that would have permitted that and instead got this.

  • You make a great point. The LHDR model eats up so much of the money in fees upfront, if the money was available to settle a debts sooner, it reduces the chance of suit, or at least the suit turning into a judgment.

    One of the big arguments to the FTC was that the contingency fee structure would cause creditors to push for higher settlements settlements. Any opinions out there on that?

    With debt settlement there are always going to be some clients who get sued, clients are breaking the terms that they agreed to with the creditor and no “new term” is arranged for months or even years. Law suits could be reduced greatly with improved screening processes and higher service quality. The exception would be the credit counselors 60/60 plan in which the “settlement” would be pre-arranged, and assuming the clients make payments as agreed to. What are debt settlement companies who have been offering contingency fees seeing as far as settlement percentages? It is probably too early to tell since most compliant companies converted only 3 months ago.

    It is clear what happened. There was little barrier to entry so the market got flooded, this is because companies could receive revenue quickly by charging the heavy upfront fees. The market got flooded so lead cost went up. Companies started charging even HIGHER fees and paying HIGHER commissions to sales affiliates (up to 70% of the clients fees. Some stated they pay 90%-100% but keep in mind the back end usually had monthly fees that equaled around 30-50% of the total fees charged to the client). So as competition created higher marketing costs, fees continued to go went up and back end service quality in many cases went down. It created a horrendous environment for the consumer. Back in 2005 a sales few shops had affiliates the the ones that did might have paid out 30%-50% of the fees as a commission, and total fees charged to clients were often around 15% with no monthly fees. This was sustainable because marketing costs low. A common model was also a 3-5% retainer and the remaining fees done on a contingency bases. Most early DS models were done this way, they did have SOME retainer. Many 2007+ models charged a 15% fee plus 50+ monthly fee. Trying adding that up on a 20K debt over 48 months. Its also funny how aggressively these back ends were trying to market to affiliates such as shady sub prime mortgage shops with buzz words like “100% Commission” or “Sell in all 50 states” and my favorite “Fast Commission Payouts” meaning high upfront fees for the client.

    In reality I think most consumers would rather pay say a 12% total fee if some of the fee was upfront vs a 20% fee charged after settlement. Charging some fees up front without an extreme front loading would not have harmed consumers in itself I believe. It’s the direction that it allowed the industry to take that forced the FTC to take action.

  • Just thinking out loud here but wouldn’t it be better to provide a service in which the consumer would not be sued to begin with?

    Is the issue that settlement in the current model is enrolling consumers who are likely to be sued rather than likely to settle before suit?

    If consumers who were qualified, ready and able to settle were enrolled, then debts would settled quickly and performance fees earned. If that model was followed then there would be less chance of suit, no legal representation would need to be given and fees could be lowered which would benefit the consumer.

  • That’s VERY interesting. Can we be enlightened on what has been discussed? One would think the FTC is not going to stab a firm who is proactively engaged with them in such manner.

  • Legal Helers is currently and has been in several meeting with the FTC, the last meeting with the FTC was in mid December. One of the Attorney’s of LHDR use to be on the board at the FTC so they are working very closely together. They are fully aware of all services and business.

  • I’m glad you brought up free markets.

    In the absence of having to pay fees up front, clients wouldn’t be locked into having LHDR represent them if things were to go sideways. Instead, they would own every red cent they put towards their program payments. Thus, clients would have the ability to work with an attorney in their own neighborhood – one that might come highly recommended by someone they know and trust. In most cases, having an attorney represent a client for an account facing judgment is pretty much benign anyway. Of course bankruptcy is quite a different story, but that’s an entirely separate revenue stream for LHDR in addition to the fees they’re already charging for settlement services. Legal Helpers could always forgo the upfront fees and allow their clients to choose if they want to retain LHDR for representation if it comes to that point. This would enable clients to have some funds to make a self-guided choice – the same funds I might add that they would have if they used an FTC compliant company in the first place. The reason this won’t work for LHDR…? Because the front end companies to whom Legal Helpers heavily relies upon for their business wouldn’t be capable of surviving in an complaint “free market” environment where they cannot earn money until performance is proven.

  • Thanks, Bob.

    While commission motivation has been a driving behind tens of thousands of people having been ripped off, I’m hesitant to let the blame rests on the marketers when the problem is/was systemic in nature. As long as there are rules that can be enforced, the consumer can enjoy advantages and safety mechanisms that were not afforded to them in the old regime. There is a tiered dynamic – front-end marketer/back-end servicer that exists in settlement as well as a bevy of other service related industries. That dynamic isn’t necessarily bad as long as there is a set of rules to which all players can be held accountable. The FTC took bold action along these very lines but players like Legal Helpers are playing by there own rules and trying to capture market share by alluding the very laws to which both back-end servicers and front-end marketers alike are complying. All businesses need marketing and some companies are simply better equipped and more intelligent in this realm than are the actual providers of the service. To this end, all companies that are in compliance whether they are purely sales and marketing companies or actual providers need to band together to rid the industry of loophole players that will stall the settlement industry from removing the tarnish that casts even the best actors in a negative light. I am every bit confident that the law will prevail here but with all things law; things take time. TASC and USOBA have taken bold steps to set things in the right direction and with their continued effort companies like Legal Helpers should one day be forced to either concede to the law or leave town. Either is fine…

  • One important item about legal helpers is they do provide full legal representation to clients. How many other companies out there do so? Is it feasable to do so under a contigency fee model? Is there even one other company out there that provides courtroom legal representation on a contigency fee bases? If so, please feel free to mention who becuase I’ve never seen one.

    What if a client got sued on month 3 because they were 5 months deliquent when signing up and haven’t yet paid any fees?

    If full representation is of much help (the client owes the money regardless) is up for debate and different attornies will say different things, however providing full legal in court representation to me justifies some degree of an upfront fee and demonstrates are more traditional attorney-client relationship

    I’m not saying this gives LHDR a free pass to violate the FTC, split attorney fees, or advertise deceptively but if they meet the exemptions, let the free market decide which route a consumer wants to go. Some consumers may feel much safer with full attorney representation.

  • Good post Serum.

    You highlight something that was/is rarely discussed.

    The hundreds of companies you refer to struggling to find a place to get paid upfront and settling in with LHDR or companies charging upfront like LHDR, were not and are not settlement companies.

    They do not provide the actual settlement service. Never have. They sell. That’s it.

    The sales shops interests are not aligned with the consumer needing help nor the service provider on the back end. They just sell. Often to the highest bidder where they get the highest commission. I am of the opinion that most of what the debt settlement space developed into, a fee grab by 90% of the actors in it, is a direct result of the sales shops. Advertising costs quadrupled, the industry became tarnished and targeted, tens of thousands of consumers got ripped, all for the sales shop commission.

    Companies like CLG, JLG, Hass, Allegro, Brennan (all attorney managed) were sustained for the time they operated by the sales shop. Is LHDR on the same path as the a fore mentioned law firm model companies? Who can say. I see a lot of rhyming though.

    The FTC advance fee ban thinned the outfits competing for these sales shops who require an upfront fee model to survive. The companies who facilitate the continuation of the sales shops will be much more visible, easier to spot and have shorter shelf lives going forward.

  • One important item to understand about Legal Helpers is that, as a “legal” servicer their model became the last bastion of hope for other settlement companies needing a way to continue charging consumers fees upfront in order to circumvent the new FTC rule prohibiting that very practice. Before the FTC’s rule which took full effect in November of 2010, the settlement industry was amok with hundreds of companies that charged exorbitant fees in advance of any performance being proven. This led to a large portion of settlement clients shelling out thousands of dollars to cover fees only to find themselves having to ultimately file bankruptcy or seek settlements on their own with their creditors. Such companies typically offered no refund to customers who failed under this model and for this, the industry earned itself a terrible reputation with consumer groups and virtually every state Attorney General in America.

    Today, companies in the debt settlement space that are proponents of the new FTC rule (those who follow the letter of the law and charge no fees to consumers until settlements are reached), are aghast that a so called “attorney model” can blatantly skirt the rules that were meant to protect consumers and level the playing field. Legal Helpers defies the FTC’s intentions by circumventing the Telemarketing Sales Rule which is the primary vehicle for scrutinizing whether companies are in compliance with the regulations. For this reason, the two main debt settlement industry groups: T.A.S.C. (The Association of Settlement Companies) and U.S.O.B.A. (The United States Organization of Bankruptcy Alternatives), have each rejected Legal Helpers from membership. USOBA and TASC went so far as to reject membership from all companies that charge customers fees in advance of proving performance – a large amount of these companies use Legal Helpers as their “back end”. These partnerships were borne largely out of the necessity for the smaller companies that new they couldn’t survive unless they could find a scheme allowing them to charge customers fees up front.

    The FTC’s intentions will be mocked and undermined as long as Legal Helpers and their affiliates continue to charge consumers fees in advance of performance. Any consumer that is unsure whether Legal Helpers is a sound and legal debt relief alternative should simply read the FTC rule and decide for themselves: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/07

  • One important item to understand about Legal Helpers is that, as a “legal” servicer their model became the last bastion of hope for other settlement companies needing a way to continue charging consumers fees upfront in order to circumvent the new FTC rule prohibiting that very practice. Before the FTC’s rule which took full effect in November of 2010, the settlement industry was amok with hundreds of companies that charged exorbitant fees in advance of any performance being proven. This led to a large portion of settlement clients shelling out thousands of dollars to cover fees only to find themselves having to ultimately file bankruptcy or seek settlements on their own with their creditors. Such companies typically offered no refund to customers who failed under this model and for this, the industry earned itself a terrible reputation with consumer groups and virtually every state Attorney General in America.

    Today, companies in the debt settlement space that are proponents of the new FTC rule (those who follow the letter of the law and charge no fees to consumers until settlements are reached), are aghast that a so called “attorney model” can blatantly skirt the rules that were meant to protect consumers and level the playing field. Legal Helpers defies the FTC’s intentions by circumventing the Telemarketing Sales Rule which is the primary vehicle for scrutinizing whether companies are in compliance with the regulations. For this reason, the two main debt settlement industry groups: T.A.S.C. (The Association of Settlement Companies) and U.S.O.B.A. (The United States Organization of Bankruptcy Alternatives), have each rejected Legal Helpers from membership. USOBA and TASC went so far as to reject membership from all companies that charge customers fees in advance of proving performance – a large amount of these companies use Legal Helpers as their “back end”. These partnerships were borne largely out of the necessity for the smaller companies that new they couldn’t survive unless they could find a scheme allowing them to charge customers fees up front.

    The FTC’s intentions will be mocked and undermined as long as Legal Helpers and their affiliates continue to charge consumers fees in advance of performance. Any consumer that is unsure whether Legal Helpers is a sound and legal debt relief alternative should simply read the FTC rule and decide for themselves: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/07/tsr.shtm

    • Good post Serum.

      You highlight something that was/is rarely discussed.

      The hundreds of companies you refer to struggling to find a place to get paid upfront and settling in with LHDR or companies charging upfront like LHDR, were not and are not settlement companies.

      They do not provide the actual settlement service. Never have. They sell. That’s it.

      The sales shops interests are not aligned with the consumer needing help nor the service provider on the back end. They just sell. Often to the highest bidder where they get the highest commission. I am of the opinion that most of what the debt settlement space developed into, a fee grab by 90% of the actors in it, is a direct result of the sales shops. Advertising costs quadrupled, the industry became tarnished and targeted, tens of thousands of consumers got ripped, all for the sales shop commission.

      Companies like CLG, JLG, Hass, Allegro, Brennan (all attorney managed) were sustained for the time they operated by the sales shop. Is LHDR on the same path as the a fore mentioned law firm model companies? Who can say. I see a lot of rhyming though.

      The FTC advance fee ban thinned the outfits competing for these sales shops who require an upfront fee model to survive. The companies who facilitate the continuation of the sales shops will be much more visible, easier to spot and have shorter shelf lives going forward.

      • One important item about legal helpers is they do provide full legal representation to clients. How many other companies out there do so? Is it feasable to do so under a contigency fee model? Is there even one other company out there that provides courtroom legal representation on a contigency fee bases? If so, please feel free to mention who becuase I’ve never seen one.

        What if a client got sued on month 3 because they were 5 months deliquent when signing up and haven’t yet paid any fees?

        If full representation is of much help (the client owes the money regardless) is up for debate and different attornies will say different things, however providing full legal in court representation to me justifies some degree of an upfront fee and demonstrates are more traditional attorney-client relationship

        I’m not saying this gives LHDR a free pass to violate the FTC, split attorney fees, or advertise deceptively but if they meet the exemptions, let the free market decide which route a consumer wants to go. Some consumers may feel much safer with full attorney representation.

        • I’m glad you brought up free markets.

          In the absence of having to pay fees up front, clients wouldn’t be locked into having LHDR represent them if things were to go sideways. Instead, they would own every red cent they put towards their program payments. Thus, clients would have the ability to work with an attorney in their own neighborhood – one that might come highly recommended by someone they know and trust. In most cases, having an attorney represent a client for an account facing judgment is pretty much benign anyway. Of course bankruptcy is quite a different story, but that’s an entirely separate revenue stream for LHDR in addition to the fees they’re already charging for settlement services. Legal Helpers could always forgo the upfront fees and allow their clients to choose if they want to retain LHDR for representation if it comes to that point. This would enable clients to have some funds to make a self-guided choice – the same funds I might add that they would have if they used an FTC compliant company in the first place. The reason this won’t work for LHDR…? Because the front end companies to whom Legal Helpers heavily relies upon for their business wouldn’t be capable of surviving in an complaint “free market” environment where they cannot earn money until performance is proven.

        • Just thinking out loud here but wouldn’t it be better to provide a service in which the consumer would not be sued to begin with?

          Is the issue that settlement in the current model is enrolling consumers who are likely to be sued rather than likely to settle before suit?

          If consumers who were qualified, ready and able to settle were enrolled, then debts would settled quickly and performance fees earned. If that model was followed then there would be less chance of suit, no legal representation would need to be given and fees could be lowered which would benefit the consumer.

          • You make a great point. The LHDR model eats up so much of the money in fees upfront, if the money was available to settle a debts sooner, it reduces the chance of suit, or at least the suit turning into a judgment.

            One of the big arguments to the FTC was that the contingency fee structure would cause creditors to push for higher settlements settlements. Any opinions out there on that?

            With debt settlement there are always going to be some clients who get sued, clients are breaking the terms that they agreed to with the creditor and no “new term” is arranged for months or even years. Law suits could be reduced greatly with improved screening processes and higher service quality. The exception would be the credit counselors 60/60 plan in which the “settlement” would be pre-arranged, and assuming the clients make payments as agreed to. What are debt settlement companies who have been offering contingency fees seeing as far as settlement percentages? It is probably too early to tell since most compliant companies converted only 3 months ago.

            It is clear what happened. There was little barrier to entry so the market got flooded, this is because companies could receive revenue quickly by charging the heavy upfront fees. The market got flooded so lead cost went up. Companies started charging even HIGHER fees and paying HIGHER commissions to sales affiliates (up to 70% of the clients fees. Some stated they pay 90%-100% but keep in mind the back end usually had monthly fees that equaled around 30-50% of the total fees charged to the client). So as competition created higher marketing costs, fees continued to go went up and back end service quality in many cases went down. It created a horrendous environment for the consumer. Back in 2005 a sales few shops had affiliates the the ones that did might have paid out 30%-50% of the fees as a commission, and total fees charged to clients were often around 15% with no monthly fees. This was sustainable because marketing costs low. A common model was also a 3-5% retainer and the remaining fees done on a contingency bases. Most early DS models were done this way, they did have SOME retainer. Many 2007+ models charged a 15% fee plus 50+ monthly fee. Trying adding that up on a 20K debt over 48 months. Its also funny how aggressively these back ends were trying to market to affiliates such as shady sub prime mortgage shops with buzz words like “100% Commission” or “Sell in all 50 states” and my favorite “Fast Commission Payouts” meaning high upfront fees for the client.

            In reality I think most consumers would rather pay say a 12% total fee if some of the fee was upfront vs a 20% fee charged after settlement. Charging some fees up front without an extreme front loading would not have harmed consumers in itself I believe. It’s the direction that it allowed the industry to take that forced the FTC to take action.

        • “Charging some fees up front without an extreme front loading would not have harmed consumers in itself I believe. It’s the direction that it allowed the industry to take that forced the FTC to take action.”

          Interesting that the debt settlement trade groups fought agains the UDMSA that would have permitted that and instead got this.

          • Steve, I was at negotiations with the Attorney General’s office of Illinois in April where we (TASC and USOBA) were offered 25% of the savings as the fee cap in the debt settlement law they were trying to pass. We turned it down on the basis that we should be allowed to charge up monthly fees up front before debts were settled ($50 – $75 per month, depending on debt size). The AG said “no way on monthly fees”, brought their bill to the floor for a vote, and the cap is now 15% of the savings. Not sure if you noticed in your NYC debt settlement hearing sheet but this Illinois law is now being shown as a “model” for what new legislation should look like. I called the IL Dept of Professional Regulation to inquire about “licensed debt settlement companies” the other day and they haven’t received an application.

            To say we have misplayed our cards on the regulatory front is understatement, but we’re so dumb politically consumers maybe left without an important option.

          • soooo true Steve- settlement companies were freaking the heck out that they would have to spread fees evenly over HALF the length of the program- programs where the terms were usually under estimated on top of that! They were also freaking out about 18 percent fee cap too.

      • Thanks, Bob.

        While commission motivation has been a driving behind tens of thousands of people having been ripped off, I’m hesitant to let the blame rests on the marketers when the problem is/was systemic in nature. As long as there are rules that can be enforced, the consumer can enjoy advantages and safety mechanisms that were not afforded to them in the old regime. There is a tiered dynamic – front-end marketer/back-end servicer that exists in settlement as well as a bevy of other service related industries. That dynamic isn’t necessarily bad as long as there is a set of rules to which all players can be held accountable. The FTC took bold action along these very lines but players like Legal Helpers are playing by there own rules and trying to capture market share by alluding the very laws to which both back-end servicers and front-end marketers alike are complying. All businesses need marketing and some companies are simply better equipped and more intelligent in this realm than are the actual providers of the service. To this end, all companies that are in compliance whether they are purely sales and marketing companies or actual providers need to band together to rid the industry of loophole players that will stall the settlement industry from removing the tarnish that casts even the best actors in a negative light. I am every bit confident that the law will prevail here but with all things law; things take time. TASC and USOBA have taken bold steps to set things in the right direction and with their continued effort companies like Legal Helpers should one day be forced to either concede to the law or leave town. Either is fine…

        • Legal Helers is currently and has been in several meeting with the FTC, the last meeting with the FTC was in mid December. One of the Attorney’s of LHDR use to be on the board at the FTC so they are working very closely together. They are fully aware of all services and business.

          • That’s VERY interesting. Can we be enlightened on what has been discussed? One would think the FTC is not going to stab a firm who is proactively engaged with them in such manner.

  • Jason,

    Thank you for your open response. More importantly, I just posted a big kudo to you for taking action to protect consumers by moving against the site I wrote about yesterday in this article.

    What readers don’t know is that I sent you a notification yesterday after I posted the article and you guys got right on it.

    Steve

  • Hello Jason,
    I can appreciate what you are saying, but it seems like many client experiences don’t match what you perceive is actually happening. I have found that most often the affiliates selling your program have absolutely no clue what “debt resolution” option makes the most sense. They seem to always pitch settlement. I recently wrote an article about a consumer that was told by an LHDR affiliate that he shouldn’t even consider a BK and instead sign up for settlement, even though, it was clear the client would never be able to raise the money to settle his debts.

    Also, I am confused by your observations that you have somehow changed the “traditional collections paradigm” because you offer a full defense to clients that are sued. Please correct me if I am wrong, but up until the last month or two your contracts were very specific to state LHDR will not and does not provide representation to the client in any matter before a court.

    So are you telling me that you believe that in less than two months you have changed the traditional collections paradigm?

    If you don’t want people to confuse Legal Helpers and Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, perhaps you should have had the foresight to use a different name. What did you expect to happen when you created a separate company using the same name?

    https://getoutofdebt.org/damon-

  • Steve,

    We at Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC appreciate your decision to print our recent letter regarding our law firm, and we welcome your offer for an ongoing dialogue. In that spirit, below are answers to the most recent questions you put to us.

    LHDR began offering debt negotiation as an alternative service option for clients a little more than one year ago. As you know, the initial term of most debt negotiation plans is approximately thirty-six months, so we do not yet have completion statistics that would be meaningful. Further, we do not keep count of the numbers related to clients moving from a debt management plan to a negotiation program. What we can say is that our retention rate to date appears to be far better than the rate experienced by most debt settlement companies. We have seen creditors more willing to negotiate with us; perhaps because as a full service law firm we can advise a client to convert to a bankruptcy if a creditor resists reasonable negotiations. We also believe that our full defense of clients in the event they are sued has changed the traditional collections paradigm and made most creditors willing to come to the table to negotiate with us on behalf of our clients.

    For example, many debt settlement companies have experienced a drop-out rate of 25% or more in the initial six months of their program. For the most part these drop-outs are because the client was improperly categorized as a debt settlement client at the outset, or because the client is sued by a creditor and the settlement company cannot help the client with that lawsuit. Our initial evaluation system uses a sophisticated methodology to determine the likelihood of success in debt negotiation. Prospective clients are initially advised whether debt management, debt negotiation or bankruptcy is more appropriate, prior to actually becoming clients of the firm. To date, we are seeing drop-out rates which are much lower than what we believe to be common in the industry, although, to be fair, many of our clients are relatively early in their program. The key has been to remain flexible to the day-to-day situations of our clients and adjust and adapt as required to meet their changing circumstances in a fluid, not static representation.

    Steve, I have to point out that in your public writings you sometimes inadvertently refer to our law firm by the wrong name. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, or LHDR if you like, is the name of our law firm. We offer debt management, debt negotiation and bankruptcy services for clients. The law firm known as Legal Helpers, P.C. is a completely separate company, has been around for seventeen years and does only bankruptcy work. Since Legal Helpers, P.C. is not involved in the debt settlement industry, I’m sure they would appreciate it if you would refer to Legal Helpers Debt Resolution as “LHDR” instead of as “Legal Helpers.”

    Thanks again for the opportunity to participate in this public forum.

    Jason E. Searns
    Managing Member
    Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC

  • Steve,

    We at Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC appreciate your decision to print our recent letter regarding our law firm, and we welcome your offer for an ongoing dialogue. In that spirit, below are answers to the most recent questions you put to us.

    LHDR began offering debt negotiation as an alternative service option for clients a little more than one year ago. As you know, the initial term of most debt negotiation plans is approximately thirty-six months, so we do not yet have completion statistics that would be meaningful. Further, we do not keep count of the numbers related to clients moving from a debt management plan to a negotiation program. What we can say is that our retention rate to date appears to be far better than the rate experienced by most debt settlement companies. We have seen creditors more willing to negotiate with us; perhaps because as a full service law firm we can advise a client to convert to a bankruptcy if a creditor resists reasonable negotiations. We also believe that our full defense of clients in the event they are sued has changed the traditional collections paradigm and made most creditors willing to come to the table to negotiate with us on behalf of our clients.

    For example, many debt settlement companies have experienced a drop-out rate of 25% or more in the initial six months of their program. For the most part these drop-outs are because the client was improperly categorized as a debt settlement client at the outset, or because the client is sued by a creditor and the settlement company cannot help the client with that lawsuit. Our initial evaluation system uses a sophisticated methodology to determine the likelihood of success in debt negotiation. Prospective clients are initially advised whether debt management, debt negotiation or bankruptcy is more appropriate, prior to actually becoming clients of the firm. To date, we are seeing drop-out rates which are much lower than what we believe to be common in the industry, although, to be fair, many of our clients are relatively early in their program. The key has been to remain flexible to the day-to-day situations of our clients and adjust and adapt as required to meet their changing circumstances in a fluid, not static representation.

    Steve, I have to point out that in your public writings you sometimes inadvertently refer to our law firm by the wrong name. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, or LHDR if you like, is the name of our law firm. We offer debt management, debt negotiation and bankruptcy services for clients. The law firm known as Legal Helpers, P.C. is a completely separate company, has been around for seventeen years and does only bankruptcy work. Since Legal Helpers, P.C. is not involved in the debt settlement industry, I’m sure they would appreciate it if you would refer to Legal Helpers Debt Resolution as “LHDR” instead of as “Legal Helpers.”

    Thanks again for the opportunity to participate in this public forum.

    Jason E. Searns
    Managing Member
    Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC

    • Hello Jason,
      I can appreciate what you are saying, but it seems like many client experiences don’t match what you perceive is actually happening. I have found that most often the affiliates selling your program have absolutely no clue what “debt resolution” option makes the most sense. They seem to always pitch settlement. I recently wrote an article about a consumer that was told by an LHDR affiliate that he shouldn’t even consider a BK and instead sign up for settlement, even though, it was clear the client would never be able to raise the money to settle his debts.

      Also, I am confused by your observations that you have somehow changed the “traditional collections paradigm” because you offer a full defense to clients that are sued. Please correct me if I am wrong, but up until the last month or two your contracts were very specific to state LHDR will not and does not provide representation to the client in any matter before a court.

      So are you telling me that you believe that in less than two months you have changed the traditional collections paradigm?

      If you don’t want people to confuse Legal Helpers and Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, perhaps you should have had the foresight to use a different name. What did you expect to happen when you created a separate company using the same name?

      https://getoutofdebt.org/damon-day

    • Jason,

      Thank you for your open response. More importantly, I just posted a big kudo to you for taking action to protect consumers by moving against the site I wrote about yesterday in this article.

      What readers don’t know is that I sent you a notification yesterday after I posted the article and you guys got right on it.

      Steve

    • Jason,

      A reader asked me a very good questions about LHDR that really only you can answer. The reader wants to know:

      Reader Asks: On the LHDR site (source) it says “When potential clients contact us, our attorneys review the consumer’s current financial situation and tailor a debt resolution plan that is unique to their situation. ” That seems to me that the person I talk to first is the attorney to review my case and see what is appropriate. Is that what happens?

  • Why is it that you avoid discussing the success rate of the credit counseling programs that you recommend? Is it because you own one and run one? Your friends such as Howard own them? Your reporting and questions seem very slanted….Please explain why, last time i checked the stats, they graduation rate of a DMP or credit counseling program was around 22%. It would be nice if you reported fairly on this industry, where the majority of companies lost their IRS excempt status, and the others get paid by the creditors to keep people who clearly cant afford to do so continue to pay. That industry has more filed and documented complaints then Debt settlement has… I know there will be no friends left in the sand box for you to play with…..

  • Why is it that you avoid discussing the success rate of the credit counseling programs that you recommend? Is it because you own one and run one? Your friends such as Howard own them? Your reporting and questions seem very slanted….Please explain why, last time i checked the stats, they graduation rate of a DMP or credit counseling program was around 22%. It would be nice if you reported fairly on this industry, where the majority of companies lost their IRS excempt status, and the others get paid by the creditors to keep people who clearly cant afford to do so continue to pay. That industry has more filed and documented complaints then Debt settlement has… I know there will be no friends left in the sand box for you to play with…..

  • I heard Steve Vanderhoof, former CEO and owner of the now defunct Credit Exchange, is coming to work at this outfit in Chicago. I hope that Legal Helpers did their research on Vanderhoof. :/

  • I heard Steve Vanderhoof, former CEO and owner of the now defunct Credit Exchange, is coming to work at this outfit in Chicago. I hope that Legal Helpers did their research on Vanderhoof. :/

      • Steve Vanderhoof is now the VP of Sales and Marketing for LHDR and Legalhelpers. He can be reached at

        [email protected]

        He has set up a call center in the Willis Tower at the LHDR/Legalhelpers HQ.

        I should point out that LHDR and Legalhelpers (bankruptcy law firm) are the same company. They use the same employees, computer systems, office space. It is not uncommon for an employee to work on BK clients in the morning, and then start working on LHDR calls in the afternoon. BK client files are sent to LHDR and back again. I’m sure there are all kinds of laws against this.

    • The Credit Exchange went out of business i am a former employee that was one of the last ones working as the doors were shutting they laid off most employees in april and the last 5 or 6 of us was let go in june as of now the doors are shut completly the owner Steve Vanderhoof who is a crook that ruined a lot of lives not only consumers but employees as well he has left to Chicago to help scam consumers through another comapny Legal Helpers so beware

      • lol… you were a loyal and faithful employee of steve vanderhoof for all these years and finally gotten laid and u blow the whistle on steve vanderhoof lol? i wouldnt be upset at steve i be upset at yourself for be so naive and dumb to stick around till ur the last 5 people there. u were part of the mess for screwing consumers over so dont go pointing blames on one person that you had put your life on hold for.

        • I wouldn’t say anyone was a true ‘loyal’ or ‘faithful’ employee. They just got paid a ton of money to do nothing but be ‘yes’ men and woman and feed the ego of the man.

          But I do agree with Joe Debt Jr., they were all part of the problem at that place, not the solution.

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