Debt settlement, also known as debt arbitration or debt negotiation is an approach to debt reduction in which the debtor and creditor agree on a reduced balance that will be regarded as payment in full.Get connected to Credit Counseling Services with Debt.com
The history of debt settlement as a concept, and in practice, dates back to the beginning of the monetary system and the establishment of lending institutions.
In America and through the world we can trace its history to the great depression which created a flurry of debt settlement activities within consumer lending practices and established the concept of debt settlement as an option which became a common practice among business and consumers during the 1930s.
There is no accurate estimate in history as to the number of settlements, but we estimate the figures in the millions. After the great depression the practice continued though not encouraged.
With charge-offs (debts written-off by banks) increasing, banks established debt settlement departments staffed with personnel who were authorized to negotiate with defaulted cardholders to reduce the outstanding balances in hopes to recover funds that would otherwise be lost if the cardholder filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Avoid Bankruptcy! Get help today with DebtSettlement.com
Typical settlements ranged between 25% and 65% of the outstanding balance
Alongside the unprecedented spike in personal debt loads, there has been another rather significant (even if criminally under reported) change – the 2005 passage of legislation that dramatically worsened the chances for average Americans to claim Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. As things stand, should anyone filing for bankruptcy fail to meet the Internal Revenue Service regulated ‘means test’, they would instead be shelved into the Chapter 13 debt restructuring plan. Essentially, Chapter 13 bankruptcies simply tell borrowers that they must pay back some or all of their debts to all unsecured lenders. Repayments under Chapter 13 can range from 1% to 100% of the amounts owed to unsecured creditors, based on the ability of the debtor to pay. Repayment periods are 3 years (for those who earn below the median income) or 5 years (for those above), under court mandated budgets that follow IRS guidelines, and the penalties for failure are more severe.
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Essentially, the debt settlement company negotiates on the borrowers’ behalf with creditors to reduce the overall debts in exchange for an agreement upon regular payments to be made. Only credit card debts can be handled, not student loans, auto financing or mortgages. For the debtor, this makes obvious sense – they avoid the stigma and intrusive court-mandated controls of bankruptcy while still lowering, sometimes by more than 50%, their debt balances. Whereas, for the creditor, they regain trust that the borrower intends to pay back what he can of the loans and not file bankruptcy (in which case, the creditor risks losing all monies owed).
There are obvious drawbacks – credit reports will show evidence of debt settlements and the associated FICO scores will be lowered as a result. Get FICO Score Watch Now!
There’s always the possibility of lawsuit whenever debts lay unpaid. Since few creditors wish to push borrowers toward bankruptcy – and the potential of governmental protection against all debts. In addition, the specific debts of the borrowers themselves affect the success of negotiations. Tax liens or domestic judgments, for reasons that should be clear, remain unaffected by attempts at settlement. Student loans, even those not federally subsidized, have been granted special powers by recent legislation to attach bank accounts without possibility of Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Also, some individual creditors, including Discover Card, for example, tend to have an aggressive resistance against negotiations.
In order to work with a debt settlement company, a consumer needs lump sum cash (best scenario), or build up enough funds over pre-determined period of time. Once enough funds are built up the negotiation process can begin with each creditor individually. Accounts can be held by credit card companies or may be sold to collections agency for average of $0.15 on the dollar. In which case debt can still be negotiated. The debt settlement company negotiates with the credit card companies for 35% - 50% of the existing balances. The debt settlement companies typically have built up a relationship during their normal business practices with the credit card companies and can come to a settlement agreement quickly. Once the consumer pays the agreed upon amount, the debt settlement companies take a percentage of the savings of the forgiven debt as the fee. With the current economic crisis, more and more credit card companies may be willing to settle existing credit card debts rather add to their already large written off bad debt.
What the Creditors get out of it
The creditor’s primary incentive is to recover funds that would otherwise be lost if the debtor filed for bankruptcy. The other key incentive is that the creditor can often recover more funds than through other collection methods. Collection agencies and collection attorneys charge commissions as high as 40% on recovered funds. Bad debt purchasers buy portfolios of delinquent debts from creditors who give up on internal collection efforts and these bad debt purchasers pay between 1 and 12 cents on the dollar, depending on the age of the debt, with the oldest debts the cheapest.Collection calls and lawsuits often push debtors into bankruptcy, in which case the creditor often recovers no funds.