Bill Bartmann

“I’m on a mission to reform the debt
collection industry in America.”

About Bill

Bill Bartmann grew up in poverty and first saw the debt-collection business from the perspective of watching his father being hounded day and night by bill collectors. In fact, his dad died of a heart attack one night, right after a bill collector called.

Bill put himself through college while working at a hog slaughterhouse. He went on to get a law degree and his practice specialized in consumer bankruptcy. Bill later got involved in real estate, oil drilling, and oil services.

While $1 million in debt from the collapse of oil prices and his pipe company, Bill bought the first portfolio of defaulted loans ever auctioned to the public by the FDIC.

Bill’s intimate knowledge of the shady practices of debt collectors (being broke himself) led him to try a different approach—he treated borrowers with dignity and respect. That first portfolio of loans yielded a relatively substantial return, and he was soon able to pay off his debt.

Bill and his wife Kathy formed Commercial Financial Services to buy more debt. Over the next 12 years the unique CFS approach of strictly ethical collection practices yielded the following:

  • The Nilson Report, an industry trade journal, called CFS the “largest, best-trained, and most profitable collection operation in the world.”
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History has a permanent display on the technology CFS pioneered.
  • CFS became the very first company ever to do an investment-grade securitization of non-performing debt on Wall Street. Harvard Business School published a case study on its techniques.
  • CFS raised more than $3.1 billion from 120 different lenders for more than 180 separate transactions.
  • CFS made it to the “Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies” list four years in a row. The only company on that list ever to grow faster for longer was Microsoft.
  • BusinessWeek called CFS “one of the top 30 family-friendly companies in the United States.” Working Woman Magazine recognized CFS as “one of the top 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.” (This was not a yoga school but instead a debt-collection company.)

In 1998, tragedy struck when Bill’s former business partner made several unauthorized transactions and sent the company into bankruptcy after financing dried up. Bill’s former business partner told prosecutors that he had acted without Bill’s knowledge and the partner admitted his guilt. A jury unanimously cleared Bill on all counts.

Six and a half years after CFS was liquidated, the federal bankruptcy trustee issued his report which publicly acknowledged that “CFS was not a fraud.”

In fact, the CFS ethical collections business model had worked right up until the company closed. Because the amount of defaulted debt has continued to grow – and so has the need for ethical debt collection – Bill launched CFS2 in July, 2010.

CFS2 already is in the top 6 percent of debt collection companies in the U.S. in terms of size, and is growing rapidly. It has begun a site-selection process to create up to an additional 2,000 well-paying entry-level jobs in cities across the U.S.

Bill has worked with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to reform the current federal debt-collection rules. In addition he helped to enact a recent change to the Oklahoma debt-collection rules, which the Governor of Oklahoma signed into law in June, 2011.

Bill authored Oklahoma Senate bill 1430 “The Bartmann Bill” which would require debt collectors to follow stringent practices designed to protect consumers. This bill passed the Senate 40-2. In 2011 Bartmann was nominated to the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by the president of the American Bankers Association (ABA), Frank Keating. The nomination was seconded by six sitting state attorneys general.

In October 2012, Bill was invited to the West Wing of the White House to meet with the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council and Senior Policy Advisers to discuss the creation of a moratorium on debt collection litigation that would reduce the national bankruptcy rate by as much as 50% while also reducing the national unemployment rate.

In 2013 Bill was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his debt collection industry reform work.

Bill is a member of the Board of Trustees of California Institute of Advanced Management Peter Drucker Graduate School.

The CFS Story

Watch as Bill shares the story about what happened at CFS in 1998 when Bill’s former business partner committed fraud and sent the company into bankruptcy.

© 2013 Bill Bartmann. All rights reserved.