Get Serious About Antitrust Violations – Michael Dennis, CBF

Be Willing to Walk

Some time ago, I attended an industry credit group meeting as a prospective member.  The group was run by an NACM affiliate, but it was not run by Credit Management Association.  Like every other industry credit group meeting, the President of the group read the antitrust statement, which was followed by introductions.

The group meeting proceeded normally for about half an hour.  At that point, the discussion turned to a customer that everyone knew could be trouble for unsecured creditors.  As you know, discussions must involve factual, historical information — and it is not permissible to discuss or even joke about creditors agreeing to take any joint action.

To my surprise, that was exactly where the discussion went.  After about 30 seconds, I felt I had to make a comment.  I said I thought the discussion had moved into an area that was out of bounds.  I asked the Association representative for his input.  He said the discussion was within the antitrust guidelines.  I disagreed and when the discussion continued, I left. Was that too dramatic?  I don’t think so.

After I left, I documented what had been discussed.  I shared the information with my manager and our company’s attorney knowing that both civil and criminal penalties can be imposed for violation of federal or state antitrust laws!     If I did not participate in the discussion or in the collusion, does that mean I get a free

Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

pass? So what would you do in the same situation?   Did I overreact?  Does anyone have a similar experience?

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is  www.coveringcredit.com

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.

4 Replies to “Get Serious About Antitrust Violations – Michael Dennis, CBF”

  1. Michael,

    If you had openly discussed your objection to the content of the discussion, excusing yourself due to your concerns should not have been considered dramatic. If you are going to err, it would best to be on the safe side. The hallmark of credit specialists is being attentive to technicalities and legal nuances. Without taking that view of the business world, how else do we protect our employers?

    You say that you documented the discussion and shared it with your attorney. But you don’t say what, if any conclusion the attorney made. Was your position shared by him (or your manager)?

    As a died-in-the-wool credit professional, in addition to avoiding participation in dubious discussions, do you have any obligation to present your concerns to CMA? As the statements we read are not written in pinpoint legalese, there is room for a good deal of interpretation. From this standpoint, if your position was correct, perhaps the Group Secretary’s (and the group members) understanding of acceptable discussion points needs clarification. Should you have submitted your notes and objections to CMA for an official response? The would have been useful for you and especially the group if they had been operating illegally.

    As for your question on whether or not you should get a free pass … Further to my allusions above, if you are in a restaurant and overhear patrons discussing plans to rob a bank or other illegal activity, should you report it? Do you have any obligation to report it, moral or otherwise? If you witness a crime, hear of an alleged crime or suspect that a crime is being committed reflective of the current uproar over Joe Paterno and Penn State, what should be expected of you?

    While somewhat off-topic, regarding your reference to the Anti-trust Statement which is considered so critical that the recitation of this statement and the others must be read aloud (with no option for a blanket agreement) prior to each meeting, I find it extremely curious that it is not displayed prominently on the CMA website. I defy anyone to locate it without a long and hard search. I continue to search for them.

    I often wonder how prospective members would know that they would be agreeing to the criteria therein if they desired to join the Association. If they based the decision on the web content I’m not certain they would even know of the statements since they are not readily apparent.

  2. Michael

    I attended this meeting with you. What I remember most were the stares as we walked out of the meeting. I agreed with your decision then and now. I think Guy put it very well:

    “If you are going to err, it would best to be on the safe side.”

    My personal take on this situation is this: When in Doubt, Walk Out.

    Regards

    Margaret

  3. Margaret,

    Your slogan reminds me of another uttered to me by a stout waitress at a beer hall in Munich: When in Doubt, Check It Out.

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