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Although Missouri Bondsman encourages debate on topics of interest to the bail industry, please be aware that comments are moderated. Please observe the posting rules. No comments will be printed that contain spam, profanity, or libelous comments. Please post comments in a civil, professional manner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Guest Commentary: How to Improve the Bail Industry

The following is guest commentary submitted by Tim Bruce, a licensed General Agent from the Springfield area.

Reality Check

As I have been reading every ones comments and suggestions, it amazes me at just how many agents and General agents contradict themselves. The old (Pot calling the kettle black). From financing and no money down bonds to offering rebates, many of the ones complaining are some of the very ones doing just that.

We would all agree that something needs to be done if we are interested in the long term stability of our industry, but we cannot and will not truly stand together to effectively do something to help ourselves. The only Association I was once a member of was only in place for a few members to try and back door and sneak legislation through that would only benefit them and Insurance Companies. Had it not been for Angela Parks and a few others who were keeping track of what was going on, legislation could have passed and none of us would have known anything about it until it was too late.

To try and organize all the Agents statewide is a very commendable and hopeful thought. I assure you though that it will never happen. (Example> Each and every County and each and every Judge in this state does things differently and by their own rule) Procedures are done differently according to the interpretation of rules by each individual Judge, Prosecutor, Sheriff and even the Bail Bond Agents.

Several years ago, myself and many of the local agents in my area got together and jointly and adamantly decided to raise our minimum fees, addressed discounting and financing fees, and raised all failure to appear bonds to 20%. That very afternoon, two agents walked across the street to the jail and one wrote a bond by discount and the other by financing with low down and low weekly payments.

If you cannot even get the local agents in your prospective area to agree and cooperate, then how do you even remotetly think you can organize agents and companies statewide?
As much as I hate the Government even slightly getting involved in my business, unless the rules of policy and proceedure are point blank and enforced, you will never get the agents and companies to comply.

I remember what it was like being a brand new agent. I starved to death for the first 16 months. Now with many Counties implementing the catch and release policy and the mass R.O.R. policies by allot of Courts it is even hard for exsiting agents to make a living. To make matters even worse for those agents many Generals chose to impliment what I call the Ice theory flooding the state with multiple agents. This works out great for the General as he/she makes 50% of every agent. Unfortunately for the agent many Generals put multiple agents in the same area and not only does the agent have to compete with other companies, they also have to compete with thier own company. I do not believe in stacking agents. I would rather have an agent make a good living and write quality bonds, than to have high volume profits on questionable and high risk bonds. (make sense?)

In my opinion, If the General Agent puts an agent in situations where he/she is struggling to make a living. The responsibility of the agents business ethics, proceedures and questionalbe bond writing should fall on the General that allows it. If as a General, you cannot control the proceedures followed by your agent, you simply get ride of them. If you as a General allow the agent to premium write, finance, undercut and conduct themselves in the manner in which you allow. Then by all means, do not complain about the down fall of this industry and do not put all the blame on your agents. As a General, if you are into high volume bonds rather than quality. If you put pressure on your agents to write more bonds,then accept the concequenses that comes with the added stress to your agents.

If you truly want to change this industry for the better and you truly want to have each and every agent and General Agent on the same page, then unfortunately you are going to have to have someone put in place rules and regulations that forces all to follow. Les Hogue seems to be an honorable man, and from speaking with him, it seems he truly wants to clean this industry up.

Why would it be such an impossible task to maybe sit down with Les Hogue, the Dept. of Insurance,and whomever the new director turns out to be and impliment policy and proceedures to enforce many of the laws already on the books to work towards cleaning this industry up? I am not an advocate putting anyone out of work or preventing anyone from going to work, but in order to change anything for the better it is the General Agents who have to get on board and clean up thier own house before they can tell anyone else how to conduct business. If everyone had to follow the same RULES then there would be no questions.

Mr. Cooper and Mr. Thomas and many others have very good points of interest but putting them all in a blog, or sitting around talking about it does absolutely nothing to change things. If you manage to get all the Generals to come together in some sort of Independant Association and actually agree on how to change things for the better, please call me, as I would be one of your biggest advocates and allie.

If I have a tire that keeps going flat and all I do is keep putting air in it. eventually it will blow out doing unknown damage. Our Industry is just that. Unil we actually fix it, eventually it will blow out and all of us will suffer.

Thanks for reading
Tim Bruce
General Agent.

5 comments:

  1. I believe the problems in this buisness are deeper than everyone believes. We know we have too many bondsmen in every county. We know everyone offers discounts and payment plans. So we are actually doing the same deals company to company. Is this right? No! But everyone is doing it so it's hard to fix. Almost everyone even offer discounts on phone book ads.
    One of the biggest problems in this business is the large cash bond. What burns me is to see a large cash bond reduced to a small surity. My point is why did the judge set the cash bond? Is it so an attorny can get paid first? I see to many bond reductions to believe other wise. So we are left after a 25,000 "cash only" gets changed to a 5,000 surity our client now has no money for a bondsman but the lawyer has money in his pocket. In my opinion cash only ='s cash only. Someone wrote on a earlier post that we need to take the amount of money the judge sets because that's why he set the amount, I've seen to many times the system work against bondsmen to get the lawyer the first pay check. If the judge was to set only one bond with no reductions (cash only or surity) Then we would have more of a chance to collect the full %10. This is only a select amount of cases and I know is not an every day event, but it's still a big issue.
    My other complaint is bondsmen rumored to be giving the jailers kick backs. You are the reason this buisness has a bad name. You are a poor business man with no ability to make it on your own.
    My point is bail bondsmen have to many people to worry about. We are effected by other bondsmen, judges, jailers, inmates, and MONEY. We set in the gray area between court and law. When we are looked at as tax saving jailers who we are then maybe everyone can come together to save this industy.

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  2. Wayne O'Brien Anderson Jr.2/16/2009 7:38 AM

    Just a point I would like to make. I think there is a lot of things that can be done to clean up any industry. To start cutting throats to do it only tarnishes it more. We can lobby, push bills, point fingers and scream our heads off until were tired...including placing blame on others for there business ethics. The way they conduct their business is not why our business is not what it used to be. NO business is what it used to be ...hello we're in a economic crises guys...Why say I got it and I know they don't, so if we raise this it will eliminate them..and my portion of the pie will be bigger. Yes, I'm talking raising the placement amount of the cd to 50,000. God has blessed me and I've got it...but a lot of people don't. These are the people I've been in business with,yes other company's. Honest hard working people that don't have it..Why?....HELLO WERE IN A ECOMNOMIC CRISES. You want to eliminate more jobs?? You want to make it harder for the honest hard working people just for the wrong doing of others? That's what it will do. Let nature take it coarse and it will. Just take care of our own business and follow the rules. Pretty easy huh? Or would you rather sit around and say...if we cut this out this would eliminate these people in business, and if we raised this amount that would eliminate them...Bottom line..why put people out of work for personal gain? We all know there have been some bad things going on in this industry...but bottom line, Time took its course. All of us know Company's that in the past have done some pretty un-ethical things in this Industry. They more than likely are gone... or going to be gone. Let nature take it course as it does in all things in life. Focus on your own business. Make you own investments in your personal inventory..it works!!! I have been in this Industry for 10 years. Agents come and go as employee's in any company. I've survived growing pains as it is a part of any business. Look around businesses come and go in any industry. Sorry it's a fact of life. Not right or ethical in the ways it happens sometimes but it does happen...and always will. I've been lucky to have such wonderful employee's for many years. Why? Choice and learning process. As any other owner. My employee's are family. They have seen me thru tough times in this business. We will continue to write bail and take accountability for our own actions as we have done since we have been in business. We have NO unsatisfied judgement's in the state of Missouri so the system does work if you follow the rules. For those who don't? They never will no matter what you do. Thanks for your time Wayne O'Brien Anderson Jr.

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  3. Tim Bruce GBA2/16/2009 6:03 PM

    I have sit here and thought allot about the comment of just sit and wait and eventually the problem bondsmen will be gone. At what expense?

    I am not an advocate of putting anyone out of work, but I have to take the position that if someone does something or is doing something that affects my business in a negative way and or conducting business in such a manner that it makes us all look like thugs,which in turn affects my family, then I feel I have the right to not only voice my opinion, but to also do something about it.

    I still maintain that it is the General Agents who are responsible for the actions of thier agents. The agents will only conduct business in a manner in which the General allows. If any General does not have control over and monitors his/her agents, then all of it is on him.

    If I have to support a bill that would cut most of the so called trash bondsman out of this industry in-order to protect my livelyhood and my business, then so be it. I would not have been placed in this position if everyone conducted business as they should have.

    The economic crisis is in fact a reality, but what amazes me is that the criminal elliment that we deal with still manages to come up with the money to get out of jail. It is only when they are given the oportunity to shop around for cheaper rates that they do so. Also, due to the economic crisis, the crime rate is going up, which will ultimately produce more clients in case you have not already noticed.

    As far as cash bonds. Yea that pretty well sucks. What is even worse we have some Judges now that when issuing a warrant will set the bond (for example> $200.00 cash or $2000.00 surety) 10% to the court. Wouldn't that completely put us out if all Judges adopted that plan?

    Bond reductions are not a bad thing. With the over populated Jails, I have even suggested to some Judges to lower bonds in order for defendants to be able to post some kind of bond. I do not know about you, but I will look for a $5000.00 runner just as hard as I would a $10,000.00 runner. I also do not have a problem with helping (so to speak) the attorneys get thier money. A defendant without an attorney on his/her case is more apt to FTA as one with an attorney. (think about that a little).

    Being in this business 16 years, I too have seen allot of agents and companies come and go, and since I am in this for the long haul, I am sure I will see even more go. However, I like any other General agent who reads this, will do what ever it takes to protect my business, my liveley hood and my family. Would you expect anything less??

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  4. Very good article. I find myself competing more with my own company than I do with other bail agents! We have about 6 agents in one county and 3 or 4 in each other county. We can barely survive without having to take huge bonds with a fraction down and we find ourselves always running after them. We can't get to a point of writing solid good bonds if we have to put food on the table by writing 100k bonds with 2k down, but If we don't write one like that then we lose our houses and cars and trucks etc;. We can never even keep the phone bills paid and when we do that is what all our money goes too. Thanks again for a great article. I hope my general will read it.

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  5. It seems to me that one of the biggest concerns discussed in these forums thus far, is the number of bail bond agents in the state today.

    I'm not saying that this is the solution, but one approach may be to impose regulations limiting the number of BBA's that each general can employ under his license.

    Just a thought...

    ReplyDelete

Although Missouri Bondsman encourages debate on topics of interest to the bail industry, please be aware that comments are moderated. Please observe the posting rules. No comments will be printed that contain spam, profanity, or libelous comments. Please post comments in a civil, professional manner.

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