Enrolling a Merchant’s “Debt” May Be Harmful… to the MerchantMarch 29, 2017 | By: Sean Murray
How would you like to make $12,000 on a single referral?, a flyer directed at business finance brokers asks. This ad wasn’t offering a commission for brokering a loan or advance, but rather for enrolling a merchant’s debt into the company’s restructuring program. Debt restructuring, negotiation, or settlement is a booming cottage industry these days. Some of these debt restructuring companies promise ISOs that they will be completely discreet with referrals. Others offer them commission bonuses for achieving certain enrollment targets. It’s a way to monetize declined deals, they typically say.
For merchants, the allure of a restructuring company’s help might just be payment terms tied to their monthly budget. That’s allegedly what one NJ firm’s agreement says, in fact. “I hereby authorize [the company] to negotiate my unaffordable business debts and to enter into affordable repayment terms on my behalf based on my monthly budget,” reads a document submitted in a New York Supreme Court case involving Creditors Relief. And based on the marketing materials deBanked has reviewed from several similar companies, their definition of debt is so broad that it can even include things that aren’t debt, like merchant cash advances, for example.
Even if the restructuring company held a critical view of MCAs and believed them to be loans, treating them as such for the purpose of negotiation might actually cause harm to their customers. That’s because a well-formed MCA contract already offers payment adjustments at regular intervals to appropriately match a merchant’s sales activity. Depending on what the language says, a merchant might just have to call their funder and ask them to reduce the debits to reflect their current sales activity. And yes this goes for ACH-only deals. Even ones that could appear to have fixed payments do not actually have fixed payments. This is basically how all MCAs work by the way, so if you are a broker or funder and this all sounds foreign to you, you need to take this course ASAP.
The point is this: a merchant need not pay a fee to an outside company to restructure anything when sales drop because a free remedy already likely exists and is a key benefit to MCAs in the first place. And yes, I’m talking about MCAs with daily ACH debits. If you’re confused by this, you need to take this course ASAP.
The best advice a restructuring firm can give a merchant struggling with an MCA due to slow sales is to tell them to look for a reconciliation clause in their contract that explains how to get the payments reduced. Once the merchant finds it, have them call the funder and execute it. There’s no need to enroll anything, negotiate anything, risk breaching a contract, or pay a broker tens of thousands of dollars in commissions. The debt restructuring firm might not want merchants to simply take advantage of what they’re already entitled to however, because they stand to make no money that way. In this regard, mischaracterizing future receivable sales as loans only serves to carry out their agenda to confuse merchants about what their rights might be under those agreements.
I myself, am occasionally contacted by merchants who claim to be facing hardship and in one instance where a merchant had spoken to a negotiator, the negotiator didn’t tell him that the remedy he sought was already a natural provision of his contract. I helped him find it. He didn’t have to pay any fees which would’ve gone to pay someone a huge commission or end up in some crazy situation where he’s being sued for breach of contract. Think about this the next time you encounter a distressed merchant. Not everything is debt and that can be very much to the merchant’s benefit.
If you work for a debt restructuring, settlement, or negotiation company, you should probably take this course too. It will help you understand MCA agreements and what remedies merchants already have at their disposal.
Last modified: March 29, 2017
Sean Murray is the founder of deBanked, a 10-year veteran of the merchant cash advance industry, a casual Lending Club and Prosper investor, the co-founder of Daily Funder, an alternative lending speaker, consultant, writer, and enthusiast. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter.