NAPBS 2013 Mid-Year Conference

NAPBS 2013 Mid-Year Conference Arlington, Virginia April 14-17, 2013


The total count of attendees at this mid-year conference was 364, up from 342 at the last mid-year in 2011 and from 294 in 2010 and 249 in 2009.   A great turnout for this mid-year that combined the traditional conference with the traditional “fly-in” designed to create the opportunity to present NAPBS to the administrators and legislators on the hill.  Attendees were from USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Saipan and India.  We stayed at a two-year-old Renaissance Hotel and it was beautiful, shiny and all the staff seemed to be extremely helpful and always wearing a smile.

The conference kicked off on Sunday night with the opening ceremony followed by the exhibit floor open to all.  Forty-five exhibitors again supported NAPBS this year, the same as the last mid-year.  There were others that wanted to exhibit but the space was sold out.  Lots of exhibitor prizes too, from candy to an iPad to a Windows8 Surface tablet.

One of the highlights was the addition of sixteen accredited companies, now a total of 36.  The accreditation process is very time consuming and very thorough, so I congratulate all the companies who have completed the accreditation process.  The good news is that at least one company has introduced a service to help you through this process   If you have not looked into what it takes to become accredited, go onto the napbs website and it will have everything you need to get the process started.  It is no longer a matter of if you will become accredited but when.  The goal is to have everyone accredited so we can show government elected officials and the bureaucrats that we are not just providing a Google search, but a comprehensive, professional, high quality product backed by good practices derived from a lot of hard work and human intervention into the process.  One company commented that about 40% of their RFPs ask if the CRA is accredited.

NAPBS also offers an FCRA accreditation for individuals as well as an advanced individual accreditation and a separate test for providers.  Taking and passing these makes your staff more knowledgeable and makes you a better CRA and creates a nice marketing tool to separate yourself from your competition.

In one general session, they showed the financial status of NAPBS, available to members on  Revenues fell just short of $975k with 16% from dues and 50% from conferences.  Expenses totaled about $855k so we were able to add $20k to our reserve.  Kudos to the board of directors for the hundreds of hours they put into keeping our association valid, vibrant and functional.  Because Lexis-Nexis had made significant non-cash contributions to NAPBS in the form of data and legal, this may be lost due to the sale of Lexis to FADV.  We are hoping FADV will help shoulder some of this in support of NAPBS.  Regardless, there has not been a dues increase for years so get ready to contribute another couple of bucks a week.  Still the best value around.  Speaking of which, be sure to check out the Affinity Programs offered via NAPBS.  Affinity programs have savings for you and a referral fee for NAPBS.

During many presentations, there seemed to be a concentration of the “doom and gloom” subjects that do and will potentially affect our industry, with consumers suing, class actions suits, nuisance suits, and potential new legislation at the Federal, State and Local levels.  I think this information is being misheard.  This kind of concern has been voiced at every screeners conference I have attended in the past decade.  Some have come true, some not.  But the underlying theme is you are truly at risk.  Not such a terrible risk that you should go home and shutter your business, but risk enough to make sure you are conducting best practices and have documented procedures and are operating your business as a Consumer Reporting Agency with the emphasis on Consumer because that is who all these new laws are trying to protect.

There were so many different breakout sessions, it was difficult to choose.  In addition we gave an hour long vendor demo on Dexter and another on the Background Warehouse; Accio and CoreLogic each had one on their product as well.  It was a full packed schedule from early until late.  However, I did get a chance to attend the educational session presented by Steve Millwee about the risks today in our industry being pursued by litigation attorneys trying to do nuisance suits.  His wisdom was: Make the consumer your friend and they will not sue you.  If you have a consumer dispute, handle it like that consumer is the most important thing on your agenda.  Sympathize with the consumer and promise to do everything necessary to re confirm the data and stay in communication with them and their prospective employer until this is resolved.  Just like people who like their physicians rarely sue them, even when they make a mistake, so it goes in our industry.

Fun Times:

Monday night saw Innovative Enterprises again with an open bar bash (the No-Sales Zone).  Lots of fun, dancing, talking and camaraderie.   Thanks to Innovative for this and to all the exhibitors who sponsored all the functions.

Tuesday night was a Mystery Murder dinner.  The acoustics in the room left much to be desired but we all had a very nice meal and a whole bunch of fun.

We all ate a bit too much and had a bit too much candy from all the exhibit booths, but that is part of the “punishment” we must endure.

On the Hill:

Wednesday was an early day, picked up by a bus at 6:45am to go to the law offices of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP (NAPBS’ government relations legal firm) for organizing our visits to government agencies and elected officials.  Montserrat Miller took us through a very long but valuable organizational and briefing process that resulted in us being comfortable with where we were going, how we should behave and how the interaction would go once we were at our destination.

Before we split up to meet with our respective elected officials (or their staff), 40 or so of us heard a briefing from the FTC and the remainder (me included in a group of 10) were briefed  by Bob Belair of AGG, LLP regarding our visit to the CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau), the new agency that is (will be) responsible for administering CRAs under the FCRA.  We learned that napbs was able to lobby to carve Background Screening companies (tenant and employment) out of the regulation regarding supervision by CFPB.  While this is great, we learned that CFPB might still have the authority to take enforcement action.  Seems like a fine legal point to me, but suffice to say, you should be thrilled that NAPBS is there on the offensive and the defensive for you and your industry.

We then met with Corey Stone, the Assistant Director, Office of Deposits, Collections and Credit Information Markets, plus two of his FCRA staff attorneys hired away from the FTC.  You ask, ‘how do we fit in that category?’ and the answer is: there is no better category.  In our meeting it was made clear that the CFPB is not looking at our industry at this time.  They have bigger fish to fry.  But, as they grow and need more things to justify their budgets, this may change.  What was really cool is that our little group of ten or so was able to give them a 10 minute history of our industry, a history of how NAPBS was formed, its mission and we were able to educate them on the complexity of actually doing what we do, including that an Employment Credit report does not contain a score, that we don’t just pull data off a Google search, that we go to great lengths to provide accurate and current data in compliance with the FCRA and we follow adverse action notices to consumers and help them in their dispute resolution.  They emphasized that the CFPB is “totally consumer oriented”.  They are there to protect the consumer.  Bottom line is if you don’t create trouble for the consumer then you should be in good shape.  Same goes for our industry.  If we are truly professional and follow FCRA and best practices and are accredited and take actions to protect the consumer and educate congress and the government agencies that we are the good guys and not the bad guys, then we will not only not be hassled by the government, we won’t be making headlines on CBS.  CPFB is building a sizeable bureaucracy, currently at 1200 employees, with 1545 by the end of 2015 and eventually 2000 employees.  For more information go here.  For now, they have plenty to do outside background checks to protect the consumer so now is the time to get your act in shape.

So what does this mean to you, the CRA?  You are probably not at much risk of action by the CPFB if you are not selling reports into the financial markets or are doing less than $7M in annual sales of background checks.  Of course, if you manage to have no consumer disputes, you have almost no risk.  So, appoint a Compliance Officer and a Privacy Officer, conduct a self-check of how well you do when there is a dispute.  Sure the FCRA gives you 30 days to resolve this, but if you were the consumer with a dispute would you want to wait 30 days and loose that job opportunity?  Of course not.  So make dispute resolution a top item for you.  Put your procedures in writing and then follow them.  You might want to go so far as to review the CFBP CRA Exam Manual (ugh!).  The key to all this is to think of yourself as representing all the consumers on whom you make a report to your client.  If there is an error or a dispute, move quickly to resolve and to assist the consumer in every way possible to get the situation resolved, even if it is the fault of the court and not yours.

So we had a five hour time investment made by 10 NAPBS members to communicate to our potential future regulators what we were all about.  I thought it went swimmingly and was worth our efforts and was an educational experience for me.  You truly have no idea how many hours and efforts are made by your NAPBS volunteers.

Industry Trends:


 – GAPRS sold to Thompson Reuters.

– County House Research continues to grow by acquiring Criminal Data Specialists, Inc. (Berg Consulting Group represented the seller).

– CoreLogic divested ADR.

– InfoTrack has divested much of their business.

– First Advantage seems to have shifted out of all their services except talent acquisition, tax credits and screening & assessments.  Looks like they are moving back to the basics like we had in 1998 when they acquired me.  Mark Parise is their new CEO as of April 1st.

– ERC DataPlus was sold to People Strategy, Inc.

– Merlin sold to TLO.

– Integrity Works –  Sold (Berg Consulting Group represented the seller) to another industry CRA

Industry Health:

 – Business is up for most CRAs.  While the unemployment rate is no longer falling, there is still turnover and we are needed.  Several significant CRAs told me 2012 was their best year ever.  Several others report sales up over 35%.  They also report that the larger CRAs are still not taking proper care of their customers to keep them.

– We reported last year “There are rumors (many confirmed) circulating that some of the “big boys” are for sale”.  Well, we saw that come true with Lexis-Nexis selling to First Advantage.  We know from our M&A intermediary services that there is definitely activity in this area, with valuations holding up fine.  Stay tuned.


– Fred Giles is still President.  He and the other officers agreed to extend their term by six months in order to sync the length of service in office to coincide with the annual conference, which is now held in the fall.  Thanks Fred.

– At our exhibit booth we personally met with 7 start-up CRAs so people are still entering this fertile marketplace.

– An amazing 36 members volunteered to join one of the committees and become active.  This is how NAPBS gets work done.

People Stuff:

 – David Abright will be retiring from GAPRS after he sold.  Good Luck in the future, David.

– Haynes Young is no longer with Pinkerton.

– Dawn Standerwick from Applicant Insight to Credential Check.

– Angela Bosworth from OpenOnline to EmployeeScreenIQ and also got married.

– Allison Sestak Bang is excited to be expecting twins.

– Leanne Jones is now with Employment Research Services.

– Hank Asher, founder of DBT (sold to ChoicePoint), Accurint (sold to Lexis-Nexis) and, most recently, TLO, passed away suddenly in January.

– Tracy Seabrook (our executive director with IMI from our inception until 2010) was killed in a motorcycle accident.  In the closing general conference meeting, there was a remembrance to her.

Dean Carras and Adam Townsend did a fantastic job again as chair of the Conference Committee in pulling off a super meeting.  Big Thanks to them and the entire committee for a “hitch less” conference.

I thought this was a great conference with great educational seminars, meaningful conversations during the trade show and an overall positive vibe from the attendees regarding our industry and its future.  If you did not attend, you missed out.  Your company will not be as strong, your people not as knowledgeable, your clients not as well served.  It’s your industry, join napbs, support NAPBS, become active in a committee and come to the conferences.

The Fall Conference will be our 10th year!  Attend at JW. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, AZ, September 15 – 17, 2013.  Put it in your budget and on your calendar.

Bruce Berg


Marcia Thiel on May 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm said:

Great info, Bruce. Thank you!


Steve Gonzalez on May 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm said:

Bruce – You’re the best. Thanks for the full recap. Concur it’s great for those of us unable to attend. (but plan to again soon) Your info is very good. Lots of important topics.


Joan Hall on May 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm said:

Thank you Bruce, I always enjoy your informative recaps!. Joan Hall (Facts on Demand)


Steven C. Millwee, CPPon May 1, 2013 at 12:43 am said:

Bruce, thank you for taking the time to write a professional recap that will encourage continued support and attendance in NAPBS.


Jennifer (Murphy) Kerriganon April 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm said:

Bruce, I agree with Linda, you always do such a wonderful job with the conference recap – it’s especially nice when we aren’t able to make it! Thanks! Jennifer Kerrigan (HR Screening Services)


Linda Gandee on April 30, 2013 at 5:22 pm said:

Thanks again Bruce, as always, you do a wonderful job in your updates and reports. Always look forward to these!