PBSA Annual Conference Report 2021


Anaheim CA.  September 12-14, 2021


This was a dual conference, both in-person and virtual.  The in-person attendance numbers were much less than in the past but still 391 in-person and 255 virtual for a total of over 600.  And while the quantity was not the highest ever, it still was excellent.   There were 146 sponsors on site and 20 virtual.  This is great financial support from the providers to the industry.  Everyone started out wearing a mask but quickly became less and less so.  Some remained mask-diligent, some greeted with only bumped elbows, some went as far as bumping fists and then there were the real, old-fashioned handshakes (boy, was that a nice change!) and finally lots and lots of warm hugs.



The volunteers and professionals at PBSA are working hard for the industry. OMG, there is so much going on and so much to do.  Michelle Leblond turned over the reigns of PBSA to Kelly Uebel with a great Leblond speech and a fun song for Kelly.  The Chair Elect is Scott Maloney, another capable leader guiding the way for the future of our industry.

PBSA is such a fun group of people all willing to share so much. Newcomers are always surprised that this group of competitors can be so friendly and share so much.  A great culture that has been part of this association from the onset.



The annual Lifetime Achievement Award for the person who has contributed so much to the industry was re-named the Mike Sankey (RIP) Award after its first recipient in 2019.  The 2020 award went to Les Rosen and this year to Judith Gootkind, my friend, and another very deserving awardee.  Congrats for this truly deserved recognition, Judy!!



Many critical, timely and informative sessions were covered over the two days of the conference.  I won’t list them all here but if you want to know more specifics, see the PBSA website.  I had the pleasure of partaking in a presentation this year, “What to expect when you’re expecting….to buy or sell a CRA” along with Julie Hakman, John McTighe and organized and moderated by Elaine Rosenberg (kudos Elaine!).  We shared our experiences in buying, selling, and mediating deals.  The attendance was great and we had very positive feedback.  As Berg Consulting Group is the leading M&A intermediary, it was nice to hear others’ perspectives on how best to accomplish M&A without failure and without investing an inordinate amount of time.



The association added nine new accredited CRAs this year.  Membership is down due to some CRAs being severely impacted by COVID, the restructuring of dues categories and the ongoing consolidation in the industry.  However, PBSA is on solid financial grounds and continues to have healthy financial reserves.  Congrats to Fred Giles who started the effort to build these reserves.

There were 56 different presenters at the conference.  This is a huge investment in time and information that is provided to you as a member/attendee.  An invaluable return on your small investment in supporting your Association.

A great recap was presented on the efforts by PBSA and its court relations committee regarding fighting the forces that are pushing to redact DOB information (MI and CA) and their success last year in temporarily delaying Michigan’s redaction and in gaining access to the court records in Benton County, AR.  PBSA has formed a highly effective special task force for quick response and continuous follow up (including lawsuits, when all else fails) when courts are trying to redact personally identifiable information, particularly DOBs.



Compliance, Compliance, Compliance.  The attorneys didn’t seem quite so frightening this time around.  This is still a serious challenge so be sure you are in great shape by following federal, state, and local laws and by keeping your clients in compliance.  Make sure you have solid standard operating procedures in place and that you do actually follow them.

Every CRA I spoke with says they are showing good sales revenue in 2021 especially following 2020 with the impact of Covid-19. The current challenge is they could not hire enough people fast enough to keep up with the demand.



I was hearing from a lot of companies about their interest in acquisitions although I was also approached by those wanted to sell.  A lot of companies are not only interested in a seller’s book of business, but they are also very interested, more than ever, in keeping all staff members on with the acquiring company. The industry is still very much in a sellers’ marketplace with many more buyers than sellers.  Here is a recap of some of the recent deals in our industry. 

  • First Advantage went public.
  • Sterling has filed to go public.
  • Checkr got a $250M investment at a valuation of $2.6B.
  • HireRight to go public. Rumor?
  • ESS-AL was acquired.
  • TazWorks was acquired.
  • Accurate bought Careerbuilder screening services.
  • Marc Linchuck bought out Linda Mack at Global Investigative Services.
  • Stage One Screening was acquired (Berg was the intermediary).
  • Appriss was sold to Equifax Workplace solutions for a big chunk of money ($1.8B). Appriss was a combination of Appriss (arrest records), Innovative, CrimeFinders, Typhoon Data and Securitec Screening.
  • RefCheck was acquired (Berg was the intermediary).
  • OrangeTree was acquired by a private equity firm.
  • Checkr acquires Rapidcourt.
  • Verisys acquires Med Advantage Credentials Verification Organization services.
  • And, we anticipate three more deals will be concluded later this year using our M&A services and we have several companies aggressively looking to pick up properties.

The international landscape continues to grow.  Background screening in international markets is becoming more and more the accepted practice just like it has developed domestically over the past 30 years.



The PBSA sponsored party on Sunday night was a great time with a band playing oldies (my kind of music) and not so loud you couldn’t talk.  Monday night was another winner (thanks AccioData).   These get togethers are a great opportunity to meet new people, to connect to talk about common work challenges and issues, and to just have some fun.  A couple of people had maybe a bit too much fun but no reports of injuries and everyone seemed to show up for work the next morning.



  • While TazWorks was a sponsor and had a booth, their people were not in attendance. Apparently, their company policy prohibited travel due to COVID, but they kept their sponsorship and definitely signed up to exhibit and sponsor at the 2022 spring conference.
  • deverus was not exhibiting.
  • FRS was not exhibiting.
  • BackgroundChecks.com (now part of HireRight) is no longer selling NatCrims wholesale.
  • Alicia Jones (fmr Backgrundchecks.com) left Tracers and is now with SJV.
  • Craig Kessler (fmr CEO of BackgroundChecks.com) left in March and is on hiatus contemplating what might come next.
  • Dan Filby left Universal for his own entrepreneurial adventure.
  • Ryan Krostue left his role as COO at Universal and left the industry.
  • Melissa Kearns moved from Convergence to Lowers Risk Group.
  • Notable: RapidCourt was exhibiting under the RapidCourt name and with no appearances of their acquirer’s name.
  • Vital4 was in their glory touting some very strong technology and new services.
  • Hound Labs was a new exhibitor marketing a THC breathalyzer. They have picked up a lot of screening industry talent including Larry White (fmr EBI, eVerifile, Yale Associates and ChoicePoint) and Nina French (fmr Current Consulting and FADV), Vince Bonomo (fmr Accurate, i3Screen and Choicepoint), Maureen Dennison (fmr EBI, Trusted Employees, Verified Person and LexisNexis), Allyson Roberts (fmr Sterling/Talentwise) and Rebecca Roberts (fmr EBI, ESS-Alabama, Sterling and FADV). 
  • Perry Morgan has left Appriss (fmr Innovative) and is consulting.
  • Michelle Pachter left AccuSearch after 22 years.
  • Don Owens is now President at AccuSearch.

Educational sessions:  I didn’t have time to attend too many sessions, but in one they asked what was the difference between a Cyborg and an Android. Do you know? See here.  Current CRAs are using automation for compliance, analyzing disputes, identifying trends, automated data retrieval and for customer service (chat).  Are you?



1st Danger Alert.  From one of the sessions by the lawyers: The direction so far in the first eight months of the Biden administration appears negative toward the screening industry, with the EEOC, FTC and CFPB all now headed by “progressive” appointees. Would you believe there has already been a proposal to develop an exclusive federalized CRA run by the CFPB?  Of course, how could this ever happen?  And even if the Feds don’t do this, what about VNF (see next item)?

2nd Danger Alert. I got to attend the tail end of a presentation: The New Frontier in Resume Verifications: Standing still is not an option” where I was jarred into a state of alert when John Hartigan with Velocity Network Foundation (VNF) told us the goal of this non-profit is to create a system of verifiable data so the applicant can simply provide that data directly to the potential employer via an Apple or Google Wallet.  All the information will be supplied by the source (educational institutions, employers, licensing agencies, etc.). and, for criminal information, potentially by the arresting agency/court/state database/FBI.  When I asked the basic question:  What will be the roll of the CRA in this? The answer, after a long pregnant pause, was: We have CRAs on our board of directors who will have to figure out how to monetize this for their companies, but yes, if this all comes to fruition, there would be no need for background checking companies.  That sure got my attention.  Of course, they have a long road to go but look at who is involved.  Here is their website and here is their white paper and here is their board, including CRAs HireRight and Cisive.

Concerned about the federal government intrusion? Concerned about VNF?  Concerned about redaction of DOBs in the counties and eager to see DOBs on PACER? Support PBSA. If you are not a member, just join.  It really is not expensive (couple of bucks a day), especially compared to the value you receive.  Contribute, join, learn, be active, benefit.  Governments (federal, state and local), continue to make decisions that impact your business.  As a member your dues contribute to legal costs to defend you and your industry before all these uninformed, misinformed, and biased legislators and judges make decisions that will hurt your company.


2022 PBSA Spring Conference in DC (Apr 16-18)

2022 PBSA Fall Conference in Denver. (Sept 11-13)

Remember, PBSA is the voice of the screening industry.


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