Tulsa debt collection firm gets up to $9 million in state money from the Quality Jobs Program

The state of Oklahoma may gamble up to $9 million to create 500 jobs to resurrect a Tulsa-based, debt collection company identical in its origins to one which closed under a cloud of fraud allegations and ultimate bankruptcy in 1998.

In a press release today (Tuesday, December 6), the Oklahoma Department of Commerce proclaimed it was handing the company’s past and present owner up to $9 million to help underwrite a 500-employee payroll.

A statement from CFS II (CFS or Commercial Financial Services in its first incarnation), the company said it has grown to 220 employees in about a year and a half, but will grow to 10,000 workers in the next three years, adding “we’ve done all this before.”

With the original CFS, Bill Bartmann made the list of Forbes richest men, and his company attracted acquisition interest from such corporate icons as Goldman Sachs.

At its zenith, the original 11-year-old, $1 billion company employed nearly 4,000 in Tulsa and at a Shepherd Mall Oklahoma City location. It rose to prominence quickly and touted perks such as free, on-site day care and mass Las Vegas Disneyland trips for employees.

Executives and analysts said the company was achieving collection rates as high as 48 percent using a non-traditional, respectful and positive approach to debtors.

But it was employees who were among those who paid the price in the company’s sudden 1998 demise and ultimate bankruptcy. (In a bankruptcy liquidation, workers are classified as unsecured creditors.)

Bartmann and company partner Jay Jones were both indicted by a grand jury but only Jones was convicted of a crime. He was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy. He was released in 2007.

Bartmann went on to become a self-proclaimed advocate of debt collection reform and re-opened his company.

In a Nov. 10, 2010 Tulsa World report, Bartmann said he would not have a partner in the new CFS II venture.

In response to queries to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce regarding the rationale of the Quality Jobs financial commitment to CFS II, media relations specialist Dustin Pyatt sent the following, written statement to CapitolBeatOK:

“While Bill Bartmann was indicted, he was found not guilty of any crime.
“· Bill Bartmann is the sole owner of CFS II.
“· The company now works on debt that is owned by others, not himself (the owners).
“While we cannot share internal Quality Jobs Program documents, the company did put safeguards in place to prevent the recurrence of past activities that plagued Commercial Financial Services.

“CFS II, as any company enrolled in the Quality Jobs Program, will only receive benefits for actual jobs created in Oklahoma.“According to Quality Jobs Program statutes, the Incentive Approval Committee is charged with reviewing, among other things, adjustment and collection services companies which fall under NAICS Code 561440, such as CFS II, to insure a minimum of 75% of the loans to be serviced by the company were made by out-of-state debtors. 

The members of the committee include the Director of the Office of State Finance, the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and one member of the Oklahoma Tax Commission.”