Advice from the general counsel
Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com
One of the joys of marriage is that I am exposed to a wide range of television and movies that I would never have considered as a single guy. Sappy Hallmark Channel movies, “The Bachelor”, and “Married at First Sight” all come to mind.
I will be the first to admit that some of these options have a significantly higher entertainment value than my old standbys of Fox News and The History Channel. (Don’t laugh too hard: I’m still coming to terms with the idea.) So it’s perhaps no surprise that this explosion of pop culture courtesy of my much cooler wife sometimes makes its way into my legal thinking. One such example: “Confessions of a Shopaholic”.
Yes, I know that the movie has been out for years, but life gets a little – shall we say – delayed when you have kids. The film might as well be a new release to me. I’m sure many of you can empathize.
In any case, you may recall that Isla Fisher’s character is mercilessly chased by debt collector “Derek Smeath” – the physical embodiment of, no doubt, all debt collectors. We deal with innumerable similar cases in my law practice and I can’t help but wonder how many of these security clearance holders have their own “green scarf” hidden away in a closet. (If you’ve never seen the movie, you’ll have to watch it to understand).
Whether It’s Your Fault or Not
Of course, I have also seen that the converse scenario is often true. Many, many of our clients are in their financial position at no fault of their own – the result of divorce, illness, a job loss, or similar circumstances. I truly sympathize for those individuals and it brings great gratification when we can help prevent another tragedy in the form of a security clearance denial.
No matter what the underlying reason for the debt, all security clearance applicants must resolve it in order to earn or retain the government’s trust. It is painstaking work that involves first identifying, then validating, then paying, settling, or disputing each and every derogatory account on one’s credit report. Ultimately, that means actually communicating with creditors. And, frequently, the Derek Smeath’s of the world.
I always advise security clearance applicants to hire a competent consumer debt attorney to handle all those communications for them. To start, a good debt attorney can often negotiate full satisfaction of delinquent accounts for pennies on the dollar, more than covering the legal fee you pay them. More importantly, a good debt attorney can help you avoid the traps that Derek Smeath and his cronies sometimes have waiting. Those traps could include convincing you to do something that inadvertently waives a statute of limitations or otherwise acknowledges your legal liability for a debt that is no longer collectible.
Hopefully, anyone contemplating trying to settle debts without legal representation now understands that is not advisable. But even a clearance holder who is confident enough to go it alone, as many do, should still remember one key word of advice: NEVER tell a creditor or debt collector WHY you are coming to the bargaining table.
You lose all negotiating power the minute Derek Smeath knows your security clearance – and thus your career – hangs in the balance.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.