On the latest episode of our Smart Compliance Podcast, Mark Ornstein stopped by to talk about his unique perspective as a dealership owner who became an attorney.
More of a reader than a listener? Here are some notable highlights:
Generally speaking, you can break non-compliance into two categories: 1) careless and uninformed mistakes, and 2) acts of willful wrongdoing. Forging a customer’s signature on an auto sales contract sounds like it belongs firmly in the second category.
But imagine that the employee committing the offense doesn’t see it that way. If it’s not deliberate misconduct, what could possibly motivate an employee to do such a thing?
How about “incessant laziness?” That’s according to Mark Ornstein, a motor vehicle franchise lawyer with Bass Sox Mercer in Florida. A former dealership owner and general manager, Mark has a unique perspective on automotive industry compliance. He says that convincing employees that the right thing isn’t always the easy thing is the first step to avoiding regulatory action or the wrath of an attorney general:
The first place that you see people get in trouble all the time is if they’re in F&I, and they forget to get a signature or something else, and you’ve got an F&I person who all of a sudden will start signing customer’s name—not because he has to, not because he’s trying to make money, but because he’s lazy. He forgot to get the signature. Everybody in my F&I department knows I want everything done correctly. I get my paperwork at a certain time, and they know that if they don’t do it correctly, I will dock their pay and I don’t pay on deals that are incomplete. So, from that standpoint, they know also that I want it correct. A lot of times, dealers don’t emphasize that they want everything done legally or correctly. Sometimes they look the other way. And there’s no question: it’s easier to sell a car if you’re not following the rules. It’s easier to do your paperwork if you’re not following the rules. The problem is that kind of behavior will cost you money in the long run.
Suffice it say, Mark is a firm believer in the power of a GM to establish organizational expectations and culture. On the latest episode of our Smart Compliance Podcast, he got candid with podcast host Kynzie Sims about the costly oversights he sees too many dealerships fall prey to, how he believes detailed compliance information emboldens dealers, why he recently chose to make the switch from dealership to law firm, and what he tells his clients now that he’s on the other side of the table:
[W]ith the [right compliance] systems in place, at least I have an idea that the information is available to them to review, look and learn. Now, you still have to make sure [employees] read it and there’s nothing that I know from Compli that you’ll just be able to brain-meld and put the information in your head, but if you wanted to find the information in an easy fashion, you could do it. And as long as somebody’s doing that, I can sleep.
I think the biggest thing is be proactive, and don’t think that the answers are not [out] there. Don’t think that you need to have availability to the answers. One thing I will say is, as a lawyer, I am non-income producing expense. Every time you call me it costs you money. If you can do a lot of this yourself, and if you can take care of your overtime issues, and if you can do all that yourself—I mean, it’s cash money.
F&I Compliance Cheat Sheet
Keep Your Dealership Compliant
When it comes to federal regulations, your dealership’s F&I department has a lot to remember. They need to know the proper way to handle information, what boxes to check, and what suspicious activity to look for.