So I made the cover of the first issue of Deserve to Win the magazine.
This isn’t so great an accomplishment as it may seem since I own it… 😉
But a lot of folks have told me I should give everyone a taste of some of the content and I am getting incredible feedback–as you would expect–on the feature articles that looks at my efforts with R.E.A.C.H. and stopping unwanted robocalls.
So even though I planned not to share content from the magazine on TCPAWorld, I will this ONE TIME. But seriously, no more. If you want the magazine you have to ask for it–still free FOR LIFE but only until September 15, 2023. After that I am charging and I am thinking it will start at $24.99 an issue (valuable stuff)
Anyway, here is the article–Enjoy!:
CAN THE CZAR SAVE THE WORLD?: How One Lawyer Has Set Off to Stop Billions of Robocalls, While Keeping Thousands of Businesses Safe from Government Overreach
Sitting in his high-backed office chair in his corner office and stroking his goatee, the well-dressed and manicured lawyer actually looks like he might be a Czar.
And when he speaks, there is an unquestionable air of authority even as he cracks a wry smile and quips of the high-end skyrise housing his law firm: ‘Can you believe they let a guy like me into a place like this?”
Eric J. Troutman is one of the nation’s most powerful complex litigators. He has served as lead counsel in hundreds of putative nationwide class actions in federal court—the absolute crème de la crème of civil litigation. Indeed, only a tiny percentage of lawyers every practice complex litigation and fewer still handle such cases in federal court—the toughest and most demanding courts in the nation. Yet Troutman has made an entire career out of it leading many to call him simply “The Czar.”
“The tougher the case and higher the stakes, the more drawn I am to it I suppose.” Troutman muses, casting a long gaze out of the floor to ceiling windows in his office. “I’ve always been like that. I want to win in the toughest, most challenging environments. That’s the only way to know you really are the best.”
While Troutman’s legal pedigree is unquestionable—a graduate of top tier schools and former equity partner at some of the most prestigious law firms in the world—he comes from a different world than most attorneys.
“I grew up with absolutely nothing. I mean nothing.” He speaks with his hands waving for emphasis. “Where I come from you can’t be afraid to fight. You have to fight. That’s all there is. That’s your only chance. But most lawyers aren’t like me—deep down—they are afraid to fight. It almost makes it too easy.”
Unsurprisingly Troutman has an incredible track record of victories. He has never lost a trial and has supplied a steady drumbeat of first-in-the-nation wins. The sort of “once in a career” victories most lawyers would hold onto for life seem to be just all in a day’s work at his heavyweight law firm, Troutman Amin, LLP.
Indeed, although Troutman refuses to admit it, it almost seems as if the world of high-stakes litigation is not challenging enough to hold his attention. He is an absolutely prolific blogger—having penned thousands of articles on his award-winning “TCPAWorld.com”— he hosts an extremely well-reviewed podcast—Deserve to Win—finds time to speak at nearly a dozen conferences a year and seemingly joins a webinar a week on legal issues ranging from privacy litigation to AI. And—remarkably—he does all of it for free.
“The National Law Review once told me I write more articles than most entire Am Law 100 law firms.” He tells me with another chuckle, flashing a boyish smile once more. “I’m actually pretty proud of that.”
When asked why he never charges for his content he responds energetically “I don’t do it for money. That’s not what this is about. It can’t be. I really just want to help keep people informed and up to date on the law. Its really important that people be empowered to make good decisions. Especially when the stakes are so high.”
While Troutman’s commitment to spreading knowledge is laudable, perhaps his most impressive work is related to his effort to stop unwanted robocalls. Indeed, given his work helping some of the nation’s largest companies to comply with federal anti-robocall statutes Troutman has a credible claim to have stopped more robocalls than any human being alive.
“I go into these big companies and I help them to understand that what they’re doing is wrong. It may be profitable, but it is wrong.” Troutman says firmly. “And the remarkable thing is—these big companies that people don’t think care about them—they listen. They do care. And they change their practices. They really do. Because these big companies are really just a group of people. And people generally want to do the right thing. Just many times they don’t know how, or they’re maybe not sure they should because they have different pressures. But when the Czar tells them they need to change their ways—they do. And that really does feel great.”
While Troutman’s efforts have already stopped billions of unwanted calls, this is seemingly just a a drop in the bucket compared to his latest anti-robocall initiative.
“I have really dug in and I think I have found where a huge number of these robocalls are coming from—and its not necessarily where people think.” Troutman tells me. “There is an entire sub-culture of digital marketers—called “lead generators”—that gather and sell consumer information en masse. So whereas most people blame the telemarketers for the spam calls, many times it is not actually the marketers who are to blame. They are buying data that they are told is from a consumer who wants to receive calls. But many times that is not true. So whereas consumers blame the marketers they really need to look closer to get to the root of the problem.”
Troutman explains that the lead generation industry—like most industries— has both good and bad actors in it. The good actors provide clear and transparent disclosures and explain to consumers they will receive calls from some number of companies if they submit a form online. The bad actors, however, may play tricks on consumers to have them fill out forms for profit. Or even create fake records of consent forms that were never really filled out at all. And this has lead to a huge numbers of unwanted robocalls.
“The bad actors in the lead generation industry create billions of unwanted robocalls a year—and most of the time the companies that are actually placing the calls are not the bad guys. They’ve been duped and defrauded right along with the consumer.” Troutman explains. “It’s a terrible situation. And really no one was doing anything meaningful about it—until the Czar came along.”
To combat these abuses, Troutman has formed a trade organization called Responsible Enterprises Against Consumer Harassment—or R.E.A.C.H.— a California mutual benefit corporation dedicated to stopping between 500MM and 1BB robocalls a month by gathering industry participants together and seal commitments prevent certain abusive conduct. This includes a requirement that consumers be transparently informed—in a box akin to a Surgeon General’s warning—that consumers will receive robocalls by submitting an online submission.
“The companies that join R.E.A.C.H. take consumer privacy seriously. These are the good actors in the industry. And consumers should naturally look to work with companies like those in R.E.A.C.H.” Troutman says. “The end goal is to stop billions and billions of robocalls, but also to help the consumers know who the good guys out there are. When they see that R.E.A.C.H. logo on a website they should feel good about working with that company.”
But Troutman knows not every company will join R.E.A.C.H. even if it means doing so will help establish their place in the market as a good actor. And that’s why Troutman has taken the issue to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“The FCC sets the rules for federal anti-robocall laws” Troutman explains. “If I can get the FCC to adopt the fierce R.E.A.C.H. standards—which I hope they will—we will cut down on billions of unwanted robocalls overnight. It really is that simple.”
Remarkably, Troutman explains that his heavyweight law firm Troutman Amin, LLP has done all of the briefing to the FCC absolutely free of charge: “We did not charge anyone a penny for this. Not one penny. We did it because it’s the right thing to do and because we know it needs to be done.”
At the same time though Troutman cautions against a more severe crackdown on digital marketers. “As people learn more about the lead generation industry there is a real lynch mob mentality arising. People just want to shut the whole thing down. But doing so would deprive consumers of tons of information and comparison shopping opportunities that are free and really very valuable. So people need to be thoughtful here.”
Troutman says he hopes his efforts will lead to a sustainable new world where consumers receive calls only from companies they really want to hear from but, at the same time, a world where consumers still have many companies to work with—and lots of free and useful information— when they need goods or services.
“The goal is balance. We can’t come down too hard on innocent companies just because many people in the industry are acting wrongfully. We need to keep the good, and eradicate the bad. And that’s what R.E.A.C.H. is really all about.”
So will Troutman succeed in his quest to stop billions of unwanted robocalls while keeping thousands of small businesses in the lead generation world afloat?
“People who bet against the Czar don’t have the best track record.” He says wryly. “We’ll get this done. And I look forward to the peace and quiet.”