Debt be gone

Jackson Bell

Employees at Financial Rescue Services are working to reverse a

backward approach to judging personal wealth.

“It has gotten to be that nowadays, you are worth how much you


owe,” said Joseph Lisa, the company’s vice president of corporate

affairs and compliance.

According to the Federal Reserve, $1.7 trillion in outstanding

consumer credit existed in the United States late last year. And


during a 12-month period that ended in June, the American Bankruptcy

Institute ranked California fifth among U.S. states for bankruptcy


Enter Financial Rescue Services, the Burbank-based company best

described by its name because it reduces the burdens of its

customers’ debts by renegotiating the amount with creditors.

“We’re a net that can catch people from bankruptcy,” Lisa said.

Liza Bernardino, vice president of public relations, said the


average debt reduction the company negotiates is 37 cents to the

dollar, although every customer’s case is circumstantial. The

company’s fee is 25% of the debt money it saves plus a monthly

maintenance fee of $50. She also said the whole process usually lasts

three years. The payment requirements are similar to those of other

such nationwide businesses.

Started three-and-a-half years ago by owners Martha Levitsky and

Mary Beth Harper, the company has grown tenfold from 12 to 105


employees since it moved to its Burbank office in June 2001. Lisa

said that monthly, it assists between 500 and 1,000 customers.

Besides tips like getting to know credit contracts and avoiding

high interest rates by paying beyond the minimum amount due, the best

advice the company can give its customers is also the most obvious.

“Don’t spend beyond your means and learn to budget [your funds],”

Bernardino said.

LaVonna Applebaum, senior vice president of public relations,

added that the company practices what it preaches by being free of