In this post I discuss the various interest groups associated with IRTA and what their options are in regards to dealing with the Universal Currency fraud. As I see it, everyone is in a Catch 22 – Executive Director Ron Whitney, President Annette Riggs, the entire IRTA Board, IRTA’s Lawyer Carl Steinbrenner, Bartercard and the Members are all to some extent in a Catch 22.
A Catch 22 is a logical thing – a position in which someone is in a ‘damned if I do and damned if I don’t’ situation that is impossible to get out of. The phrase came from a satirical novel written 50 years ago that detailed the quandary of a pilot in the Second World War who attempted to seek immunity from dangerous service on the grounds of insanity. His application for release was denied on the grounds that if he was attempting to get out of a hellish situation then in no way could he be insane – because the self-preservation proved sanity. Obviously no sane person would want to stay in extreme danger.
The SUBJECT of these Catch 22s, is the fraud within Universal Currency, that I have exposed in my recent blogging.
The PROBLEM however (as with many Catch 22’s) relates to the politics surrounding the power of some exercised over others. Those with power will find it hard to act constructively within the power they have because the more they defend, the deeper in the poo they go.
The catch is that if they do the honourable thing and fess up then they will of course incriminate themselves. If they do the dishonourable thing and lie, deceive, obfuscate or manipulate others in the face of the constant glare of a blogger on their case, then they are providing more evidence of their corruption and self-interest.
When the light comes on and they are exposed (which is what I am doing day after day), it’s a no-win situation for the greedy, the deceivers, those who use doubletalk, manipulate and those out to look after their own interests. The example that I’ve used many times is that cockroaches live in the dark, so turning the light on forces then to scurry away. While it’s a little aggressive to actually call otherwise good people names like this, my use of the phrase is a simile that really does bring a smile to the faces of those who don’t like the way things are being done and who want things sorted.
In the current mess that IRTA finds itself in, there are many players.
You have the Board of IRTA. the President (Annette Riggs), the Executive Director (Ron Whitney), the IRTA Members, UC Members (You can be a UC Member without being an IRTA Member), IRTA’s legal counsel (Carl Steinbrenner), Bartercard, the technology provider (GETS) and of course me, the
sh*tstirrer with a sticky-beak blogger with an interest.
1. The Board
IRTA’s Board have got themselves into a very difficult position. On one hand they appointed Annette Riggs to the role of President and thus gave her power. She has used that power unwisely and if they dethrone her they will be saying that they made a big mistake appointing her. If they support her (through active endorsement or tacitly through silence) then they will face the music, which in the current situation is facing my class action lawsuit. Through inaction, division or whatever as the facts come out into the open they are finding to their dismay that they have really painted themselves into a very uncomfortable corner. Every question that I ask increases the heat on them and they know that the dreaded transparency will increase with my tipline clearly working very well.
Take the issue of the secret deal with Bartercard for example . . . How much did they know about the deal, and when did they learn about it? Which way did they vote? Why are the Board minutes top secret and why is the Board muzzled? Who issued the gag-order and why? Who is accountable to who and so on? Every question has an answer that puts them on the spot but not answering any of those questions ALSO puts them on the spot, for when you have responsibility for the Members’ interests calling on the 5th Amendment or staying quiet just incriminates you even more! That’s a Catch 22 if ever there was one.
It’s now way too late for any Board member to bale on the grounds of ethics or integrity because (figuratively speaking) I’ve got a loaded gun, it’s cocked, my finger is on the trigger, I’ve warned that I will pull it on the count of three and I’ve already counted ONE and TWO! Anyone who had thought that they will ‘just wait and see what happens’ has left it too late to move, because they will be forever labelled as rats leaving a sinking ship just to save their own hide.
The Board is in a difficult situation of their own making. If they do nothing or attempt to justify their past stupidity they will bury themselves even more. If they step up to the mark and deal with the matters constructively they will need to excuse the accused from the meeting and then censure the ones that are doing wrong. I’m ambivalent to what they do . . . personally I think they should take the bull by the horns and deal with the defamation thing quick smart. Bugger any issues surrounding UC for the moment . . . they will know that for the President to call me a liar in a public place, and even worse a guy with a hidden agenda, and even worse then supported by another Board Member will be big bucks exposure. You just DO NOT DO that sort of thing and get away with it, and if they don’t know that then they will know that inside 2 minutes when they chat with their lawyers! They should definitely gag or even dump their President, then open the UC books to a full audit (suspending the Executive Director immediately) then commence a full public investigation into the whole UC fraud (I mean haven’t I already done half of it for them?). Going on performance to date this would be a miracle if it happened, but it should.
Whatever the case, they’re in a BIG Catch 22!
2. IRTA’s President
Annette Riggs is in deep doo-doo. Regardless of whether it has occurred BECAUSE of her or INSPITE of her, the corruption I’m revealing has all happened under her leadership. The defamation though has occurred directly as a result of her big mouth. She appears to be able to say or do whatever she likes with the current Board and to my way of thinking, her arrogance has brought increasing shame to an organisation that has been around a lot longer than she has. She’s an Office-holder, and is supposed to be a representative of the organisation not a one-woman comedy-act. Her role is simply that, a role, and with a position of privilege like she has there is also a responsibility. To me, she has certainly grasped the former but not the latter.
I was intrigued at her response to the Satachi ethics complaint, which was essentially to wipe her hands of it, bouncing it off to Executive Director (Ron Whitney) like a massive hot potato. As a strong leader there is NO WAY that I would have bumped that one down the line. Understand this . . . at the time that the complaint came in, Bartercard was cosying up to IRTA behind the scenes with two deals on the cards – the dodgy bailout where UC funded Bartercard’s partial settlement with some UC Members which had only just been done earlier in the same year AND the secret deal with Bartercard to exclusively endorse their software solution as the “best in the industry” for the next 15 years exactly during the time that they were handling/mishandling the complaint. This screams CONFLICT OF INTEREST from which ever way you look at it, and the President says to Ron, essentially, “I don’t want to know about this – you deal with it!”
What sort of leadership is that?! Poor guy! I’d be drafting my resignation letter in an hour if I was working for that sort of a boss!
I’ve observed many times that Annette plays the player and not the ball. She personalises everything badly and while this may be great in a social sense, when it comes to business matters, facts and logic she’s simply not up to the role of President. Throw in a bit of self-interest and I think she’s single-handedly (with Rob van Hilten’s support) got the Board into a horrible, horrible mess. Her problem now is that she has lost all credibility. If she eats humble pie and backs down she’s got egg on her face having been proven to have caused the Board’s legal exposure. She’ll also be hating to hand me a personal victory (she thinks like that) because if she backs down then she is clearly implying that I was right and that things ARE going very wrong on her watch.
If she digs in and defends the indefensible she’ll increase the stakes with a dud hand and just make it a lot worse when the cards are all played.
It’s a classic Catch 22 and all of her own making. Sadly, as long as I live she will surely always have it in for me, rather than recognising that it’s nothing personal on my part.
3. The Executive Director
Ron Whitney is in deep doo-doo as well because his Catch 22 is as clear as clear can be.
As the Administrator of Universal Currency [there are different stories over that one BTW] he will carry the can for any irregularities.
The figures don’t balance . . . that’s fraud . . . so like it or not, like him or not, he has to go. That’s even before you drill down into the other questionable practices that the data alludes to. No Association especially one based in the USA can hold onto a guy who cooks their books so he will either resign or he will have to be sacked.
Either way, he will lose – his job, career, his reputation and possibly even his liberty if the matter goes to criminal and he’s found to have done things illegal.
One of the interesting things will be how it all plays out when all the facts come into the open. Did he initiate the fraud or was he operating under instruction from the President or were they working together? I have my opinion on this but until any investigation is done I can’t be sure. What I would say about it is this . . . in all the time that I have known Ron, I have NEVER seen him make an important decision without getting the green light from the President, and quite often the Board (or certainly the ‘friendly’ sections of the Board).
Ron’s Catch 22 is this . . . if he tries to hide things, he’ll be making it worse for himself, if he jumps then he’s pretty much acknowledging that something’s wrong and that he’s guilty of something.
Tension will likely grow between the Executive Director and the President as they will naturally want to protect their own bacon. They may go down together. One may turn on the other. They may individually or jointly fess-up. Who knows. Whatever the case, their Catch 22 is again of their own making.
While not quite so obvious, IRTA Members are still in a Catch 22 in that they voted the current lot into power and have been asleep or indifferent to the UC Fraud and the political shenanigans occurring in their organisation.
Should they complain and make a scene now, one could ask the question, “Well what’s different now? Why do you care now when you didn’t before? Does the Membership really need a blogger in Samoa to ask the questions that the Members should have been asking before? Why did we not see it when the facts have been before us for years?” And for the people who knew about it and may have tried unsuccessfully to fix the problems, “How come we haven’t been able to do in years what this guy has done in a couple of weeks? What’s the difference?”
If they sit back and just watch, they will be shown to be apathetic and deserving of the sorry situation. On the other hand if they step up to the mark and support anyone like me trying to sort the ills of the industry out then they become a target if their own house is not in order. The saying that it’s not wise to throw stones in a glasshouse comes to mind.
Even if their house is in order stepping up to the mark and pointing a finger at corruption and incompetence at the top is a divisive act. As Richard Logie and Linda Sim will know and have to wrestle with, it’s a risk standing up for something on a matter of principle. You risk losing friends (and income).
My blogging is a polarising force that requires people to choose one way or the other (ethics or expediency) and that puts people into a difficult, sometimes threatening situation. It is said however that a threat is also an opportunity so the door is open to the Members to act positively. Doing so will set them apart as leaders and people of integrity, however may not be easy.
As I see it, UC Members, while they are mostly IRTA Members too, are in the same situation – they (especially the ones in Credit) invested into a currency that is inflated, that has fraud written all over it, even though the figures were there for them to see. Again if they complain that they may lose, then they are simply showing the world that they made a mistake. Remaining quiet means a certain loss!
A Catch 22 again!
IRTA’s legal counsel
Carl Steinbrenner is IRTA’s legal counsel. He has a problem for as I understand it, he takes instruction from the President of IRTA on behalf of the Board. His problem is this . . . if the President has or is putting the Association in the sh*t then what does/can he do? If he tells Annette to “go fetch” and tries to speak to the Board directly, then he’s taking sides in an internal affair. Everybody loses in a civil war.
UPDATE [Paragraph removed*]
So this is his issue . . . if he wants to keep IRTA as his client (and he’s been looking after IRTA long before the current lot grabbed power) then he’s going to have to tread very carefully. Like all of us he’s going to have to make a judgement call on whether or not there is fraud in there. Get it wrong and he’s toast either way!
It’s simple Carl . . . just read my blogs. Log in to UC and compare the debits and credits. If the debits and credits don’t equal zero, then you’ll find it very difficult to liaise with the people who you report to in a crisis situation. Ron Whitney will probably say something like, “There’s nothing wrong Carl!” and Annette Riggs will probably say something like, “Oh Dennis is just out to get us and has a personal agenda. Ignore him!” but if he smells a rat and doesn’t act in the best interests of the Association then his reputation too, will be in tatters.
If Carl tackles the real issues (1. Fraud at UC, and 2. Defamation by IRTA’s Officeholders) then he’s going to have a lot of sleepless nights. If he does blow it all open then he’s got to explain why his account is hidden and find a way to bypass the Executive and get his message to the Board. If the Board is in on it too (or perhaps wants to hush it all up) then he’s got a real dilemma because he will be watching his client self-destruct under a cloud of corruption accusations and potentially a legal defence that, basically as far as I can see, just doesn’t exist.
Not an easy situation for him, eh?
These guys are in a horrible situation of their own making. Their IPO has flushed out the secret deal and forced IRTA’s defensive response. Changes to their Prospectus really throws the heat on IRTA by clarifying that it was from IRTA that the figures used in their projections came. Their business conduct right up to and including the time their Prospectus was being written screams BAD-BOYS even as their Prospectus presents the GOOD-GUYS image. Their shonky deal to try and salvage their USA reputation is starting to unravel as the PR spin that it really was. Their buyout of IRTA’s integrity by securing IRTA’s “exclusive endorsement” for 15 years is going to come back and haunt them year after year. They’ll NEVER live that down in the industry as long as I live!
All in all they too are in the poo. Fess-up and they’re toast. Hide it all, lie and/or obfuscate even more and they’re just making themselves a bigger target for a truthseeking blogger in Samoa. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t – that’s the definition of a Catch 22.
The technology provider (GETS) is actually in one of the better positions out of everyone involved because I’ve given them an ultimatum and so they have a clear binary choice . . . keep the service and get sued . . . or disable trading and save their bacon.
With the former option (boxing on) they could dip out badly if it is proved that they knew about fraud, and even worse if they knew about fraud before I blogged about it or gave them the ultimatum. With the latter option (disabling tarding) they will win in the ethical stakes but could take a dive in income; be the targets of abuse from those in on it (probably forever, too) and could lose business as a consequential loss. Collateral damage could be huge if it doesn’t go well for their reputation in the marketplace.
Their Catch 22 is lesser but still exists.
I’m free from any Catch 22 for I’m the one who is turning the light on the situation and asking the difficult questions.
If I had an agenda or was on a power trip I might potentially get caught in something of my own making but I’m very willing to engage, anywhere, anytime and answer any questions. I’m also very willing to correct any errors of fact and have nothing to hide, so I don’t have to wrestle with any major issue other than how to present the facts in a way that helps people understand what I understand.
Escaping the Catch 22
There are ways out of these Catch 22s that people are struggling with though . . . 1) I could go away. If I stopped blogging then things could return to status quo and no one would be any the wiser. 2) I could force the issue and require affirmative positive action from one after another as the house of cards falls. That way when the truth comes out the Catch 22 is over.
I’ve chosen this latter option.
It will of course be interesting to see who takes a stand for truth and justice and who tries to maintain status quo, or tries to look after their own interests.
As I’ve said many times, I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not even three weeks into an 18 month project. Having switched the light on, there is no way I will be switching it off. In some way the ball is in IRTA’s court, but in others I’m simply not interested in what they say or do for I’m playing my own game, which is to ask questions, think, and blog about it all. It’s pretty simple really, when people lie – I will do what I can to reveal the lies. People ask me questions – so I answer them. People have asked me for help – I’ve helped them. People defame me – I sue.
Hopefully, as a result of what I am doing, the people who really matter can be better informed, understand the issues at stake within the industry and thus make more informed decisions in their own circumstances as they try to make the world a better place.
It’s been great chatting again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me and reading this post. There’s a lot more to come as I share what I think is really happening out there.
* Paragraph removed: Corrections after I missed spotting his account in the data. Story now reads more accurately.
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