Your article April 28th in the Vancouver Sun was written without any reasonable effort on your part to verify the real facts and seems to represent your own interpretation of events. It is most unfortunate that a journalist would write an article of this nature, which can have a devastating effect on thousands of our members, without first checking the story and at least attempting to provide a balanced version of events.
This article like most of the other articles written about the FIC Group of Companies appears to be primarily designed to ignite and inflame readers by presenting only one narrow biased viewpoint of events. In reviewing other articles about FIC you have written over the past years it is clear that you have not done the journalistic work required to meet a minimum standard of presenting a balanced perspective to your readers.
While I realize your job as a reporter is solely involved in digging up all the bad news you can find and serving it up to the readership without due care about the effects it has on anyone else, I believe it is still incumbent upon you to report your bad news version of events accurately.
For example, you promised to retract your statement that Harv Eker received commissions on securities sold by the FIC Funds. This statement was untrue and you agreed to retract it and did not do so. Your inaccurate statement in this case was clearly designed to inflame anyone who did or would do business with Mr Eker and the irresponsible error in this case needlessly tarnished his reputation. A simple phone call to check your facts would have prevented this needless damage.
The other difficulty with this statement implied that we committed a securities violation. Although it is untrue you wrote it and then surprisingly, securities regulators read this comment and start an investigation or inquiry. The result of this inaccurate reporting is a time consuming and costly response to your misstatement of fact. Ultimately it is our shareholders who pay the price for your lack of attention to the truth. You agreed this statement was false and agreed to retract it but did not do so.
I will in this letter only focus on the most recent article you wrote as it is indicative of the many other articles you have written. Here are a few of your comments:
“I have had difficulty keeping up…mainly due to problems contacting the principles, Mike Lathigee and Earle Pasquill”
Untrue: I called you many times and left several messages. It was in fact you who was difficult to reach. I gave you specific instructions how to reach me and asked that you contact me again before you published this article on April 28th, 2010 and you chose not to contact me. I was available but you didn’t bother to contact me. Last week as an example I left 4 messages for you and spoke to you twice. You hung up on me once.
“The funds invested in risky products like speculative stocks, payday loan companies, colored diamonds and Alberta development property”
You do not give the full story. You do not state that for 4 years the clubs made money and considerable gains in all these assets classes. You do not state many shareholders cashed out for large gains. You do not state the financial were audited to reflect and report this. Yes, FIC became overextended in a land development project and although all payments were current, TD Bank called its loan and had a receiver appointed. This ill advised and unnecessary action by the TD Bank will substantially diminish the value of FIC shareholders assets.
As you may be aware, many other land development companies have closed shop while we have worked diligently to salvage this project for our shareholders including raising financing to get the FIC companies out of receivership. You gleefully reported the bad news in all your articles but never once told the whole story.
You did not mention that FIC is a group of private companies but opted to report at public company standards including providing audited financial statements to the shareholders. I told you this several times but you continually chose to ignore it.
FIC’s involvement in payday loans has paid a return to our shareholders of 12% to 18% for the last 7 years. The payments are made monthly and hundreds of members have received their monthly payments with never one payment having been missed. You chose never to include this information. Clearly this does not serve your purpose of being the champion of bad news.
“Lathigee and Pasquill have made an offer on behalf of FIC investors to buy the project out of receivership, but the receiver from PWC Pallen has rejected it as not feasible”
You reported that the offer we made to buy Genesis out of receivership was “not feasible”. It is unclear if those words came from the receiver or from you but in our opinion, the offer which is backed by a large lender in Toronto with a solid track record, was an excellent offer that would benefit shareholders and fully pay out the TD Bank and is certainly feasible. We have concerns, as noted in our last communication on the phone that you chose to ignore the fact that the longer this drags out the higher the receiver costs and the higher the risk of missing another selling season, which in turn reduces the asset value for our shareholders. The receiver did not indicate to us that the offer wasn’t feasible but rather that they needed more time to develop a marketing plan for the project. So we have to conclude either the receiver lied to us or you misled readers. It baffles us because the cause of the receivership was that the TD Bank wanted to be paid out and the offer would have paid them out completely.
What is the point in speaking to you and answering your questions if you never present the facts and the complete story? I have stated this to you many times on the phone and you always dismiss me or hang up on me.
“Alliance is now holding the club’s InvestFest seminars”
You did not give the full story. I told you specifically that the profits go back into FIC to cover operational expenses while we continue to work through these difficult times.
“Lathigee still holds himself out as an investment guru”
Once again, you did not give the full story. You admitted to me that you have not read one economic monthly journal I have written in the last 5 years. You said you skimmed one. I have never made such a comment publicly and stated that to you but you chose to continue to write this in every one of your articles. It is obviously just a mean spirited relentless attack as you admitted on several calls you don’t like me. How can your story ever be unbiased when you constantly admit this?
I have my monthly economic journal reviewed and read by more than ten thousand
people. I report economic trends and provide meaningful analysis to assist my readers. There are numerous positive testimonials about the content of the newsletter.
You attack the speakers at Investfest Event, June 3-6 in Las Vegas.
I support all our speakers at our event. You do not mention the portfolio managers and financial educators with world class resumes speaking at the event. You simply provide a written attack without full disclosure about the credibility of all the speakers, choosing to attack some of them whenever possible.
You attack Bill Bartmann who for your records was on the cover of a national magazine and listed previously as one of the richest men in America and ran an organization with more than a thousand employees. Ironically he is not even a speaker this year but this is just part of your selective reporting. You don’t disclose the fact that Marshall Sylver is at the event as part of an entertainment show but instead attack the event implying that an entertainer is speaking on financial matters. Send your readers to our website www.investfest2010.com and let them judge the event and the speakers.
Your mandate seems to be to attack me constantly without all the facts and without full disclosure. Your articles are one sided and you told me on several occasions you were angry I was able to operate under the current laws. Your articles have caused death threats against me which I disclosed to you and there is a police file at the Vancouver Police Department regarding this matter. Your articles have caused numerous speaking engagements to be cancelled when people see these articles on the internet and these engagements would help the membership by producing revenue. You have caused harm to FIC shareholders with a flagrant disregard for their difficult situation.
Your last article in early April was a one sided view regarding the Mohawk situation without any information from our side and no mention that we have spent 2 years trying to assist our membership and have sued Mohawk and sent you a copy of our lawsuit which clearly outlined in our complaint. You appear not to be interested in any version of events or facts that doesn’t fit with your biased point of view.
I also want to highlight how in your most recent article slipped in an association with a horrendous event like the Eron Mortgage Corp. fraud – essentially linking FIC with Eron Mortgage Corp. in a readers mind. How is it relevant what files the Receiver has worked on in the past? The manner, in which this was done, in my opinion, demonstrated a severe lack of journalistic integrity.
Mr Baines, you have damaged countless relationships I have built over many years because readers believe your biased writings. You have not once reported anything we are trying to do to assist our membership. I hope in keeping with balanced reporting that the editor of the Vancouver Sun will publish my letter entirely in your column so for once after your numerous articles I get one chance to set the record straight.
We have never walked away. You did not mention we are in regular communication with our members every month for a question and answer session where they can ask anything they wish and we answer all questions in detail. This call alone lasts 2-3 hours monthly. In addition, we communicate with our members regularly by email to update them on happenings within the club.
Your article implied that we have skipped town and don’t communicate. That is simply not true and even a minimal amount of fact checking would have uncovered this error. I believe your journalism is irresponsible, selective and not a balance of the true facts. You have done much to destroy my reputation and did so with inaccuracies and highly biased versions of events. I am now considering how best to communicate a balanced version of the facts to those who may believe that just because it appears in the Vancouver Sun, it must be true.
Mr Baines, you are in a position of journalistic power because you have the brand of a major newspaper to back you up. With this power comes the responsibility to provide accurate information and to present the truth. In my opinion, in your vendetta against FIC, I believe you have ignored this responsibility.
I do believe that in some cases you provided useful information to the readers of the Sun, disclosing fraudulent and illegal activities. We have done everything in our power to ensure we properly disclose information and follow the regulatory laws. In some cases, due only to unforeseen circumstances or in one case, the outright incorrect written advice of a major law firm, we have unintentionally been in a position where one of the thousands of laws that need to be adhered to by business people was not followed. When it was brought to our attention, we rectified it quickly and to the best of our ability.
Your continued attacks on FIC Group provide no assistance to shareholders whatsoever. The members receive a continual steam of information and disclosure and none of the facts in your articles come as new information to them. They have heard it all before
because we provided it.
For many years FIC did wonderfully well for its members and then unfortunately like millions of others, we were a victim of the worst economic reversal in the past century. Isn’t it time you stopped kicking FIC and its shareholders when they are already having difficulty?
We don’t see how you can possibly help any of the members who are suffering financially by continuing to devastate and hinder the efforts being made to recover by publishing unbalanced and fact challenged articles about the FIC Group of Companies.
Mr Baines, I have a simple request…let the healing and recovery take place without your constant need to hinder, hamper and harass those who are getting on with a very difficult task. We don’t need you as a cheerleader but it would certainly help if you weren’t a constant “I told you so” heckler.
My objective is to “set the record straight” and provide balanced commentary about what is really happening. I believe your hidden agenda is to drive FIC out of business by making it difficult for the company to generate any business which in turn then allows you to report “I told you so”. How does, this one sided reporting help any of the readers who have an investment in FIC? – It doesn’t. FIC is not a public company with shares being traded. Essentially you continue to serve up this bad news version of events onto members who have absolutely no way of taking any positive action; nevertheless, where you have reported facts that should be acknowledged. Where you have provided uninformed and one sided versions of events, that should be pointed out.
I once again request that you provide a balanced response that does not continue to damage the club, shareholders and all the relationships that we have.
I would like finally to note the Code of Ethics for Journalists as found on Wikipedia.
“-reporters are expected to be as accurate as possible given the time allotted to story preparation and the space available -corrections are published when errors are discovered -private persons have privacy rights that must be balanced against the public interest in reporting information to them. -recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance”
In my opinion you have not adhered to these ethical standards with regards to FIC. I am aware you have been sued for libel and slander more than any other journalist in Canada ever. I have not the time or funds to pursue you legally and simply ask that you adhere to the standards set by your industry.
—————————- Michael Lathigee Chairman and CEO Alliance