Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The life of a RoboCon is always intense

Responsive Marketing Group (RMG) - the telemarketing company credited with building CIMS, the Cons' voter database on Canadian citizens used by 97 Con MPs in the last election - is some hacked off with having its reputation slandered due to its 'acquisition' of Xentel DM, a cross-border telemaketing fundraiser which comes with a long trail of sorry ass news baggage.
The Responsive Marketing Group Inc.('RMG')'s proud, 21-year reputation for providing voter contact services has come under increasing attack through speculative media reports and accusations in Parliament that are without basis in fact. .. Liberal and NDP MPs have taken to knowingly and deliberately misrepresenting RMG's business practices in the House of Commons, by tying past practices of a company that RMG acquired two years ago - Xentel DM Inc., to our current operations, despite the fact that the very issues they refer to occurred before RMG's acquisition of Xentel.
 Since our acquisition of Xentel, we have instituted a wholesale reorganization at the company:
  • The management team at Xentel was replaced.
  • New systems, processes and quality control measures were instituted to bring it in-line with RMG's practices.
  • RMG continues to operate as an independent firm.
Ok, let's look at those claims one at a time.

1. I confess I'm a bit confused about the merged RMG/Xentel joint management team during the last election and whether RMG acquired Xentel or the other way around.

McMaher : Call centre used aggressive sales pitch to raise money for Tories
RMG merged in 2010 with Xentel DM, a Calgary-based telemarketing firm that worked primarily for charities in the United States. The company now operates under the umbrella of iMarketing Solutions Group. ... During the election campaign in the spring of 2011, the merged company was run by co-CEOs Michael Davis, formerly of RMG, and Michael Platz, formerly of Xentel. 
And is Linked In at all reliable? Because it lists David Winograd - "Greater Milwaukee Area" - as "President of Xentel : Currently holds this position" and "President of IMarketing Solutions Group March 2010 – Present (2 years 2 months)"

More joint management news from Bloomberg BusinessWeek
"Mr. Michael P. Platz served as a Co-Chief Executive Officer of iMarketing Solutions Group Inc. (alternate name: Xentel DM Inc.) until September 6, 2011 and previously served as its President. Mr. Platz also served as Chief Executive Officer of Xentel DM Inc."
Target Outreach, RMG's brand for its US operations based in Washington DC, Ft.Lauderdale, and Milwaukee, also lists Michael Platz as President. 

From Business Week's Company Overview of The Responsive Marketing Group Inc.
"The Responsive Marketing Group Inc. designs and executes integrated programs that use direct mail, the telephone, and online tools. The company is headquartered in Toronto, Canada with office operations in Washington D.C. As of March 3, 2010, The Responsive Marketing Group Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Xentel DM Inc".
Right, so now I have no idea who owns who here.

2. New systems and quality control.
So what's up with Xentel? Well, lots in the US, but here's one in Canada:

Five years ago The Star did a story on fundraising consultant Craig Copland and six Canadian charities he founded and ran out of a post office box belonging to Xentel.:
Copland finds Xentel new charity clients. Xentel pays him royalties for charities sent its way. He also served on Xentel's board of directors until the Star started asking questions.  
Here's the update on that one from a year ago :
Plug pulled on charity after audit reveals money misspent  March 7, 2011 :
An organ donation charity that made emotional pleas to Canadians to help save lives has been shut down after federal auditors found most of the money collected went to fundraising and administrative fees. 
This is the second charity Copland helped found that has been shut down by the Canada Revenue Agency in the last two years. A third charity, which paid a Copland-run company nearly $900,000, was shut down last month.
Auditors also said the Emergency Foundation paid more than $4.5 million to telemarketer Xentel and another firm while listing payments of only $1.9 million to charity programs.
 Xentel carries a reputation in North America for aggressive pitches.
"Xentel spokesperson Len Wolstenholme said his company prefers to avoid costly U.S. legal battles and when necessary settles the case, admits no guilt and pays a fine."
Leonard Wolstenholme is Chief Compliance Officer of IMarketing Solutions Group Inc

3. Independence.
At the bottom of Con MP Laurie Hawn's telemarketing services contract with RMG for the last election - underneath the bit about "developing scripts and background materials in consultation with the client", the "attempted collection of email addresses", and "data transfer in CIMS format" - is the following note about confidentiality :
"The CAMPAIGN's lists shall be confidential and RMG (including its related and affiliated companies) shall not directly or indirectly, knowingly disclose this data to or for the benefit of any person, firm, corporation, association, business or governmental or private agency of any kind whatsoever or wherever situated, other than the CAMPAIGN and the Conservative Party of Canada."
So does RMG ( including its related and affiliated companies) own the data on Canadians? 
Do they store it in Canada? 

Dec 21, 2012 Update : RoboCon : RMG/Xentel/iMarketing Solutions revisited

Today's RoboCon news :
Former call centre worker files affidavit over election calls

McMaher: The Con Party and RMG reject former RMG call centre employee Annette Desgagne's sworn affidavit that phone workers misdirected voters.

CBC : 6 robocall ridings had no polling changes

Update : POGGE : Is this really the story you want to go with?


Toe said...

Sweet but layered like an onion. Wow Alison!

the regina mom said...

Holy fuck, Alison! That is all. Holy. Fuck.

Anonymous said...

Heh. RepoMan reference. Good call.

Saskboy said...

Who owns who eh? Canadians are pwned.

Dr.Dawg said...

Well done! What a depressing morning read, though. :)

Owen Gray said...

Superb work, Alison.

Anonymous said...

News 4 investigates non-profit fund raiser

"In 2009 Xentel raised more than $115,000 on [the behalf of the Missouri state council of firefighters], but only 20 percent, or $23,000 went to the firefighters."

"Nationally Xentel raised more than 1.9 million for the committee for missing children, 1.7 million of those donations went to Xentel only $235,000 to the missing kids committee."

And in 2003 in Iowa, State Sues Professional Fundraiser -- Xentel, Inc.

"Consumer fraud suit alleges telemarketers trick Iowans into believing the callers are fire fighters, that donations will support local fire fighters, and that most of donated money helps fire fighters."

Now that second Xentel is seemingly an entirely different organization, based in Florida. But if you check corporation wiki, you'll find a "Michael P Platz" listed as director, chairman of the board, and CEO. You'll also find a "David Winograd" listed as president and secretary. The same names as listed for RMG's Xentel in the blog post.

Some of the "Xentel"s listed on corporation wiki are different, but quite a few seem to involve the exact same people, the exact same "tactics", and are just incorporated in different states.

Anonymous said...

Thomson Reuters March 3, 2010:
"Xentel DM Inc acquired the entire share capital of The Responsive Marketing Group Inc, a Toronto-based provider of direct contact services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed."

Alison said...

Thank you kindly for your additional links.
RMG's complaint in its presser in the post is that it is being tarred with an old brush - Xentel's sorry history in the US - and that this has no relevance since RMG took it over and changed its management. Thus I kept the post to reports since that 2010 'takeover'.

Notable that under the March 1 McMaher story Conservative call centre company has checkered legal history in U.S., the first comment is from Andrew Langhorne, Chief Operating Officer, RMG :
"In our long history of working with the CPC, only Canadian contact centres have been used. To make the inference that our operations in Canada were in any way tied to issues related to the company we acquired in the United States is fundamentally misleading and false."

Now that's odd. All the Canadian coverage reported Xentel as a Canadian or "Calgary-based company".

Anonymous said...

And, there sits the s.o.b. Harper, as the P.M. of our country.

Well over half of Canadians did not want Harper as P.M....he knew it, so he cheated. This is far from the first time Harper has used, dirty tactics and dirty politics. Just ask Gordon Campbell, Herr Harper's favorite henchman.

Harper has spread his poison all through BC. As I said, BC Liberal Premier henchman Campbell works for Harper. Boessenkoll another of Harper's henchmen, works for the BC Liberals. Van Dongen, a BC Liberal, went across to the BC Conservatives. Van Dongen's excuse is. Christy Clark refused to fix the mess of, the BC Liberals, when they thieved $6 million to pay Campbell's two patsies legal fees. Where was Van Dongen, when Campbell thieved and sold an entire railroad, with the priceless Real Estate that went with it? The two patsies Basi and Virk that, took the fall for Campbell's theft and corrupt sale of the BCR, had to sign a non disclosure, to get their $6 million of their legal fees, paid by the BC tax payers.

Harper is a Neo-Nazi Reformer, of his Northern Foundation Party from 1989. The skinheads organized Harper's party for him. Harper and his so called Conservatives. The so called BC Liberals and the so called BC Conservatives, are all one and the same party. They all work for Harper.

Six members of my family were in WW11. Our young Canadian boys, were shot and blown to bits, so we wouldn't have a Fascist Dictatorship government. Quite frankly, Harper most certainly is not worth their dying for.

Anonymous said...

Xentel DM (TSX:XDM) changed its name to iMarketing Solutions Group on 2010/10/27 after the Xentel-RMG merger on 2010/02/24, but prior to the $500K CRTC fine on 2010/12/17.

Fast forward a couple of years and you can find evidence of RMG soliciting job applicants under the Xentel name on 2012/02/22 when was offline. The same advertisement appears more recently under the name RMG and iMarkConnect on 2012/04/19.

Makes you wonder if RMG's charitable activities are any different than Xentel's.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to go all the way to Missouri for a Xentel firefighters story.
Right here in Vancouver :
Telemarketer kept 87% of charity's donations

North Van's Grumps said...

Xentel, so many Xentel's with the same management personnel. Well here's another name as to who might be higher up ladder than Michael P. Platz

using these keywords in Google

Monte J Castellano Xentel iMarketing Solutions Inc

after seeing the results in Google, click on the first hit which is corporation wiki......

which places Monte at Vice president of iMarketing Solutions...

And the President is a corporation:
Hrs Holdings LLC

corporation wiki for more on Imarketing solutions ect....

Alison said...

Thanks, Grumps. President of IMS is a corp. Heh.

Anonymous said...

A link from 2008 complaining of RMG Robocalls, info on Xentel & posts by a former RMG employee- some of it is in French

North Van's Grumps said...

Five pages of detailed info on Xental DM Inc. Ethics.... NONE

Just do a search for this in Google:

EthicScan Canada


Background: Calgary-based Xentel DM Inc is in the business services market.

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