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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article by Irene Parker explores the Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics. A Code of Ethics is meant to be lived by. In timeshare, a Code of Ethics has been something to write and post on your website, but never seem to be followed. It doesn’t help that 200 or so of our readers who have reported violations in ARDA‘s Code of Ethics have been dismissed by the very executives that sit on their board. We take our hats are off to Whistleblowers of America for taking a Code of Ethics seriously. But then Whistleblowers are not in it for the money.

Hollywood Mirage Club

Inside Timeshare has been asked by an independent member of the committee at Hollywood Mirage Club for members to make contact with him as soon as possible. He and one other will be standing for election to the full committee at the AGM at the end of June. The unfortunate thing is that they have been told that there is “no mechanism” for them to contact other members with the Secretary stating he will not allow it under the GDPR (The EU General Data Protection Regulation). A move obviously designed to control the voting, but Article 47 of the GDPR “fully considers the right of members of groups (clubs) to communicate with each other”.

To make contact directly with this member who is standing please use our contact page and we will send you his contact details privately. It is in your interest to get together and have your say.

Now for Irene’s article.

Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics

As Applied to Timeshare Support Mentors

Information about the 8th Annual WhistleBlower Summit and Film Festival to be held in Washington D.C. July 28 – August 1:

http://whistleblowersummit.com/

By Irene Parker

Friday, June 7

A Whistleblower is normally a person associated with a corporation or government agency that blows the whistle on wrongdoing as it pertains to waste, fraud and abuse, medical errors and wrongful death. You would not think an old lady crying from the rooftops of Florida about vacation plans would qualify, yet the harm done to veterans and active duty service members on the receiving end of a fraudulent timeshare sale has financially, emotionally, and physically, harmed many. Of the 841 families who have reached out to us, 106 are veterans and active duty.

We are asking for your signature on this petition for reform. You don’t have to be a timeshare member to sign.

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

A grown daughter contacted me on behalf of her Bronze Star recipient father. She could not answer all my questions about the timeshare, so I told her to ask her father about it. He had a heart attack when they were discussing it, and at the ER, the doctor noted he had a heart attack two years prior when asked about his timeshare. Her parents are the kind of people who saved up and paid cash for cars, He and his wife had been upsold to the point he had to take out a reverse mortgage because he could not afford the timeshare loan payments. He said every time he walked in the front door, he felt like he was losing his home. A Navy veteran declared bankruptcy. He had been upsold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments, living on his letter carrier’s pension, charging to a number of credit cards before his grown daughter found out.

Whistleblowers of America’s Code of Ethics spoke to me. I thought to myself, “Guilty as charged!” as I read through them.

It’s not easy to live in a state of constant anger, moved by the voices of those desperate and deceived. The only thing that keeps me going is hearing the voice turn from a desperate voice to an empowered voice.

From the Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics:

  • Counter-balancing dysfunction responses to wrongdoing with informed advocacy and resilience, skill building is the cornerstone of interactions,
  • Understand legal processes and procedures, a guide in problem solving and decision making to overcome toxic tactics.

I employ skills I learned at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) writing court reports for Family Court judges and interested parties to make a determination as to the best outcome for a child in state care.

I learned an important lesson from my husband Don, a pharmaceutical researcher. The first thing a pharmaceutical company will do if they don’t like a lab’s answers, that would allow the launch of a billion dollar a year drug, is to blame the lab. Don told me to fight with data, not words.

A mentor needs to know their boundaries.

I don’t know if I speak for all whistleblowers, but I think there is a tendency to become over-involved, breaking through necessary boundaries. I will share an example of how I overstepped mine, but in the heat of the battle, we bend rules.

A Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian turned out to be a brute holding a Korean lady hostage. Thankfully, another fellow Rotarian was our chief of police. He helped me rescue the mom and their toddler. Major Ganot of the Salvation Army was also in my Rotary Club. She could be a Major in anyone’s army after spending a couple decades in Haiti.

Mom and child stayed with us before we returned them both back to Korea. Mom had been a manager of Duty Free shops in Korea before coming to America. Her parents were math teachers at a university. The first night at our house I heard the child screaming. I went to ask mom what the child wanted. Mom replied, “Irene,” the child grabbed my neck and clung. Dad also had child porn on his computer. The police chief found THC in the refrigerator which mom said he used to put on his pancakes. He had DTs and once dropped the child at a Rotary function.

The advice Major Ganot gave to me is the advice all mentees and mentors should heed. “You are less effective if you become part of the storm.” Doctors call this intellectualization, in that if they went into a tailspin every time they lost a patient, they would lose effectiveness. This doesn’t mean the doctor doesn’t care. It means he or she must put their role is perspective.    

In psychology, intellectualization is a defense mechanism by which reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress – where thinking is used to avoid feeling.[1] It involves removing one’s self, emotionally, from a stressful event.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectualization

Whistleblowers of America Code: Ethical Standard #2

Shared Experience Rapport

I appreciate more than ever the fidelity of “Semper fi” that exists among those battling a common enemy. Lifelong friendships have blossomed and grown. Once a timeshare dispute has been resolved, we encourage the person made whole, or as whole as possible, join our efforts to respond to others.

The moto of Whistleblowers of America is Speak Truth to Power. I would like to add to that the headline this reporter used in his investigative report about ALEC, a powerful lobby. The television reporter led with “Holding the powerful accountable” and I see “Holding the powerful accountable” as the next step after speaking truth to power.

Ethical Standard #5 Non-judgement A mentor needs to be reflective and inquisitive, but not judgmental. A mentor does not adjudicate. They facilitate problem solving rather than solve the problem.

An obstacle to resolving any dispute is getting your opponent to listen, as opposed to just hearing what the other person is attempting to communicate. Callous customer service representatives “hear” the complainant and respond, “You signed a contract.”

They don’t listen. Leadership coach Stephen R. Covey said it best:

11. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

https://www.inc.com/dave-kerpen/15-quotes-to-inspire-you-to-become-a-better-listener.html

My collaborator Michael Santos at Straight-A Guide, teaches how self-advocacy can overcome struggle. The outcome may not be what you expected. It may not be the outcome you wanted, but staying the course with determination, and making the most of available resources, is part and parcel of advocacy and self-advocacy. A Whistleblower needs both as they must advocate for their cause, and they must advocate for themselves.

Ethical Standard #11Self-care

The words “disengage when necessary” hit me like a dagger. I hear from one to five infuriated timeshare members a day, seven days a week. The unhappy emails outweigh the “we did it!” emails. Resiliency is a word often mentioned in whistleblowing. Hurtful potshots from our opponents can weigh us down or sharpen our sword. Author Carlos Castaneda, a student of Yaqui Indian Don Juan, described them as petty tyrants.

I have a friend in Sedona by the name of Pete Sanders, a Navy veteran. A technic I learned from Pete, during one of his Free Soul sessions, taught me how to find my brain’s Limbic Center and Joy Center. As I understood Pete’s lecture, you can shift your negative thoughts by employing Pete’s techniques.

The limbic center is somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears. It’s kind of a negative thought center. Think about a time you were so angry that you were acting out in front of your spouse and kids. All of a sudden the doorbell rings and you snap into normalcy. According to Pete, you have shifted negative thoughts from your Limbic Center, to somewhere in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the Joy Center, a compartment that holds positive thoughts. I took a class in head and neck anatomy and two semesters of A & P, but I’m getting out of my depth.  But trust me; even if I have botched the explanation, it works. I swear that I can feel the “half empty/half full” feeling before and after shifting the same thought.

Pete Sanders of Free Soul

Pete Sanders is an honors graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with principle studies in BioMedical Chemistry and Brain Science. Accepted to Harvard Medical School, he chose instead to pursue independent mind/body potentials research. That quest led to a revolutionary discovery: how to directly stimulate the brain’s natural mood-elevation mechanisms.

This technique provides a natural alternative to using alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or overeating for coping with life’s challenges. It gives you a method to enhance your feeling of well-being without being dependent on achievement or relationship success.

I look forward to this year’s Whistleblower Summit. I didn’t attend the Whistleblower Summit last year because I thought I was a whistleblower. I attended on behalf of the veterans and active duty service members harmed by timeshare. An active duty service member can lose his security clearance and his career over a mortgage foreclosure, so don’t think timeshare is a silly topic. One Marine lost his air unit command over a timeshare loan foreclosure.

There are laws protecting traditional whistleblowers, but not individuals. I’m alone. But an individual is alone only if they don’t reach out to other whistleblowers for help and support. Rosa Parks was one person who committed a courageous and dangerous act. She sat in the front of the bus. It was a small act, but possibly inspired by the actions and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was not so naïve as to think he was going to resolve racial divide once and for all. He knew this problem would not likely be solved in his lifetime. That did not deter his efforts.

One financial journalist called me a gadfly. “You’re nothing but a gadfly to this timeshare company,” he sneered. I looked up the definition.  

The original definition was an insect that stings cattle. Somewhere around the Middle Ages, in England, the meaning of gadfly morphed into “an annoying person who spurs others to action.”

I’m okay with being a gadfly. When I told my Free Soul Florida mate, attorney Mike Finn, that the journalist called me a gadfly, Mr Finn suggested an adjective, “How about the Green Gadfly?” “Like the Green Hornet?” I responded.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to explain to the attorneys who deposed me for six hours why Mr. Finn calls me gg. The deposition serves as an example of retaliation. I enjoyed explaining to my interrogator lawyer why I am called gg. Gallows Humor, or Humour, as my British collaborator would spell, should be included as a defense mechanism to Ethical Sandard  #11 Self-care . Humor really can be our best medicine.

Thank you to Whistleblowers of America for your support because this is not easy. My twilight years are anything but relaxing.       

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Excerpt from report:

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

Although WoA recognizes that it is not inherent within the VA mission to protect veterans from fraud and scams that could cost them their benefits, it suggests that it could be assistive in educating veterans against these unscrupulous tactics. For example, WoA has had multiple complaints from veterans related to timeshare deceit and bait and switch tactics, which are defined by the FBI as fraud for profit.  Often elderly veterans are mentioned as being targeted by the Timeshare Advocacy Group, TM which fights for active duty and retired military who fear losing their security clearance, career, homes or other assets.  Foreclosures and financial distress because of these misrepresented investments are happening every day to elderly disabled veterans and their families. In the past, VA has cooperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over mortgage and other loan scams that caused financial hardships for veterans.  Home loans and timeshare loans are identical as both are reported as foreclosures. WoA asks that Congress consider a role for the VBA Employment and Economic Initiative (EEI) could play in cooperation with CFPB to educate and protect veterans from unscrupulous financial predators and fraudulent practices.

Thank you, Irene, for all your hard work in getting these articles ready, along with all the work you do helping those with problems, you are a thorn in the side of the timeshare industry, as well as a Green Gadfly, but you are our thorn and our Green Gadfly!

Paramount – Club Paradiso Tenerife

Information has been received by Inside Timeshare that the resort known as Paramount – Club Paradiso has closed. Those with bookings have been refused entry on arrival and moved to other resorts such as Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Heights.

The telephone is on constant voicemail and the website is no longer working

Telephone: +34 922 787 650

https://www.clubparadiso.com

If you have purchased any product such as standard timeshare, investment packs, company participations or Keys Concierge use our contact page and get in touch. Inside Timeshare will explain your options and point you in the right direction.

That is all for this week, join us again on Monday for Part Two of Exclusive Breaking News: The Truth Behind Silverpoint Exposed.

Have a great weekend.

Wise old dog

Canarian Legal Alliance Announce End of Year Results

What a year 2018 has been for the lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, they have recently announced their end of year results and it is impressive to say the least.

They have ended the year with 131 Supreme Court rulings, this is unprecedented in Spanish legal history, the last 2 rulings being made against Diamond Resorts. These judgements reinforced the previous ones by Spain’s Highest Court that contracts over 50 years, floating weeks and points systems along with the taking of any payment, even by a third party within the cooling off period are in breach of Spanish Timeshare laws 42/98 and 4/12.

In another landmark ruling from the Courts of First Instance in Tenerife, Silverpoint and their lawyers admitted that their “Company Participations” were indeed timeshare. This has now opened the way for many more clients who have been sold these “participations” as “investments” to now lodge claims against Silverpoint. This will result in the contracts being declared null and void plus the return of all money paid. (See previous article)

http://insidetimeshare.com/silverpoint-company-participations-is-timeshare/

Here are some key figures for the past year:

  • 3669 clients
  • 1380 live cases in various stages at court
  • 679 court hearings in 2018
  • 516 new claims presented to the Spanish Courts
  • 327 favorable sentences for clients
  • 12.3 million Euros have been awarded (2018 only) to clients by the Spanish Courts
  • 2.8 million Euros in payouts to clients
  • 728.000 Euros in bank guaranteed funds secured for clients
  • 4.5 million Euros are currently in process of being converted into bank guarantees

As the year drew to a close and the courts recessed for the Christmas break, Canarian Legal Alliance also managed to sneak in 10 more results in favour of their clients against the following:

  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             26,400€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             55,994€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance               9,795€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             12,400€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             12,800€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             18,376€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             39,590€
  • Holiday Club                 Court of First Instance                4,500€
  • Silverpoint                     Court of First Instance                5,400€
  • Club la Costa                 Court of First Instance              29,768€

This is an incredible 214,590€ secured for these clients, with all contracts being declared null and void.

These figures speak for themselves, no other law firm in Spain has achieved anything near to this, so for those who continue to post on various forums that these are all fake, check your facts before you post. These cases can all be verified through court documents, they are in the public domain.

It is quite clear that 2019 is also going to be a record breaking year, especially now that all courts are subject to the rulings of the Supreme Court. Inside Timeshare will bring you the latest news on cases as and when they happen.

If you require any further information on this subject or would like to know if you have a legitimate and viable case, then use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Other news which has just come in involves the ongoing case against Eze Groups Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly at Birmingham Crown Court.

December 21st was the final day of a Newton Hearing in the case against Stephanie O’Reilly, Mr O’Reilly was not in attendance as he had earlier pleaded guilty to 27 charges of breaches of consumer legislation and aggressive selling amongst other things.

The reason for the Newton Hearing was that Miss O’Reilly had to explain why she pleaded guilty to Fraud but not as charged. The defense argued that Eze Group had employed the services of a Legal Advisor to ensure that they were compliant with UK law and that this advice was wrong which ultimately led to the mis-selling of the product.

This argument was vigorously rejected by the prosecution, who were also able to produce documentation refuting the argument. This was accepted by the court and a date of 11 January 2019 has been set for what we believe will be sentencing. We will bring you this news as and when it happens.

If you have any comments on this or any other article, use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments.

Mid Week Report: Diamond Resorts Receive Second Supreme Court Sentence

The Supreme Court, Spain’s highest judicial body has again found against Diamond Resorts as per their previous 129 rulings. This week alone Diamond have lost 2 cases at the highest court in Spain, it all centers on their points system which has been declared an illegal product due to lack of tangibility and the length of the contract.

In the past three years, the Supreme Court has ruled on 131 cases involving the sales of timeshare, each time it has upheld its previous rulings, on many occasions it has added further rulings on the interpretation of the Spanish Timeshare Laws 42/98 & 4/12.

The latest case started with a trial at the Court of First Instance No 24 in Tenerife, the judge in this instance found for the clients as dictated by the previous ruling of the Supreme Court and the Spanish Timeshare laws.

The infractions were the contract had no end date, which is in contravention of the law as laid down and reinforced by previous rulings, the law clearly states that a timeshare contract should be a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years in duration. The second was the points system, which shows no tangible product, this being a fixed week number and fixed apartment number, which guarantees the purchaser the period and accommodation each year.

The Judge ruled in favour of the client, declaring the contract null and void plus the return of all money paid. However, Diamond did not agree and promptly appealed the decision to the High Court.

During this appeal, Diamond pleaded that what they had sold was not timeshare, that just like Silverpoint, these were “investors” and not consumers of timeshare. For some reason the judges at the High Court agreed and overturned the decision of the Court of First Instance.

The lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance representing the clients, placed an appeal with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had already previously ruled on the point of “investors as opposed to consumers”, ruling that they are consumers.

On 13 December 2018, the judges of the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Tenerife High Court upholding and reaffirming the ruling of the Court of First Instance, in favour of the client and in accordance to their previous rulings.

The court along with the original decision declared the contract null and void, awarded over 11,000€ plus they ordered the return of all legal fees for the original case and the appeal, sending it back to the original court for execution of sentence.

The full sentence can be seen in the PDF below.

Supreme Court 2nd Diamond sentence data protected

Over the past 3 or so years the Supreme Court has been consistent in reaffirming their previous rulings, which all courts must abide by. The basic rulings are that deposits or any payment made within the cooling off period are illegal, including those made to a third party. The points and floating weeks systems are not permitted as they do not guarantee anything to the consumer. The duration of the contract is another aspect they have consistently ruled upon, that any contract with a period of more than 50 years is not permitted.

As with the Silverpoint rulings on the “investment packs” which Silverpoint argued made the purchaser an “investor” not a “consumer”, the court has ruled these are indeed timeshares and the law applies. This is also being used in the case of fractional ownership and more recently the Silverpoint Company Participations, the courts have ruled that they are timeshare and that the consumer has the full protection of the timeshare law.

On the point of “investing”, timeshare is not an investment in property, it is a right of use and enjoyment of accommodation for specific periods of time, therefore it should never be marketed or sold as an investment. This is actually borne out by First National Trust in 2012, they are the trustees for the Club la Costa Fractional Owners Club, they informed CLC that fractional should never be marketed as an investment. (See link below).

http://clcmembers.blogspot.com/

Over the years we have seen many timeshare companies change the product, giving it new names, in many cases it has been a blatant attempt to bypass the timeshare laws, but thanks to the courts and especially the Supreme Court, this has been thwarted.

As with any new law, it has taken a long time and many test cases to clarify the interpretation of the law, there is still a long way to go as timeshare companies try to evade the strict laws which now govern the sale of any timeshare product in Spain.

  • Have you purchased a timeshare in Spain or upgraded since 5 January 1999?
  • Is the contract over 50 years in duration?
  • Is it a floating weeks or points system?
  • Have you purchased fractional?
  • Did you purchase the Silverpoint “Investment Weeks”?
  • Are you a participant in the Silverpoint “Company Participation” scheme?
  • Have you paid any money within the cooling off period?

If you can say yes to any of these questions, then you may have the right to have your contract declared null and void, along with the return of at least your purchase price, double whatever paid within the cooling off period.

If you require any information on what your rights are and whether you do have a valid and viable claim, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

You should also bare in mind that these claims must go through a Spanish court using a genuine Spanish registered lawyer, your contract must also still be running. Once you have cancelled any ownership / membership, then you lose your right to file with the courts.

Remember, before you do anything, do your due diligence and check who you are dealing with, do not take at face value some of the claims many companies will make. If you require any help in determining the validity of any company that contacts you, that you find on the internet or through adverts in magazines or newspapers, then contact Inside Timeshare for the best advice possible.

Stay safe and do your homework.

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