Welcome to another edition of our Letter from America, this week Irene Parker writes about the upcoming Whistleblowers Summit & Film Festival. The term Whistleblower refers to someone who is making public information which they feel morally and ethically to be the right thing to do. It may be highlighting abuses of power by government, unfair working conditions by companies or even abuse of the elderly by care home providers. Whistleblowers are needed and should be thanked for what they do for the general good and not for profit.
The 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival
Washington D.C., July 29 – August 1
By Irene Parker
July 26, 2019
The 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit will be held July 29 through August 1 in Washington D.C. Attending the Summit last year was an eye-opener. I heard from like minds, unafraid to speak truth to power and hold the powerful accountable. This year I am honoured and grateful for the opportunity to participate as a panel participant in a Summit discussion called:
The Resilient Advocate – Elements Ethics and End Results
Panel members will discuss how resiliency skills helped them cope with stressful situations. Concepts surrounding resilience include mindfulness, meditation, gratitude and forgiveness of self and others.
I am listed as Irene Parker, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
I am not at present, an active CASA, but once a CASA, always a CASA at heart. I first became involved with CASA in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2009 as a CASA volunteer. Later, I served as a paid CASA supervisor until 2012.
A CASA is a voice for a child in state care, a voice for the voiceless. A CASA’s duties include interviewing the child, the child’s biological parents, foster parents, and others involved in the child’s life. The CASA may not agree with the wishes of the child but assures the child that the court will hear what outcome the child wishes. As supervisor of 27 CASA volunteers, I edited volunteer court reports and wrote court reports for cases unassigned.
In Florida where I live now, the program is called Guardian Ad Litum.
Skills learned at CASA provided me with the foundation to assist victims of timeshare fraud – timeshare members who wish to voice their concern about unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.
As in the case of any family in crisis, explanations are usually confusing and convoluted. I liken it to a witness describing what happened after a serious auto accident. When contacted by a timeshare member, I frequently ask, “What do you mean by that?” or “Can you provide an example?”
I have heard from over 900 families reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, including 116 veterans and active duty service members. An active duty service member can lose his or her security clearances, and their career, over a timeshare foreclosure. More than a few families have been financially devastated, including a Navy veteran and retired postal worker forced to seek bankruptcy protection after being up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments.
The Resilient Advocate – Elements Ethics and End Results
The panel discussion will be led by the founder of Whistleblowers of America, Jacqueline Garrick, and a Department of Justice Whistleblower.
A Navy veteran introduced me to Jackie after the veteran successfully resolved their timeshare dispute following our principles of self-advocacy. An obvious “bait and switch” left the veteran encumbered with a large loan. The purchase was presented as a way to reduce annual maintenance fees, but the opposite occurred. Knowing the veteran, and having received other complaints against the same sales agent, it was not difficult to know who to believe.
Resilience is the state of mind, body and spirit that allows a person to overcome adversity and experience growth. Therefore, the resiliency skills needed to overcome whistleblower retaliation.
- There is no denying that whistleblowers face societal stigmas and negative responses for their disclosures
- These negative connotations have a psychological impact on ethical people who faced difficult decisions and took the high road to do the right thing
- Most whistleblowers face years and years of retaliation, harassment and discrimination
- They are at constant risk of losing financial stability, social status, and family security. Their physical and emotional health is impacted as a result.
Other panel participants include:
Maureen Elias, Deputy Director, Veterans Health Council of Vietnam Veterans
Richard Hill, MD, Retired Primary Care Physician
Ms. Heidi Weber, Associate Producer, Whistleblower on CBS
“Toxic Tactics” of Retaliation that have affected my family:
a. Gaslighting – challenging the memories or ethics of the whistleblower – making you question yourself
b. Mobbing – getting others to conspire against or spy on the whistleblower
c. Accusing – refocus on the whistleblower as the wrongdoer
d. Harassment and (in my case a threat of) violence
e. Emotional abuse, humiliation
f. Legal and financial challenges
What advice would I give to others thinking about blowing the whistle?
· Understand the Pandora’s Box you are opening and the long-term implications to your family when opened
· Recruit a team to aid in your efforts to ensure your efforts will continue if stifled or delayed due to the above mentioned retaliatory tactics
· Recognize the extent of loss your family may experience as the result of “poking the bear” in an effort to right wrongs
While the timeshare lobby and political action committee ARDA and ARDA ROC recommends timeshare members contact their state Attorney General in regard to companies that provide exit services, I have suffered retaliation for encouraging timeshare buyers to contact an Attorney General if they feel they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare practices. Timeshare sales agents are emboldened by the oral representation clause timeshare attorney Mike Finn described as “a license to lie” in a 2016 New York Times article written by Pulitzer winner Gretchen Morgenson.
The Timeshare Developer and Lobbyists Pot Calling the Kettle Black – There are unfair and deceptive practices on both ends of the timeshare transaction.
The rash of complaints and legal proceedings prompted the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) to issue a warning to consumers about these (exit) companies, encouraging owners who believe they have been unfairly taken advantage of or defrauded to contact their state Attorney General, local law enforcement or ARDA directly.
At least 200 complaints from timeshare members in our advocacy group have forwarded their complaint to ARDA and ARDA ROC. To my knowledge, all complaints have been ignored. The Board of Directors of ARDA ROC (Resort Owners Coalition) is staffed with timeshare executives.
(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY
The link below is a timeshare report warning consumers to beware of unfair and deceptive trade practices prepared by the St. Louis BBB, with input from the Missouri Attorney General’s office.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT
- Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
- New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.
For more information about this study, to obtain a Business Profile or register a complaint, contact BBB.
Research and report on scams and fraud using BBB Scam Tracker.
If you’re in the area, even if not a whistleblower, you will experience one of the most enlightening and inspiring events of your lifetime if you can attend. I’m hoping our Supporters or our timeshare members in distress will consider attending.
We seek to provide timeshare members with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.
Free at Last Facebook
Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide
Diamond Resort Facebook
Gold Key Facebook
Inside Timeshare Facebook Group
Thank you Irene we hope that you have a very informative time at the summit and we look forward to receiving your report on the proceedings.
Well that is it for this weekFriday is once again here and the weekend calls, have a great weekend and join us again next week.