Welcome to this edition of The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker reports on the Annual Whistleblowers Summit held in Washington DC last week. Irene, as we all know, has been working tirelessly on behalf of many owners who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help. Irene does this work free of any charge and has never received any payment for the advice or help she has given. Inside Timeshare has been working with Irene for around 4 years now publishing the many articles she has submitted, no payment has ever been made in regards to this. Inside Timeshare publishes articles from many contributors who just want to get their story and views to others, no one has ever been paid to submit an article that we publish.
Highlights from the 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit
Resiliency after Retaliation
Why the Need for a $200,000 GoFundMe
From left: Ethics and Resiliency panel members Richard Hill, MD, Maureen Elias, Vietnam Veterans of America, Jackie Garrick, Whistleblowers of America, and me
By Irene Parker
August 6, 2019
The 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival was held last week in Washington D.C. Our panel pictured above was well attended. We discussed resiliency after retaliation as a quality necessary for those who discover and report fraud, waste or abuse.
Prominent whistleblowers like Sharron Watkins and Eugene Ross spoke at our luncheon. Ms. Watkins exposed Enron, and Eugene Ross exposed fraud at Bear Stearns. “Every fraud victim’s best friend is a whistleblower,” stated Mr. Ross. Despite the efforts of Mr. Ross that resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars for investors, he was forced to declare bankruptcy. Mr. Ross was critical of mandatory arbitration and industry self-regulation. My peers are critical of the timeshare industry’s self-regulation and forced arbitration.
Other Summit Highlights
July 30 is “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day”
Michael McCray is a federal whistleblower who disclosed over $40 Million in waste, fraud and abuse at the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
“A whistleblower often doesn’t know they are a whistleblower until they are in the middle of their whistleblowing.”
Consumers don’t wake up in a morning and think they will buy a timeshare today. Whistleblowers don’t initiate their efforts thinking they will be a whistleblower. They see wrong and make a vow to make it right. By the time the whistleblower is made aware that they are a whistleblower, they have reached their point of no return.
Others spoke of how a whistleblower cannot live in peace if they see wrong and don’t try to right it. “They will be haunted the rest of their life. It will be like a cancer in their soul,” said Tim Mak, NPR national security and politics reporter.
Timeshare fraud is orchestrated and sophisticated. Honest sales agents and managers are as alarmed as the more than 900 timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare and to me to report unfair and deceptive sales practices. About half of the members report that they had been scammed by a fraudulent exit company.
My resiliency and motivation comes from their voices turned empowered. I am motivated by 119 veterans and active duty service members who sacrificed their health and life to protect even those who seek to do them harm, especially two-time Purple Heart recipient Leo Gomez. Leo spent the last 30 days of his life battling pancreatic cancer and his timeshare company. His last words to me were, “I want my story told.”
The first family to reach out to me in 2016 was a Hispanic family. They attended a Diamond Resorts timeshare presentation because they were struggling to make loan and maintenance fee payments. They said they were told of a maintenance fee relief program, but no such program existed. Fortunately, they did not buy additional points. https://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/
I contacted Diamond’s attorney on their behalf. He arranged a relinquishment, but the family is probably still paying off a $33,000 home equity loan. I liked this attorney. He worked with me to resolve my dispute. I was offered our money back but refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I had been writing articles as a contributor for TheStreet, Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service. I could not sign because I wrote articles about several timeshare companies.
Since Inside Timeshare published my first article about a timeshare family in distress, October of 2016, the complaints about maintenance fee relief programs have not stopped. Expecting retaliation, I prepared a 180-page report of 101 just Platinum Diamond members who have complained about maintenance fee relief programs they learned did not exist. Platinum maintenance fees in 2018 were $8,631 for 50,000 points. Points can only be turned in to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, contributing only $2,000 towards the 2018 $8,631 maintenance fee.
Back then maybe one or two families a week would reach out to me. Now three to five calls or contacts a day are not unusual. A team of volunteers lends their support by answering questions that arise when filing regulatory and law enforcement complaints. My resiliency and strength also comes from our volunteers and members digging in to fight. All are whistleblowers.
Whistleblower Summit panel member Dr. Matthew Fogg
In 1998, Dr. Matthew Fogg, Chief Inspector U.S. Marshal, retired, won a landmark $4-million jury award, promotion to Chief Deputy US Marshal, and a finding that the US Marshals Service nationwide was operating a racially hostile environment for all African American Deputy US Marshals.
“After my training, at the duty station, I was told ‘Forget what you learned. This is how we do things.”
We have heard this from timeshare sales agents and managers also alarmed over deceptive practices that are endorsed and encouraged.
Why the need for a $200,000 GoFundMe
Diamond Resorts demanded so many documents from me, it would be humanly impossible for one individual, working from the corner of her living room, to produce. Diamond has not sued me. They sued a law firm in 2015 over a matter I had nothing to do with. Diamond’s demands include emails from their customers who have reached out to me through our member-sponsored Facebook page and Inside Timeshare.
I have repeatedly asked attorney after attorney if I am doing something wrong by listening to member complaints in an effort to gather data documenting multiple complaints made against the same agents. They have assured me I am doing nothing wrong. It appears a judge or jury will ultimately decide. On Friday Charles will publish the list of Diamond’s demand. This demand for documents follows a six-hour deposition, pertaining to the same lawsuit.
Like others on our 3,400 Diamond member-sponsored Facebook, I referred to this law firm when a member requested an attorney, or I was asked a legal question I am not qualified to answer. Our Facebook Files now provides a list of six law firms we respect.
Four attorneys have been assisting me without charge. It’s time for them to be paid. They filed a motion on my behalf that narrowed the scope of Diamond’s demands, but the task I expect will still be formidable and beyond the call of pro bono. I have retained my neighbour who worked as a former legal assistant to help me with the task.
A portion of my $200,000 GoFundMe will be earmarked for a purpose suggested by a person of influence I met in Washington D.C. this past week. This person was referred to me by another person of influence whose family has been harmed because of points they say they purchased for a reason that does not exist.
I will not launch the $200,000 GoFundMe me until I receive the narrower in scope subpoena. In the meantime, I seek pledges of support. Groundwork is being laid for our strategic and tactical plan following the advice of our person of influence. I am not at liberty to publish details but contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to learn more.
Some causes require a sacrificial lamb.
I doubt there are many that know Mark Twain considered his book Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc his finest work. He spent twelve years researching this child of a French peasant family:
I like Joan of Arc best of all my books, and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.
— Mark Twain
Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc should be required reading for any peasant attempting to hold the powerful accountable. I’m no virgin and I’m no saint, but like Joan, I may be burned at stakes for my efforts. Had Joan been told of this likely conclusion to her advocacy efforts, I’m confident Joan, like me, would have replied, “D’accord.”
Whistleblowers at the Summit convinced me this comes with the territory.
We seek to provide Diamond 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.
Diamond Resort Facebook
Gold Key Facebook
Free at Last Facebook
Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide
Inside Timeshare Facebook Group
Thank you, Irene, it is obvious from your report that you have made some significant contacts while at the summit and one thing is very certain, everyone must work together if we are going to see any change.
On the point of the GoFundMe campaign which Irene will shortly launch, please use our facebook pages or the Inside Timeshare contact page to pledge your support. Irene has helped so many it is now time for her to receive our support. Thank you all.