Archive for mark silverthorn

Ontario Government investigating Complete Debt Solutions?

 

About seven months ago I wrote two posts regarding a Toronto-based debt settlement firm, Complete Debt Solutions.  This firm had a website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca, offering debt settlement services to Canadians, Americans, as well as residents of the United Kingdom.  At that time Complete Debt Solutions appeared to be contravening Ontario’s debt settlement law and I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government concerning this firm.  Now seven months after I made my formal complaint to the Ontario Government Complete Debt Solutions may be facing some tough questions from Ontario regulators.

The homepage for the firm’s website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca is reproduced below.

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More than seven months after I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government concerning Complete Debt Solutions, a Toronto-based debt settlement firm which is contravening Ontario law, the firm’s website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca, is still up.

 

I wrote two posts about this firm.  The first post, dated June 22, 2015, was titled “Complete Debt Solutions Operating in Canada Illegally?”.  The second post, dated July 19, 2015, 2015, was titled “Complete Debt Solutions and the smoking gun“.

In my first post dated June 22nd I shared with readers that I made a formal complaint to the Ontario Government concerning what appeared to be a Toronto-based firm offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents in the absence of possessing the required license–an Ontario collection agency license–or being exempt from this requirement.

In my second post, dated July 19, 2015, I reproduced a copy of a debt settlement agreement that Mr. Milton Kaseke of Complete Debt Solutions sent to a prospective client.  You can find a copy of this document at the end of my July 19, 2015 post.  This document would appear to be evidence of multiple contraventions of a variety of provisions under the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.  One of the most troublesome provisions of this agreement were the up-front fees Complete Debt Solutions would be charging the prospective client.

In January of this year I received an e-mail from an Investigator with the Investigations Unit of the Consumer Protection Branch, Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, advising me that he had been assigned the file with respect to my complaint involving Complete Debt Solutions.  I subsequently spoke with the Investigator on the phone and he arranged to meet me at my residence on January 22, 2016.  On that date I made a sworn statement in connection with my complaint.

I am pleased to learn that after going through the time and trouble of making a complaint against a firm that would appear to be clearly operating in contravention of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act that the Ontario Government has assigned an Investigator to the file.  I am disappointed however, that it took the Ontario Government more than six months to assign an Investigator to a complaint which involves a straightforward violation of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act.

In Ontario any firm offering debt settlement services to the public must either possess the necessary license or be exempt from the requirement of having a license.  In June of 2015 Complete Debt Solutions did not possess an Ontario collection agency license nor was it exempt from doing so.  To the best of my knowledge, today–seven months after I made my formal complaint concerning Complete Debt Solutions–the firm does not possess the necessary license nor is it exempt from the Act.  I do, however, still see the firm’s website, www.completedebtsolutions.ca, offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

A significant amount of the evidence-gathering for an investigation of Complete Debt Solutions can be found in my two posts dated June 22, 2015, and July 19, 2015.

It would appear that no one at the Consumer Protection Branch at the Ministry of Consumer Services has had the time to read the Mark Silverthorn Blog over the past ten months.

 

Contact me if you have any information regarding Complete Debt Solutions

I would invite anyone with information regarding Complete Debt Solutions to contact me at (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you are welcome to send me an e-mail at markasilverthorn@gmail.com.

If you entered into a debt settlement agreement with Complete Debt Solutions then you might be entited, under Ontario law, to a one hundred percent refund of any monies paid to Complete Debt Solutions.

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Anyone with information regarding Complete Debt Solutions is invited to contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight January 6th deadline for placing nominations for Who’s Who for Canadian collection industry

 

Midnight on Wednesday, January 6th is the deadline for submitting nominations–via e-mail–for an upcoming Who’s Who of the Canadian collection industry.  QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition,  will be published on Sunday, January 10th.

The QuickCheck “500 List” is scheduled to be published on www.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca, before midnight on Sunday, January 10th.  It may very well be published on other websites as well in January.

 

Who is compiling this list?

This list is being compiled by staff at Woodbridge, Ontario-based QuickCheck Canada, a supplier of not only a secure database preventing concurrent payday loans but also turnkey software for payday loan operators.  Hundreds of hours of staff time have been dedicated to this project.  This project has been something that Sedef Karansu, QuickCheck Canada’s President, has been thinking about for quite some time.

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QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition, has been something that Sedef Karansu, QuickCheck Canada’s President, has wanted to do for some time.

 

Senior management at QuickCheck Canada has insider knowledge of the credit and collection industry, the bankruptcy and insolvency community, and the payday loan industry.  QuickCheck Canada’s extensive network of contacts across the country has been very helpgul in putting together this “500 List”.

 

How to nominate a person for inclusion in the QuickCheck “500 List”

Anyone can nominate a person to have their name included in QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry: 2016 Edition.  You can nominate a person by simply sending an e-mail to Yvonne Dean at Quick Check Canada at yvonne.dean@quickcheckcanada.com before midnight on Wednesday, January 6th.  The following information should be included in an e-mail nomination:

  • first name (or initials)
  • last name
  • name of organization person working for
  • job title

 

Broad range of categories included in QuickCheck’s “500 List”

QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian collection industry:  2016 Edition, will include individuals from a diverse range of categories including the following:

  • bankruptcy trustees
  • bloggers
  • collection agencies
  • collection lawyers
  • credit grantors
  • debt buyers
  • federal regulators
  • first party collections
  • industry associations
  • provincial and territorial regulators
  • vendors and suppliers to the collection industry
  • websites and social media

 

This list is limited to 500 names

There are thousands of people who work in the credit and collection industry in Canada.  It would be virtually impossible to create a list which includes the names of each and every one of these individuals.  QuickCheck’s challenge has been to identify the 500 most influential individuals.

QuickCheck’s Selection Committee will spend two entire days–Thursday, January 7th, and Friday, January 8th–making the final cuts to get this list down to 500 names.  The Selection Committee will be faced with numerous excruciating difficult decisions when it comes to determining the 500 names which are included in this year’s list.

 

Who’s Who of the Canadian Collection Industry to be published on January 10th

 

In 2015 most of my posts on the Mark Silverthorn Blog have focused on people or firms doing illegal or unethical things.  More recently, I have written several posts about being sued for $100K for defamation for writing a post that was critical of a Canadian company.  What you are about to read is not your typical post on the Mark Silverthorn Blog.

 

QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition will be published on January 10, 2016

This post is different.  It is a feel-good story about a firm that will be publishing a Who’s Who of the Canadian Collection Industry.  This list, QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry: 2016 Edition, is scheduled to be published on January 10, 2016.  I am proud to say that www.comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca will be publishing this list on January 10, 2016.  It is very likely that this list will also be published on other websites as well and on various social media platform on or after January 10, 2016.

 

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QuickCheck, based in Woodbridge, Ontario, is a supplier of software for the Canadian payday loan industry.  It offers proprietary software which prevents concurrent payday loans from a consumer and it also offers turnkey software for payday loan operators.

 

 

List a product of hundreds of hours of research

Sedef Karansu, the President of Woodbridge, Ontario-based QuickCheck, says that “more than 1,000-person hours were involved in the preparation of QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition.”

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Sedef Karansu, the President of QuickCheck, reviews the preliminary list of more than 200 names for the Collection Agencies Category in QuickCheck’s 500 of the Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition.

 

 

This list is but one example of how QuickCheck’s senior management has an extensive network of contacts throughout the country–in credit and collection industry, amongst bankruptcy trustees, and the payday loan industry.

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The QuickCheck Team looks at a preliminary list of names for inclusion in QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition.

 

 

List to include specific information

A listing in QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition will include the following information:

  • last name
  • first name (or initials)
  • name of the organization working for
  • job title

 

List will be subdivided into several different categories

Like the Grammies or the Academy Awards, QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry;  2016 Edition will be broken down into several different categories.  It is my understanding that these categories will include the following:

  • bankruptcy trustees
  • bloggers
  • collection agencies
  • collection lawyers
  • credit grantors
  • debt buyers
  • federal regulators
  • first party collections
  • industry associations
  • provincial and territorial regulators
  • vendors and suppliers to the collection industry
  • websites and social media

 

Nominations close midnight on Wednesday, January 6th

The QuickCheck team currently preparing QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Canadian Collection Industry:  2016 Edition is still accepting nominations.  Nominations will close at midnight at midnight on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.

If you would like to nominate someone–including yourself–for inclusion in QuickCheck’s 500 Most Influential People in the Collection Industry: 2016 Edition–then you should e-mail your request to Yvonne Dean at yvonne.dean@quickcheckcanada.com.

 

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Is MNP Ltd. sharing an office with a debt consultant in Barrie, Ontario?

 

MNP Ltd., one of the two largest national bankruptcy firms in Canada, may be sharing an office with a debt consultant in Barrie, Ontario.  Such an arrangement could potentially raise a number of ethical concerns and might draw the attention of the federal Superintendent of Bankruptcy, responsible for supervising the conduct of Canada’s 1,600 federally licensed bankruptcy trustees.

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Sometime in November both MNP Ltd., one of the two largest national firms of bankruptcy trustees in Canada, and Debt Relief Canada Inc., a debt consulting firm which engages in deceptive marketing practices, moved into adjacent office space on the ground floor at 136 Bayfield Street in Barrie, Ontario. 

 

The two firms either share a suite or their two premises are situated adjacent to one another in order to facilitate referrals from Debt Relief Canada Inc. to MNP Ltd.   Based upon our three-month investigation I can say that Laura Vivian, the owner of Debt Relief Canada Inc., has been a substantial source of referrals for MNP Ltd. in communities throughout Ontario–as far afield as Markham and Mississauga.

 

Formal complaint to the Superintendent of Banrkruptcy

Following my firm’s three-month investigation into the activities of Debt Relief Canada Inc., and its relationship with certain bankruptcy trustees, I will be filing a formal complaint with the federal Superintendent of Bankruptcy asking him to investigate MNP Ltd. and A. Farber & Partners Inc., concerning potential violations of the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Bankruptcyand in particular section 38.

 

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The conduct of federally licensed bankruptcy trustees is governed by the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Bankruptcy.

 

Section 38 of the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Bankruptcy reads as follows:

Trustees shall not assist, advise or encourage any person to engage in any conduct that the trustees know, or ought to know, is illegal or dishonest, in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process.

I believe a prima facie case can be made out with respect to the following:

  1. That the conduct of Debt Relief Canada Inc. and its counsellors–Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaafsma–constitute “dishonesty in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”;
  2. That MNP Ltd. and A. Farber & Partners Inc. knew or ought to have known of this dishonesty; and
  3. That MNP Ltd. and A. Farber & Partners “assisted, advised or encouraged” this dishonesty.

 

Debt Relief Canada’s 2015 shell game with six Ontario offices

In November I have written two LinkedIn posts focusing on Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s shell game with its six Ontario office locations descibed on the firm’s website, debtreliefcanada.ca; a November 9, 2015 post titled Farber & Partners defends sharing office with debt consulting firm, and November 15, 2015 post titled Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s shell game with Ontario offices and bankruptcy trustees continues.

 

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On November 9, 2015, and November 12, 2015, I wrote two LinkedIn posts chronicling Debt Relief Canada Inc’s bizarre and false representations on the firm’s website, reliefcanada.ca, concerning its “six Ontario offices”.

 

One of the webpages on Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website is CONTACT where, over the past 60 days website visitors could find the firm’s six Ontario offices.  Over a 2-day period–September 9th and 10th–I personally visited all six of these offices described on Debt Relief Canada’s website–and despite considerable effort I could find no evidence that the firm had any offices at four of these locations, Burlington, London, Markham, and Mississauga.  I only found actual offices for Debt Relief Canada Inc. in Barrie and in Kitchener.  The firm was simply making false claims on its website that it had offices in Burlington, London, Markham, and Mississauga.

 

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This screenshot of Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s CONTACT webpage was taken on September 9, 2015.  On that date this webpage’s information regarding an office in Barrie and Kitchener were accurate.  This webpage’s information, however, regarding office locations for Debt Relief Canada Inc. in Burlington, London, Markham, and Mississauga were false.

 

Debt Relief Canada’s shell game–with MNP Ltd.–resumes in Barrie

Just when I thought I could write some posts regarding some other debt consultants I discovered a dramatic new development in Debt Relief Canada’s ongoing shell game with its six Ontario offices.  Sometime in November Debt Relief Canada Inc. would appear to have relocated its Barrie office–located in a corporate business centre at 135 Bayfield Street–and moved into a suite which it is sharing with MNP Ltd., one of the two largest national firms of bankruptcy trustees in Canada.

 

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This photograph was taken on November 25, 2015, on the ground floor of 136 Bayfield Street in Barrie, Ontario.  Signage on the first floor of 136 Bayfield Street lists Debt Relief Canada as having a suite at Suite 107A and MNP Ltd. as having a suite at Suite 107B.

 

Debt Relief Canada shares office space with Farber in Kitchener

Debt Relief Canada Inc. is no stranger to sharing office space with a firm of bankruptcy trustees.  In Kitchener, Ontario, Debt Relief Canada Inc. currently shares an office with Farber & Partners Inc., one of the largest firms of bankruptcy trustees operating in Ontario.  Farber has 50 offices, about 48 in Ontario, and another two in British Columbia.  You can read more about this topic in my LinkedIn post dated November 9, 2015 titled Farber & Partners defends practice of sharing office with debt consulting firm.

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This is a photograph of Suite 507, 30 Duke Street West, Kitchener, Ontario.  Debt Relief Canada Inc. shares this space with A. Farber & Partners Inc., one of the largest firms of bankruptcy trustees operating in Ontario. 

 

In a November 6, 2015 phone conversation with Alan Farber, Founder and Joint Managing Founder of Farber Financial Group–which Alan generously consented to being recorded–Alan Farber can be heard saying “we never share these offices with debt consultants”.

One business day after I confronted Alan Farber during a telephone interview about A. Farber & Partner Inc.’s relationships with certain debt consultants who engaged in unethical marketing practices I received a letter from a lawyer–sent of behalf of A. Farber & Partners Inc.–threatening to sue me for defamation.

 

MNP Ltd. is one of the two largest national bankruptcy firms in Canada

On its website, Calgary-based MNP Ltd. reveals that it has more than 150 offices across Canada.  To the best of my knowledge, MNP Ltd.’s Barrie, Ontario office, located at 136 Bayfield Street, is the only office in the country where MNP Ltd. may be sharing space with a debt consultant.

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This is a photograph of 136 Bayfield Street, Barrie, Ontario, where MNP Ltd., one of the two largest firms of bankruptcy trustees in Canada, would appear to be sharing space with a debt consulting firm, Debt Relief Canada Inc.

 

Both Debt Relief Canada Inc. and MNP Ltd. moved into adjacent office space on the ground floor at 136 Bayfield Street in November

Both Debt Relief Canada Inc. and MNP Ltd. moved into office space on the ground floor at 136 Bayfield Street in Barrie, Ontario sometime in November of this year. The receptionist at the Bayfield Executive Suites, located at 135 Bayfield Street, informed me last week that Debt Relief Canada moved out from their premises the end of October.  My sources also indicate that MNP Ltd. moved out of its former Barrie location at the end of October of this year.

During our three-month investigation into the activities of Debt Relief Canada Inc. it became evident that Laura Vivian, the Barrie, Ontario-based owner of Debt Relief Canada Inc., was acting as a source of a substantial number of consumers being referred to bankruptcy trustees working at MNP Ltd.  Given the fact that Debt Relief Canada would appear to routinely refer files to MNP Ltd. at the latter’s Markham and Mississauga offices, the fact that both firms moved into space beside one another in the same building in Barrie cannot be a coincidence.  I believe that the decision by MNP Ltd. and Debt Relief Canada Inc. to move into adjacent office space–in the same month–in Barrie, Ontario, was a joint decision.

This simultaneous relocation–by both Debt Relief Canada Inc. and MNP Ltd.–into adjacent office space on the ground floor at 136 Bayfield Street in Barrie, Ontario–would facilitate Laura Vivian referring consumers to trustees working for MNP Ltd. situated in office space less than 50 feet away from her desk.

 

Address for MNP Ltd.’s Barrie office appearing on firm’s website

It is interesting to compare the address appearing on the ground floor tenant directory at 136 Bayfield Street with the address for this same office appearing on MNP Ltd.’s website.

 

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This screenshot from MNP Ltd.’s website captured on November 25, 2015, indicates that the address for MNP Ltd.’s Barrie, Ontario office is 136 Bayfield Street, Suite 107–and not Suite 107B.

 

One can only wonder why MNP Ltd.’s website lists the suite number for its Barrie office as Suite 107 and the tenant directory signage at 136 Bayfield Street is Suite 107B?

 

Information gleaned from looking at groundfloor floorplan

A person visiting the ground floor at 136 Bayfield Street in Barrie, Ontario would likely conclude that Suite 107 has been subdivided into two separate suites, Suite 107A for Debt Relief Canada and Suite 107B for MNP Ltd.  This is certainly what the information contained on the first floor tenant directory signage would suggest, as well as the fact that there appears to be two doors on the ground floor hallway–one of Debt Relief Canada and one for MNP Ltd.

But has Suite 107 at 136 Bayfield Street in Barrie, Ontario, been subdivided into two separate suites?  According to the floor plan for the first floor at 136 Bayfield Street–obtained on November 25, 2015, from Royal LePage, the real estate broker for the building–there is no wall subdividing Suite 107.

 

FirstFloorSchematics136BayfieldStreet

This floorplan for the first floor at 136 Bayfield Street, Barrie, Ontario–which was obtained on November 25, 2015–indicates that there is no wall subdividing Suite 107 into two separate suites.  Blue highlights have been added to this document.

 

The three doors in the vicinity of Suite 107

This document shows three doorways from the hallway into what appears to be Suite 107.  The entrance towards the bottom of this page is the door for MNP Ltd., the next door–higher up this page–is the door to a women’s washroom, and the third door is the entrance for Debt Relief Canada.

Three Doors groundlfoor hallway 136 Bayfield Street Barrie

From left to right, there are three doors that appear in the vicinity of Suite 107.  To the left is the entrance to MNP Ltd., Suite 107B.  To the right of this door is the door to the women’s washroom.  To the right of the door to the women’s washroom is the entrance to Debt Relief Canada, Suite 107A.

 

Who works at 136 Bayfield Street, Suite 107, Barrie, Ontario?

It would appear that Laura Vivian, who is described on Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website, reliefcanada.ca, as a Senior Insolvency Counsellor, works in Suite 107 at 136 Bayfield Street, Barrie, Ontario.  According to her LinkedIn Profile, Laura Vivian owns Debt Relief Canada Inc.

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According to her LinkedIn Profile, Laura Vivian owns Debt Relief Canada Inc.

 

Names of individuals working at Suite 107 other than Laura Vivian

I am currently compiling a list of names of everyone working at Suite 107 other than Laura Vivian.  If you have any information about who works at 136 Bayfield Street, Unit 107 you are invited to contact me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can send me an e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.  Anyone providing such information can do so on a confidential basis.  In more than three decades I have never revealed the names of any of my sources.

One of the individuals who would appear to be working at 136 Bayfield Street, Unit 107, is Karen Miller, Bankruptcy Trustee.  I was able to confirm this information on the website for MNP Ltd., mnp.

Karen Miller Bankruptcy Trustee

According to MNP Ltd.’s website, MNPdebt.ca, Karen Miller works out of 136 Bayfield Street, Suite 107B.  Based upon the floor plan provided to us by Royal LePage last week, Karen Miller’s desk must be no further than 50 feet from Laura Vivian’s desk located at 136 Bayfield, Suite 107A.

 

I was filmed during my recent visit to 136 Bayfield St. in Barrie

In the past few days I attended in person at 136 Bayfield Street and at the Bayfield Executive Offices, located across the street.  While I was at 136 Bayfield Street I took some photographs from outside looking towards 136 Bayfield Street.

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When I was in Barrie this past  week I took a photo of the front entrance of 136 Bayfield Street as well as a photo of the rear of the building.  In the picture (far right) the windows on the left side of the photo would be the windows for Suite 107.

 

You can imagine my surprise when I noticed a woman–someone whom I saw enter Suite 107 earlier that day–filming me on their cellphone while I was standing some distance from the rear of the building shooting video footage of 136 Bayfield Street.

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I suspect that that the individual filimg me on her cellphone is Karen Miller, Bankruptcy Trustee, who took photos or video footage of me using a cellphone this past week from Suite 107, 136 Bayfield Street, Barrie, Ontario.

 

Debt Relief Canada “closes” four of its six Ontario offices over a two-week period in November?

Anyone who has been regularly checking the CONTACT webpage on Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website, reliefcanada.ca, might come to the conclusion that this debt consulting firm closed four of its six Ontario offices in the past two weeks!  It helps if one compares a screenshot of Debt Relief Canada’s CONTACT webpage captured on November 12, 2015 with one captured on November 26–14 days later.

This screenshot–captured on November 12, 2015–taken from Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website clearly indicates that Debt Relief Canada Inc. has six Ontario offices.

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This screenshot of Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s CONTACT webpage was captured on November 12, 2015.

 

This screenshot, captured on November 26, 2015–some 14 days later–shows that Debt Relief Canada has gone from six Ontario offices to two headquarters and four “Counselling Locations”.

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This screenshot–captured on November 26, 2015–found on Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website, reliefcanada.ca, reveals that the firm has two headquarters, Kitchener and Ontario, and four “Counselling Locations” in Burlington, London, Markham, and Mississauga.

 

Central Ontario HQ

Laura Vivian, based in Barrie, Ontario, would appear to be responsible for Debt Relief Canada’s Central Ontario HQ located in its new office space at 136 Bayfield Street.  Based upon my firm’s three-month investigation of Debt Relief Canada Inc., it would be fair to describe Laura Vivian as a source of a substantial number of referrals to MNP Ltd., in Barrie, the immediate vicinity of Barrie, Markham, and Mississauga.

I suspect that a member of the public scheduling a counselling session with Debt Relief Canada Inc. at the above-noted Markham location would be meeting with Laura Vivian at either Suite 700 or Suite 900, 3100 Steeles Avenue East, one of MNP Ltd.’s two suites in the building.  It would be difficult to meet at Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s office at 3100 Steeles Avenue East because–according to the tenant directory in the building–Debt Relief Canada Inc.–does not have an office in the building.

3100 Steeles Avenue East tenant directory

This photograph of the tenant directory of 3100 Steeles Avenue East, Markham, Ontario, was taken on November 10, 2015.  According to this tenant directory, Debt Relief Canada Inc. does not have an office in this building.

 

I also suspect that a member of the public doing a “counselling session” at Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s Mississauga location would be meeting with Laura Vivian at one of MNP Ltd.’s two offices located at 50 Burnhamthorpe Road West–likely Suite 801.

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A member of the public seeking a counselling session with Debt Relief Canada Inc. in Mississsauga should not be surprised that–following one or two 30-minute preliminary phone calls with Laura Vivian–they subsequently meet with both Laura Vivian and a trustee working for MNP Ltd. at 50 Burnhamthorpe Road West, Suite 801.

 

Southwestern Ontario HQ

Kitchener, Ontario-based Rebecca Schaafsma is in charge of Debt Relief Canada’s Southwestern Ontario Headquarters which is located in an office suite shared with A. Farber & Partners Ltd, Bankruptcy Trustees, one of the largest firms of bankruptcy trustees operating in Ontario.  Based upon our three-month investigation of Debt Relief Canada Inc. it would be fair to describe Rebecca Schaafsma as a substantial source of referrals for A. Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, in not only Kitchener, but also London, Burlington, and possibly Hamilton.

I arranged to have multiple mystery shoppers–posing as consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt–and armed with miniature, hidden cameras–meet with Ms. Schaafsma over the past several months.  At the conclusion of each initial meeting Ms. Schaafsma recommended that our mystery shopper not only do a consumer proposal but also they they do this consumer proposal through a trustee working for A. Farber & Partners Inc., a firm that Debt Relief Canada Inc. shares space with.

 

Dishonest conduct by Debt Relief Canada Inc.

Dishonest conduct by Debt Relief Canada Inc. is not limited to making false claims on its website about non-existent offices.  Debt Relief Canada would also appear to be using bait-and-switch tactics to entice consumers who do not want to use the services of a bankruptcy trustee to meet with them.  Furthermore, Debt Relief Canada goes to great lengths to hide the fact that the “programs” it facilitates are consumer proposals and personal bankruptcy.  Finally, one could could make the case that Rebecca Schaafsma and Laura Vivian’s conduct are that of a marketing agent and not that of an independent financial advisor acting in the best interests of clients.

 

1.     Bait-and-switch tactics employed by Debt Relief Canada Inc.

On its homepage Debt Relief Canada Inc. holds itself out as a firm which provides independent and unbiased advice to consumers struggling with unsecured debt.  At the very bottom of the homepage for Debt Relief Canada, reliefcanada.ca, it states “We are NOT Bankruptcy Trustees”.

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The website for Debt Relief Canada Inc. claims that “We are NOT bankruptcy trustees”. 

 

Is that statement “We are NOT bankruptcy trustees” dishonest given the fact that when we mystery shopped debt counsellors working for Debt Relief Canada Inc. the only recommdations that they have made is that our mystery shopper not only do a consumer proposal but also that it be done through a particular firm of bankruptcy trustees–in some instances with a firm the debt consultant is sharing space with?

 

2.  Hiding the fact that they facilitate consumer proposals and personal bankruptcy

Earlier this year we mystery shopped both Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaafsma and these mystery shopping encounters were recorded.  What jumps out during these recordings is the lengths to which both Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaafsma avoid making any reference to the fact that the two “goverment programs” that they facilitate are ones that only a bankruptcy trustee can file on behalf of a consumer.  Neither Laura Vivian nor Rebecca Schaafsma ever say the phrase “bankruptcy trustee”.  Instead they use the term “court officer”.  They inform our mystery shopper that a “court officer” would file a “proposal” on behalf of the consumer.

 

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In September of this year I arranged to have a number of mystery shoppers–armed with a hiddent video camera–meet with Rebecca Schaafsma at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, Kitchener, Ontario, an office Debt Relief Canada Inc. shares with a firm of bankruptcy trustees, A. Farber & Partners Inc.

 

During this meeting Rebecca spoke about how Debt Relief Canada “facilitated” consumers taking advantage of federal government programs that would enable a person to consolidate or reduce their debt, with zero percent interest.

At no time did the words “bankruptcy trustee” pass Rebecca Schaafsma’s lips during these mystery shopping encounters.  In Canada only federally licensed bankruptcy trustees can legally file a consumer proposal or a personal bankruptcy on behalf of a consumer.  Rebecca Schaafsma made numerous references to “court officers” filing legal documents on behalf of a consumer doing a “proposal”.  When one of my mystery shoppers asked who the court officer was she was referring to she acknowledged that it was someone in the adjacent office working for Farber.  In another instance she referred to Graeme Whitehead by name, who is a bankruptcy trustee at A. Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees.

 

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Graeme Whitehead, CIRP, Bankruptcy Trustee, Partner, A. Farber & Partners Inc.

 

 

When one of our mystery shoppers met with Rebecca Schaafsma in September of this year Rebecca provided our mystery shopper with an 8-page document  titled Initial Assessment.  This entire document is reproduced at the very end of this post.

PPs 1 and 8 Sept 28 2015 DRCI Initial Assessment Form

Pictured above are copies of pages 1 and 8 of an 8-page document that Rebecca Schaafsma provided to our mystery shopper in late September of this year at Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s Kitchener office, 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, a suite which it shares with A. Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees.

 

 

One of our mystery shoppers, carrying a hidden, miniature camera, met with Rebecca Schaafsma in late September of this year.  This mystery shopping encounter was captured on video for posterity.  During this meeting Rebecca Schaafsma completed an 8-page document titled Initial Assessment, which she then gave to our mystery shopper.  Debt Relief Canada did not charge our mystery shopper for the Initial Consultation which took place on this date.  Our mystery shopper, however, was informed that Debt Relief Canada Inc. would charge a fee of $700.00, plus H.S.T., for the second meeting at which time paperwork would be put together to be presented to a “court officer” prior to filing a proposal.  Furthemore, Rebecca Schaafsma informed our mystery shopper that she would have to pay an additional $700.00, plus H.S.T., at a third meeting when the consumer would meet with both Rebecca Schaafsma and a “court officer” to determine whether or not the “court officer” would file the proposal on her behalf.  In summary, if our mystery shopper chose to not only hire  Debt Relief Canada Inc. but also proceed with a consumer proposal then Debt Relief Canada Inc. would have charged her $1,400.00, plus H.S.T., for its consulting services.

Let’s contrast this with the scenario where, if, instead of meeting with Rebecca Schaafsma of Debt Relief Canada Inc., our mystery shopper had telephoned A. Farber & Partners Inc.’s Kitchener office directly–and then scheduled an appointment with a trustee at A. Farber & Partners Inc. at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507–and stated her intention to make a consumer proposal with A. Farber & Partners Inc.   In this scenario the firm of bankruptcy trustees would have essentially prepared virtually all of the paperwork that Debt Relief Canada Inc. would have prepared and the cost to the consumer:  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

It is professional miconduct for a bankruptcy trustee to charge a fee to a consumer with respect to the preparation of a consumer proposal.

 

3.   Conduct consistent with an exclusive marketing agent for a firm of bankruptcy trustees and inconsistent with an independent debt counsellor

I have reviewed the audio recordings and the video footage of the mystery shopping encounters with both Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaasfma.  Their conduct during these encounters is consistent with a person acting as a marketing representative for a single firm of bankruptcy trustees.  Their conduct is not consistent with that  of an independent consultant providing unbiased advice to a person struggling with unsecured consumer debt.

At no time did either Laura Vivian nor Rebecca Schaafsma ask our mystery shoppers for the date of last payment on each of their unsecured consumer debts–a crucial question–to determine whether or not they had the option of not paying the debt where the date of last payment was more than 2 years ago because of the expiry of Ontario’s 2-year limitation period.

Furthermore, neither did Laura Vivian nor Rebecca Schaafsma ask questions about our mystery shopper’s employment to determine whether or not a creditor would realistically be able to successfully garnish their wages if the consumer simply quit their job if they were subject to a wage garnishment.  A significant number of Canadians are essentially judgment proof or near-judgment proof because they can simply quit their job if a creditor with a judgment against them were to attempt a wage garnishment.

Finally, both Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaafsma misrepresented a consumer’s ability to settle a debt at significant discount by negotiating a one-time lump sum payment with a creditor–or a creditor’s authorized collection agent.

 

Sept 28 2015 mystery shopping

When Rebecca Schaffsma met with our mystery shoppers earlier this year her conduct was consistent with someone who was a marketing agent for Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, and not someone who was an independent debt consultant who was acting in the best interests of the consumer.

 

After reviewing these mystery shopping encounters it would appear that both Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaafsma are not acting as independent consultants providing unbiased advice in the best interests of consumers, but rather that they are acting as marketing representatives for a single firm of bankruptcy trustees and potentially for one or more non-profit credit counselling agencies.

 

Contact Mark Silverthorn if you have any information about Debt Relief Canada, Laura Vivian, Rebecca Schaafsma, and their relationship with MNP Ltd. and A. Farber & Partners Inc.

 

Anyone who has information regarding Debt Relief Canada, or its two Ontario-based debt counsellors, Laura Vivian and Rebecca Schaafsma–as well as the the firm’s relationship with MNP Ltd. and A. Farber & Partners Inc.

According to its website Debt Relief Canada Inc. operates in both Alberta and British Columbia.  Anyone with information regarding the names of trustees receiving files from Debt Relief Canada Inc. in Alberta and British Columbia are invited to contact me.

You are welcome to call me at 1 (866) 966-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you are welcome to send me an e-mail at mark@comrehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

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You are welcome to contact me if you have any information regarding Debt Relief Canada Inc., Laura Vivian, Rebecca Schaafsma, or their relationship with MNP Ltd. and A. Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees.

 

 

8-page Initial Consultation form prepared by Rebecca Schaafsma for our mystery shopper

In late September of this year Kitchener, Ontario-based Rebecca Schaafsma gave the following 8-page document to one of our mystery shoppers who met with her at Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s Kitchener office located at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, a suite which is shared with one of the largest firms of bankruptcy trustees in Ontario, A. Farber & Partners Inc.

You can read this 8-page Initial Assessment form prepared by Rebecca Schaafsma for our mystery shopper in late September of this year by clicking on the following link:

Sept28 Initial Consultation form

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I confront Alan Farber over potential violations of Code of Ethics for Trustees in Bankrupty

 

On Friday, November 6, 2015, I had a 27-minute telephone conversation with Alan Farber, Founder and Joint Managing Partner, of Farber Financial Group.  Near the beginning of this phone call Alan graciously consented to having the phone call recorded.  One of the firms which forms part of this organization is A. Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, one of the largest firms of bankruptcy trustees operating in Ontario.

 

 

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Listen to my telephone conversation with Alan Farber

During this phone call I provided Alan with facts which I believe raise legitimate questions about potential violations of section 38 of the Code of Ethics For Bankruptcy Trustees by his firm arising from relationships with specific debt consultants. During this phone call I advised Mr. Farber that it was my intention to file a formal complaint with the Superintendent of Bankruptcy asking him to determine whether or not Farber & Partner’s current relationship with Debt Relief Canada Inc. constitutes a violation of section 38 of the Code of Ethics of Ethics for Trustees in Bankruptcy.

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On November 6, 2015, I had a telephone call with Alan Farber, the Founder and Joint Managing Partner of Financial Group at which time I confronted him regarding the relationship between Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, and a debt consulting firm, Debt Relief Canada Inc.

 

Farber and Partners has threatened to sue me for libel and slander

Earlier today, November 9, 2015, one business day following my telephone call with Alan Farber, I received a letter from a lawyer working for Farber and Partners Inc., Melanie Wengle, in which she threatened to sue me for libel and slander.

I want to assure you–my readers–that our firm, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.–is dedicated to the pursuit of the truth–and we refuse to be intimidated by threats of lawsuits from large organizations with deep pockets which think they can silence me.

 

Section 38 of the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy trustees in Canada are licensed by the federal government.  They are supervised by the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Ottawa.  All bankruptcy trustees are required to comply with the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Banktruptcy.

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Section 38 of the Code of Ethics reads as follows:

Trustees shall not assist, advise or encourage any person to engage in any conduct that the trustees know, or ought to know, is illegal or dishonest, in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process.

 

 

Farber’s relationship with Debt Relief Canada

 

Over the past several months our research has uncovered a close working relationship between Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, and a debt consulting firm by the name of Debt Relief Canada Inc. I believe that the Superintendent of Bankruptcy should make inquiries to determine whether or not the relationship between Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, and Debt Relief Canada Inc. constitutes a violation of section 38 of the Code of Ethics for Trustees in Bankruptcy.

 

What do we know about Debt Relief Canada Inc.?

Our research indicates that there are three people working for Debt Relief Canada Inc.  These individuals include Laura Vivian, who would appear to the owner of the company.  Her title is listed as Senior Insolvency Counsellor.  To the best of my knowledge Laura works in Barrie out of an office located in a corporate business centre.  She might also work about one day per month in the firm’s Markham and Mississauga offices.

LauraVivianLinkedInProfile

According to Laura Vivian’s LinkedIn Profile she is the owner of Debt Relief Canada Inc.  Her title on the firm’s website is listed as Senior Insolvency Counsellor.  She is based out of the firm’s Barrie office and may spend about one day per month at the firm’s Markham and Mississauga offices.

 

Rebecca Schaafsma works out of Debt Relief Canada’s office in Kitchener, Ontario.  She would also appear to work–from time-to-time–in several other offices in southwestern Ontario including London and Burlington.

A man who identifies himself as Rick answers the phones and would appear to be in charge of screening potential clients and scheduling appointments with the firm’s counsellors.

 

A corporate search reveals that Debt Relief Canada Inc. was incorporated on November 15, 2010, in the Province of Ontario.

 

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This corporate search for Debt Relief Canada Inc., lists the firm’s mailing address as Rebecca Snider, 524 Hidden Creek Drive, Kitchener, Ontario.

 

Rebecca Snider-Schaafsma,–whose LinkedIn Profile appears below–would appear to be the same individual as Rebecca Snider whose name appears on the corporate search for Debt Relief Canada Inc. reproduced above.

Rebecca Schaafsma LinkedIn Profile

This is the LinkedIn Profile for Rebecca Snider-Schaafsma, whose job title is listed as a “Consultant at DRC Inc.”  It would appear that DRC is short for Debt Relief Canada.

 

 

The following bio for Rebecca Schaafsma can be found on the website for Debt Relief Canada Inc., reliefcanada.ca, on the ABOUT US webpage.

RebeccaSchaafsmabioABOUTUSwebpage

 

 

How does Debt Relief Canada Inc. hold itself out to the public?

 

In the next few days I will be filing a formal complaint with the Superintendent of Bankruptcy asking him to determine if the relationship between Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, and Debt Relief Canada Inc. constitutes a violation of section 38 of the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Bankruptcy.

In order to determine if there has been a violation of section 38 of the Code of Ethics For Trustees in Bankruptcy then the answer to the following two questions would have to be in the affirmative.

  1. Does the conduct of of Rebecca Schaafsma and/or Debt Relief Canada Inc. constitute “dishonesty in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”?
  2. Assuming that Debt Relief Canada’s conduct does constitute “dishonesty in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”, then has any trustee at Farber & Partners “assisted, advised or encouraged” Rebecca Schaafsma and/or Debt Relief Canada Inc. with respect to “dishonesty in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”?

In this post I will provide you with some details regarding the marketing practices of Debt Relief Canada Inc.  I will be asking both the public and the Superintendent of Bankruptcy whether or not Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s marketing practices are “dishonest in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”?

 

What conduct by Rebecca Schaafsma and/or Debt Relief Canada Inc. might be considered “dishonest in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”?

 

I have identified three specific areas where a reasonable person might come to the conclusion that Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s conduct constitutes “dishonesty in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process”.

  1. Misleading nature of the statement appearing on the firm’s homepage:  “We are NOT Bankruptcy Trustees” given the fact that the firm essentially refers individuals to bankruptcy trustees for either consumer proposals or personal bankruptcies–sometimes to bankruptcy trustees working in the same office
  2. Lack of transparency concerning the firm’s relationship with Farber & Partners
  3. Misrepresentations with respect to some of the firm’s office locations

Below you will find a screenshot of the homepage for Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website, reliefcanada.ca.

 

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I would like to draw your attention to the very bottom of homepage for the website for Debt Relief Canada Inc., reliefcanada.ca, which is reproduced below:

 

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At the very bottom of the homepage for Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website there appears the statement “We are NOT bankruptcy trustees”. 

 

If Rebecca Schaafsma and Debt Relief Canada Inc. typically recommend that individuals struggling with consumer debt (1) do a consumer proposal or file for personal bankruptcy and (2) they often refer individuals to a particular firm of trustees in a geographic area–and in some instances to bankruptcy trustees working in the same office–is the statement “We are NOT bankruptcy trustees” misleading, or even “dishonest”?

 

 

Debt Relief Canada Inc. shares an office with Farber in Kitchener

Our research indicates that Debt Relief Canada Inc. has a relationship with Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, in at least three of Farber’s Ontario offices;  Kitchener, London, and Burlington.

You don’t have to hire a private investigator to discover that A. Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, has a relationship with Debt Relief Canada Inc. at Farber’s Kitchener office located at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, Kitchener, Ontario.

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This is a photograph of the door to Suite 507, 30 Duke Street West, Kitchener, Ontario.  The names of two firms appear on the door to this suite:  A. Farber & Partners Inc. and Debt Relief Canada Inc.  The former is a firm of bankruptcy trustees and the latter is a debt consulting firm. 

 

Alan Farber told me that his firm did not share space with debt consultants

 

During my November 6, 2015, telephone conversation with Alan Farber I raised concerns about Farber & Partners Inc. sharing office space with Debt Relief Canada Inc. in Kitchener, Ontario.

 

   “We never share these offices with debt consultants”.

Nov62015phonecallAlanFarberstatement

 

Who works at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, Kitchener?

 

Whoworksat30DukeStWKitchenerON

 

Several individuals work out of this office including Rebecca Schaafsma, Insolvency Counsellor with Debt Relief Canada Inc., Chad Zizzo, Debt Solutions Manager with Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, and Graeme Whitehead, a bankruptcy trustee, and a partner, with Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees.

According to the website for Farber & Partners Inc., afarber.com, Farber Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, moved into its offices located at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, Kitchener, Ontario, sometime after January 6, 2015, when it closed its office located at 305 King Street West.

 

FarberwebsiteKitchenerofficeinfo

For a significant period of time in 2015 it would appear that Debt Relief Canada Inc., a debt consulting firm whose website states “We are NOT Bankruptcy Trustees”, has been sharing a suite at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, in Kitchener, Ontario with Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees. 

 

Earlier today I received a letter dated November 9, 2015, from Melanie Wengle, a lawyer at Farber and Partners Inc.  In this letter Ms. Wengle concedes that Debt Relief Canada Inc. does refer some of their clients to Farber and Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, for a consumer proposal or personal bankruptcy.  Here is an excerpt from Ms. Wengle’s letter to me.

 

Nov92015excerptWengleletter

In her letter Ms. Wengle states that Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees, has never paid any compensation, directly or indirectly, to Debt Relief Canada Inc.  I found that statement odd because during my phone call on Friday, November 6, 2015, with Alan Farber I do not recall suggesting at any time that Farber & Partners was, in fact, paying any  form of compensation, whatsoever, to Debt Relief Canada Inc.

 

 

Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s office located in London

The website for Debt Relief Canada Inc. contains a webpage where the firm lists the contact information for its six Ontario locations, including an office in London and an office in Burlington, Ontario.

 

ContactUSNov52015

On the firm’s website, Debt Relief Canada Inc. provides some information regarding its six Ontario offices, including photographs for all the buildings where the firm’s office is located–except for its office located at 406 Oxford Street East in London, Ontario.

 

406OxfordStEphotomontage

In November of this year I attended at 406 Oxford Street East, London, Ontario.  On that date I was accompanied by Rosie, “The Riveter”, our tracking dog.  The only occupant of this building would appear to be Farber and Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees.  There was no signage outside the building whatsover for Debt Relief Canada Inc.–despite the fact that 406 Oxford Street East, London, Ontario, is listed on the firm’s website as the location for its London office.

 

 

Based upon a telephone call made last week to Farber’s London office located at 406 Oxford Street East, London, Ontario, it would appear that Rebecca Schaafsma, Insolvency Counsellor, Debt Relief Canada Inc., works out of Farber’s office located at 406 Oxford Street East in London, Ontario.

 

Debt Relief Canada Inc. would appear to be misrepresenting its Burlington office location

Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website indicates that it has an office in Burlington, Ontario, and the office address is listed as 460 Brant Street, with no suite number provided.  I found it odd that Debt Relief Canada Inc. would go to the trouble of having on its website a photograph of the building where its Burlington office is located without including a reference to the firm’s suite number in the building.

460 Brant St Burlington ON

This is a recent photo of the tenant directory found in the lobby at 460 Brant Street, Burlington, Ontario.  Nowhere on this directory is there a listing for an office for Debt Relief Canada Inc.–despite the fact that the firm’s website claims that the firm has an office in this building.

 

 

After visiting 460 Brant Street in Burlington, Ontario, in person and looking at the building directory in the lobby I soon discovered why Debt Relief Canada Inc. might not want to list a suite number for its Burlington office.  It would appear that Debt Relief Canada Inc. does not have an office at 460 Brant Street in Burlington despite the information contained on its website.  Is this some kind of error or an attempt to mislead the public?

A few days ago I learned that someone phoned the main number for the Burlington office for Farber & Partners Inc., Bankruptcy Trustees, informing them that they had an appointment later this month with Rebecca Schaafsma and that they wanted directions to get to the office. The receptionist matter-of-factly provided the caller with driving instructions to their office, as well as the address to Farber’s Burlington office which she confirmed was located at 3390 South Service Road, Suite 204.

 

Is Debt Relief Canada Inc. being dishonest about the address for its Markham office?

According to Debt Relief Canada’s website the firm has a Markham office located at 3100 Steeles Avenue East.

 

Tenant Directory 3100 Steeles Avenue East

This is a recent photograph of the tenant directory found in the lobby at 3100 Steeles Avenue East in Markham, Ontario.  There is no listing for an office for Debt Relief Canada Inc. despite the fact that the firm’s website claims to have an office in this building.

 

Is Debt Relief Canada Inc. being dishonest about the address for its Mississauga office?

Debt Relief Canada Inc.’s website claims that the firm has an office located at 50 Burnhamthorpe Road West, Mississauga, Ontario.  I recently attended at the is address and there was no listing whatsoever in the building lobby for Debt Relief Canada Inc. in this building.

 

 

Is Rebecca Schaafsma acting as an exclusive marketing representative for Farber & Partners?

In September of this year my firm arranged to send two undercover operatives–armed with a hidden camera–to meet with Rebecca Schaafsma of Debt Relief Canada Inc. posing as consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt. Both of these meetings took place at 30 Duke Street West, Suite 507, Kitchener, Ontario.

During both of these initial meetings Rebecca Schaafsma recommended that the undercover operatives do a consumer proposal.  She also indicated that if our undercover operatives chose to proceed with a consumer proposal then she would arrange for them to do a consumer proposal with a bankruptcty trustee from Farber & Partners, Bankruptcy Trustees.

 

Contact our office if you have any information which you believe involves an inappropriate relationship between a bankruptcy trustee and a debt consultant

I would invite you to call me at (519) 827-5513 or (866) 996-9941 if you have any information that you believe involves an inappropriate relationship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee.

 

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You are welcome to contact me if you have any information about a questionable relationship between a debt consultant and one or more bankruptcy trustees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I raise concerns about unethical marketing practices by bankruptcy trustees with another Ontario lawmaker: Jim McDonell, MPP

 

On Tuesday, November 3rd I had a meeting at the Ontario Legislature with Jim McDonell, MPP, (PC–Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry).  He is the PC Critic for the all-important Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.  This ministry has a broad mandate involving provincial laws focusing on  consumer protection.

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Jim McDonell, MPP (Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry) and I discuss a number of issues related to protecting the public from illegal and unethical behavior by those holding themselves out as assisting consumers struggling with consumer debt.

 

During our meeting I shared my concerns with Jim McDonell, MPP, about unethical marketing practices by bankruptcy trustees–in particular–inappropriate relationships with debt consultants.  Bankruptcy Trustees are regulated by the federal Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Ottawa and they are required to comply with the Code of Ethics for Trustees in Bankruptcy.

CodeofEhticsTrusteesCoversnipped

 

I am specifically concerned about the number of bankruptcy trustees in Ontario that would appear to be contravening section 38 of the Code of Ethics for Trustees in Bankruptcy

Section 38 of the Code of Ethics for Bankruptcy Trustees reads as follows:

 

Trustees shall not assist, advise or encourage any person to engage in any conduct that the trustees know, or ought to know, is illegal or dishonest, in respect of the bankruptcy and insolvency process.

 

After researching the conduct of debt consultants over the past four months it appears clear that a substantial percentage of bankruptcy trustees in Ontario might be routinely and systematically violating section 38 of the Code of Ethics for Trustees in Bankruptcy.

We have used undercover operatives armed with hidden cameras

I plan on shining a light on this practice over the next few days, weeks, and months.  During this period we will be identifying those trustees whose relationships with certain debt consultants warrants a written complaint to the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.  As part of our research my firm has been sending undercover operatives to meet with selected debt consultants–armed with hidden cameras–as part of our research.  The results, quite frankly, have been disturbing.  I anticipate that some of this video footage will be shared with the public in some manner in the near future.

 

Enough is enough

It is about time that bankruptcy trustees–as a group–say enough is enough.  Unethical marketing practices by some–and definitely, not all trustees, is a plague on their house.  Simply put, the greed of some bankruptcy trustees is contributing to the moral debasement of bankruptcy trustees in Ontario. This is not the Ontario I want to live in.

Furthermore, lawmakers, consumer advocacy groups, and the media should “get in the game” as well.  It is time to identify the “bad actors”.  Regulators in particular should be paying attention.  If you are not going to do your job regulating the industry then people are going to start asking some very embarrassing questions.

Anyone engaging in illegal or unethical practices–including any trustees violating section 38 of the Code of Ethics–should be dealt with.  Failure to do so shows contempt for vulnerable people in our society, recent immigrants, seniors, students as well as those suffering debt problems arising from the loss of a job, breakdown of a relationship, or serious health problems.

 

Request for assistance from the public

If you have any information regarding an inapprropriate relationship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee then I would invite you to contact me at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513.  Alternatively, you can send me an e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

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We have a number of short videos and longer documentaries in the production stage.  We are also interested in sending our undercover operatives into additional locations.

Our firm announces new Video and Documentary Series on Consumer Debt

 

Over the past several months our firm has been conducting a significant amount of research into the collection industry as well as those holding themselves out as providing solutions to Canadians struggling with unsecured consumer debt.  Thanks to tips from a number of sources–including a number of my LinkedIn Connections whom I have never met–we are currently in the process of producing several videos and documentaries based upon our research.

 

Our photographer captures me revising some talking points before we shoot some footage for a video available on YouTube.  Photo courtesy of Emilie van Gent.

Our photographer captures me revising some talking points before we shoot some footage for a video available on YouTube. Photo courtesy of Emilie van Gent.

 

 

Earlier today our  firm recently sent out the following Press Release announcing some of the details in connection with our new video and documentary series.

 

For Immediate Release:

November 1, 2015

Consumer Advocate Announces New Documentary Series on Consumer Debt

Kitchener, Ontario–Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc., will be rolling out a series of short videos and longer documentaries starting in November focusing on consumer debt.  “Some of these videos will emulate CBC Marketplace‘s investigative format and other videos will focus more on the ABC’s of financial literacy, with a special emphasis on consumer debt”, says Mark Silverthorn, former collection industry insider and Founder of Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

The average Canadian is poorly informed concerning financial literacy–particularly as it relates to consumer debt.  In many provinces bill collectors run roughshod over consumers with overdue accounts.  In many instances, vulnerable individuals–senior citizens, recent immigrants, and students are particularly at risk.  Many Canadians, including those with university degrees, simply do not have a basic understanding of the various options that they have when they are experiencing significant challenges with debt.

Furthermore, there is a financially lucrative industry in Canada which provides services to consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt.  According to Mark Silverthorn, “In many instances the moral gas gauge for these firms is running on empty”.  The industry is rife with conflicts of interest.  A significant number of firms are engaging in unethical and illegal practices.  In some cases the consumer is receiving questionable advice.  In other instances the consumer is simply being preyed upon.

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For further information:

Mark Silverthorn

Founder, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

Tel.:  (866) 996-9941   or   (519) 827-5513

e-mail:   mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

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I name unethical and illegal operators in consumer protection summit with Mike Colle, MPP

 

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This past week I drove from Kitchener to Toronto to the Ontario Legislature for a consumer protection summit meeting with Mike Colle, MPP (Lib. Eglinton-Lawrence)–a wide-ranging discussion regarding consumer protection issues facing Ontario residents.

 

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from the office of Mike Colle, MPP, the sitting member of the Ontario Legislature for the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.  The invitation indicated that this veteran Ontario lawmaker was interested in meeting with me at his office at Queen’s Park to discuss consumer debt.

We did meet a few days ago at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto.   During our meeting at his Queen’s Park office–literally a stone’s throw from the Legislature–we had a free-wheeling conversation focusing on consumer debt issues.  Mr. Colle shared with me some anecdotes regarding the credit reporting industry.  One of main topics of conversation were concerns I have raised over the past four months on this blog and in my LinkedIn posts regarding the conduct of those holding themselves out as helping consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt.

During this meeting I provided Mike Colle, MPP, with the names of firms whose activities I believe warrant investigation by either the Ontario Registrar of Collection Agencies or the federal Superintendent of Bankruptcy.  I also provided Mr. Colle with some of the details of my firm’s four-month investigation into the post-July 1st regulatory regime for firms offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents.

 

Presentation of autographed copy of my book

At the end of our meeting I had the opportunity to provide Mike Colle, MPP, with an autographed copy of my book titled The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling (2010), published by McClelland & Stewart.  This moment was captured for posterity in the photo, appearing below, taken by Mr. Colle’s assistant, Ms. Ashley Rensler.

Oct152015MarkgivingMikeCollebooklandscape

This past week I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Colle, MPP (Eglinton-Lawrence) at his Queen’s Park office and presenting him with an autographed copy of my book The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling.

 

Future meetings with  lawmakers

I hope that my meeting this past week with Mike Colle, MPP, is not the last meeting where I have the opportunity to discuss my concerns regarding enforcement of the Ontario Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act with a member of the Ontario Legislature.  Earlier this year I reached out to several members of the Ontario Legislature with respect to my concerns regarding consumer protection. I can say that I am scheduled to meet with a second member of the Ontario Legislature in the next ten days.  My goal is to meet with a significant number of Ontario lawmakers to share my concerns regarding enforcement of Ontario’s consumer protection laws–in particular those relating to the conduct of collection agencies and firms offering debt settlement services.

In the future I would also like to schedule meetings with federal Members of Parliament at which time I can present them with some of the details of my inquiries with respect to the conduct of debt consultants–particularly in Ontario–and potential violations of the Code of Ethics for Bankruptcy Trustees.

Any lawmaker that is interested in scheduling a meeting with me is welcome to contact me by phone at (866) 996-9941 or (519) 827-5513 or via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

 

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Over the next few days, weeks, and months, I hope to be able to present both Ontario and federal lawmakers with the names of firms–holding themselves as assisting consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt–who should be investigated by regulators.

 

How prevalent is unethical marketing practices by Ontario bankruptcy trustees?

 

Over the past several months I have written numerous posts about firms offering debt settlement services to Ontario residents.  In several of these posts I have raised questions about whether some of these firms were acting in contravention of Ontario law.

During my research into debt settlement firms I stumbled across a much larger and insidious problem involving unethical marketing practices by some–but certainly not all–bankruptcy trustees in Ontario.  In Ontario today it is routine for many bankruptcy trustees to pay some form of referral fee or monetary compensation for referrals.  More specifically, these referral fees are being paid to a group that I will refer to as “debt consultants” most of whom advertise attractive results to consumers facing debt problems.

 

Who are these debt consultants?

Debt consultants are organizations–most of whom advertise on the internet–offering assistance to consumers struggling with unsecured consumer debt.  I would describe myself as a debt consultant.  Many debt consultants promise on their websites that they can eliminate 75 percent or 80 percent of a consumer’s debt under a federal government program.

Some debt consultants are independent financial advisors who provide quality advice to their clients at a reasonable price.  Other debt consultants provide services of limited value for exorbitant fees.  Finally, some debt consultants are little more than con artists.

Some of these debt consultants are heavily subsidized by a firm of bankruptcy trustees.  These shady debt consulting firms which hold themselves out as independent debt advisors are effectively exclusive marketing agents for one particular firm of bankruptcy trustees.  Reliable sources have told me that some bankruptcy firms pay the rent for a debt consulting firm in their community which serves as a referral funnel for them.  It is common knowledge among bankruptcy trustees in Ontario that some–but not all– trustees are paying anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500 for a referral from a debt consulting firm.

There are debt consultants who not only offer independent advice but also who do not receive referral fees.  Unfortunately, a significant percentage of debt consultants are nothing more than marketing fronts for unethical bankruptcy trustees.  If a trustee is paying a debt consultant $1,000 for a referral is a debt consultant going to tell a consumer that they don’t need a consumer proposal because Ontario’s 2-year statute of limitations has expired on their $45,000 worth of unsecured debt?

 

Unethical for trustees to offer financial benefit for a referral

Bankruptcy trustees in Canada are licensed by the federal government and their conduct is supervised by the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.  The conduct of bankruptcy trustees is governed by a document known as the Code of Conduct for Trustees in Bankruptcy.  Section 47 of this Code reads as follows:

Trustees shall not, directly or indirectly, pay to a third party a commission, compensation, or other benefit in order to obtain a professional engagement or accept, directly or indirectly from a third party, a commission, compensation or other benefit for referring work for a professional engagement.

 

CodeofEthicsfrontcover

 

Payment for referrals is becoming a pandemic amongst trustees

It is becoming increasing evident to me that a significant percentage of bankruptcy trustees in Ontario today are violating section 47 of the Code of Conduct for Trustees in Bankruptcy on a regular basis.  I have no knowledge as to whether or not the Superintendent of Bankruptcy is aware of this problem which would appear to be a growing problem–particularly in Ontario.  It constitutes a growing pandemic amongst federally licensed bankruptcy trustees and a major intervention is required.

It is unfortunate that those bankruptcy trustees with a questionable moral compass are now sullying the reputation of all bankruptcy trustees.  I want to reiterate that many bankruptcy trustees do not offer any financial compensation when a file is referred to them.   I am reluctant to say that a few bad apples are the problem because I believe that it would not be accurate to describe the number of trustees contravening the Code of Ethics as “a few”.  It would be more accurate to say that a significant number of bankruptcy trustees in Ontario are engaging in unethical marketing practices in contravention of the Code of Conduct for Trustees in Bankruptcy.

 

Request for assistance from the public

I would ask that anyone who has information about an inappropriate relationship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee to contact me.  People who are in the know would include bankruptcy trustees, as well as current and former employees of bankruptcy firms and debt consulting firms.  Anyone with information is welcome to call me at (519) 827-5513 or (866) 996-9941.  Alternatively, you can contact me via e-mail at mark@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.  My goal is to bring this information to the attention of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

 

Anyone with information regarding an inappropriate realtionship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee is invited to contact Mark Silverthorn.

Anyone with information regarding an inappropriate relationship between a debt consultant and a bankruptcy trustee is invited to contact Mark Silverthorn.

 

This is not the last post on this blog on this issue!

 

 

What was the rationale behind my resignation as Senior Editor of Bankruptcy Canada Inc.?

I anticipate that by the end of 2015 that I will be contributing content concerning consumer debt to a growing number of websites.

I anticipate that by the end of 2015 that I will be contributing content concerning consumer debt to a growing number of websites.

 

For a period of 18 months –from June 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015–I had the opportunity to serve as the Senior Editor of Bankruptcy Canada Inc.  The firm’s website has been described as one of the two most popular bankruptcy-related websites in Canada.  During this 18-month period I contributed 60,000 words worth of articles on a variety of issues related to consumer debt.

On September 30, 2015, I tendered my resignation as Senior Editor of Bankruptcy Canada Inc. in order to devote more time to a number of exciting new initiatives.  I want to thank the ownership group at Bankruptcy Canada Inc. for giving me the opportunity to serve as Senior Editor of the firm’s website and I want to wish them success in the future.

Now I would like to share with you some of my new initiatves in the coming months.

 

Consumer Experience Audit work

There are a host of firms that offer professional services or offer services to consumers struggling with debt making a significant financial investment in not only the firm’s website but also on advertising.  Many of these firms end up wasting this money because the resulting consumer experience is lacking.

An example will help illustrate this.  Earlier this year my firm, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc., conducted a Consumer Experience Audit in a community on behalf of a bankruptcy trustee.  We arranged to have a mystery shopper request an interview with several bankruptcy trustees by completing an online request form found on the trustees’ websites. The results were a real eye-opener.  One national firm of bankruptcy trustees failed to book an appointment with our mystery shopper despite three online requests and one telephone call to the trustee’s office initiated by our mystery shopper.

Our mystery shopper then scheduled an appointment with any firm that was capable of scheduling an appointment.  We then looked at the consumer experience from the initial phone call with the trustee’s office to book the appointment to the actual appointment.  Some firms scheduled an appointment within two business days–others took more than ten days.  In one case our mystery shopper was 20 minutes late to an appointment because the trustee’s name could not be found on the digital directory in the lobby.  One trustee kept our mystery shopper waiting so long after the scheduled time for his appointment that he wanted to leave prior to the meeting–but remained solely because he was being paid to speak with the trustee.

Our mystery shopper surreptitiously made an audio recording of the meeting with each trustee.  Not surprisingly, despite the fact that our mystery shopper provided each trustee with identical facts regarding their debt situation, our mystery shopper received different advice.

Based upon our experience, prospective clients should be aware of red flags of a less than optimal service provider. If a prospective client does not receive a rapid response to an inquiry then that service provider might not give priority to client satisfaction, and the prospective client might be better served looking elsewhere.

 

New Blogging and ghostwriting opportunities

Over the past few weeks our firm has had a number of discussions with entities providing information or services to consumers experiencing debt problems.  The purpose of these discussions was to determine whether or not it was a good fit for me to provide content for their website or their social media campaigns.  In some instances, Danielle Lorimer, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.’s Business Manager has arranged for me to  contribute a regular guest blog post for an organization.  In some other cases, she has arranged for me to ghostwrite content for an organization.

A few days ago I wrote my first blog post for moneyproblems.ca titled “Who Are These Bill Collectors Calling Me?”  I am scheduled to write my first blog post for shedthedebt.ca later this month.

Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.’s Business Manager, Danielle Lorimer, has informed me that there is a good chance that Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc. will be entering into an agreement for either contributing blog posts or ghostwriting content for several organizations over the next few weeks and months.

 

Mark Silverthorn Blog and my LinkedIn posts

In February of this year I began publishing posts on both the Mark Silverthorn Blog and on Linkedin.  During the first few months these posts were on relatively mundane topics.  It was not very long, however, before some of these posts raised questions about the conduct of specific organizations.  Some of posts this summer involved significant inquiries–researching government records, taking photographs and screenshots from websites, the use of mystery shoppers, and obtaining copies of debt settlement agreements.

These posts which were investigative in nature began to generate some interest not only in the financial services industry but also in the media.  Over the past eight months the number of my LinkedIn Connections grew eightfold–from 330 to over 2,750.  The Mark Silverthorn Blog was referred to in an article dated August 1, 2015, written by journalist Sunny Freeman in Huffington Post Canada.  More recently, I wrote an article dated September 21, 2015, for the paper edition of the Law Times titled “Questions raside by deputy judge’s debt settlement activities”.

LawTimesSept212015

 

 

Comprehensvedebtsolutions.ca to carry advertising

Our firm’s website, comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca, was launched in mid-February of this year.  Our marketing budget since February of this year has been zero.  If anyone would have asked me then if we would be carrying paid advertising for a national firm in October of this year I would have simply laughed.  The fact remains, however, that I anticipate that sometime this month advertising will appear on comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca.

This past week Danielle Lorimer, Business Manager, for Comprehensive Debt Solutions, informed me that our firm has entered into an agreement to carry advertising for Consumer Debtor Protection of Canada Ltd. on our firm’s website.  Yesterday, Danielle Lorimer, released the following statement on behalf of Comprehensive Debt Solutions.

 

PRESS  RELEASE

For immediate release:

October 2, 2015

Kitchener, Ontario:  “Comprehensive Debt Solutions, a firm focusing on assisting consumers struggling with consumer debt, will now offer advertising opportunities on our firm’s website.  We are pleased to announce that our first paid advertising client is Consumer Debtor Protection of Canada Ltd. (CDPCL),–cdpcl.com.” says Danielle Lorimer, Business Manager, Comprehensive Debt Solutions.  CDPCL is a firm that represents consumers across Canada seeking representation when they resolve their debt situation by way of a consumer proposal.  CDPCL’s goal is to assist their clients obtain the best possible terms when meeting with a bankruptcy trustee to make a consumer proposal.

Any inquiries regarding advertising opportunities on comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca should be directed to Danielle Lorimer, Business Manager, Comprehensive Debt Solutions Inc.

– 30 –

For further information contact:

Danielle Lorimer

Tel. : (866) 996-9941          e-mail:  danielle@comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca

 

Mark Silverthorn serves the public

While I might write content for a number of websites, offer advice to other organizations, and our firm’s website will accept paid advertising–our integrity is paramount.  Our goal is never to let any issue distract us from serving the public. The fact that I contribute content to an organization’s website or that comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca accepts paid advertising from a particular firm should not be construed as an endorsement of that organization.

I make a commitment to those who read the Mark Silverthorn Blog or those reading content on comprehensivedebtsolutions.ca that our goal is to serve our readers, to provide accurate information, and to educate and inform you–our loyal readers.