Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Post #2: Another media scandal from the real estate industry? News article appears to be contrived shill piece from PR company.


Update: Information has surfaced connecting the reporter in this story to another communications company as well. See our follow up post here.


Meet Invis Team Rob Regan-Pollock, mortgage brokers in Vancouver. From their website:
Rob Regan-Pollock and his team of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (AMPs) arrange residential mortgages and small cap commercial financing. Based in Vancouver, we finance purchases, re-finances, new construction, equity take-outs, renewals, and debt consolidation. We are certified Tax Deductible Mortgage Plan (TDMP) consultants and members of MBABC and CAAMP.
You'll notice one member of the team is hilighted in the picture above with a yellow arrow.  That's Allan Hoegg. The website profile tells us "Allan joined Team RRP in 2003. He retired for about 10 minutes in 2007, returning part time later that year. He has enjoyed a career in Financial Services and is originally from Calgary."

We'll get back to him in a moment.

It appears Team RRP has been yearning for a little media exposure. To that end they seem to have turned to BlueSky Communications Company. BlueSky promotes itself by telling clients that:
Whether we are securing regular media coverage for you, making you the topic of online discussions or developing impactful marketing pieces, our integrated, big-picture approach is intrinsically linked to where you want to bring your business. And at better value than what you get from those big-budgeted agencies.

Media Relations: Our outstanding results speak for themselves. We are particularly talented in getting continuous media coverage for our clients that communicates directly to the target market. And after engaging us for a period of time, you will see the impressive impact media coverage has on your business.
One of BlueSky's employee's is Denise Deveau. Here is what BlueSky says Deveau can do for her clients:
Denise has over 20 years of journalism and corporate communications experience. She handles a wide variety of writing and research assignments in the high tech, financial services, retail, government, education, oil and gas, and consumer sectors.

Whether it’s a thought provoking article, or compelling marketing collateral, Denise is able to deliver an effective piece that will meet your business objectives.

Remember last month when we told you about the MAC Marketing scandal?  In that farce, MAC had two of their employees play the role of young Asian condo buyers for a TV interview. When it was discovered they were actually MAC employees, the episode was rationalized as an innocent error in judgement; the MAC employees were simply standing in for 'real' Asian buyers who had bailed on the presser at the last opportunity.

The implication?  Where is the harm? The employees are simply 'playing' the role of actual customers who are out there.

Of course if CBC-TV and CTV-TV knew they were actually talking to two MAC employees, do you think they would have run the feature?

Not a chance, because the deception cuts to the heart of journalistic integrity.

Back to BlueSky employee Deveau and Team RRP.

A curious article appeared this week in the Financial Post titled "Home is where the retirement money is".

With a byline attributed to Denise Deveau, the FP article invites Team RRP's boss (Rob Regan-Pollock) to outline strategies to help aging Boomer's unlock the power of their bubble inflated house to aid in their retirement plans - a service Team RRP specializes in.

To set the stage, readers are introduced to a Boomer couple nearing retirement. Here's their picture from the article:

Recognize the man?

Yep... that's the same Allan Hoegg who works for Team RRP.

So what does the article tell us?  Do they say Hoegg is an employee of Team RRP?
In 1995, Allan and Karin Hoegg were mortgage-free. But no more: today their Vancouver home is a valuable source of income as they plan for full retirement.

Sean Morphy and his wife got a very competitive mortgage rate when they made the jump to home ownership a little over a year ago but it took a long-term relationship with a mortgage professional to get them there.

Allan Hoegg says when their son and daughter-in-law wanted to buy a house, they took out a variable-rate mortgage so they could help them out. “We wanted to take advantage of the stability of the current rates.” To cover the mortgage payments, they rent out a suite in the home to students.

The couple also established a home line of credit that allows them to free up cash for investment purposes when they need it. “It gives you maximum flexibility and you can pay it any time you want without penalty,” he says. “It’s dead easy.”

Like many people planning their retirement, there’s a sentimental side to keeping their home, he says. But there are just as many practical reasons. In the Hoeggs’ case, selling to downsize would mean substantial commissions and moving costs. “Besides, real estate is a very good investment in Vancouver,” he says. “The longer we can stay here, the greater the possibility of no-tax capital gains.”
It's a great, informative article and fabulous advertising for Team RRP. But nowhere is Hoegg's affiliation to Team RRP mentioned.

Doesn't the Financial Post have an obligation to tell us Hoegg is actually an employee of the company featured in this story?

More significantly, doesn't the Financial Post have an obligation to tell us that the story isn't being written by one of their own journalists? That the writer is, in fact, a communication specialist who shills for clients and whose sole job it is to place this type of promotional piece in newspapers for her client?

Could it be that the the Financial Post didn't do any fact checking (and simply accepted this article from a communications company) because it was submitted as a paid feature dressed up to look like a "news" story... something similar to what we saw in the Vancouver Province?

Someone out there has to step up and protect the public interest. Prominent disclaimers should be mandatory if this practice is be allowed.

When did our print and television media become an endless source of contrived "news" to promote the real estate industry?


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Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.


  1. Well it is obvious that Allan Hoegg, Bluesky Communications and Team RRP have not visited this site in the past month. They would know better.

    BTW when I see a Company called Bluesky Communications why do I think of an OTCBB pump and dump is about to be unleashed on the unsuspecting investing public?

  2. Outstanding investigative work on this piece.

    Sadly, no one will be punished and nothing will change.

    Move along, move along, nothing to see here!

    1. Hopefully someone will be punished!

      This is starting to get ridiculous, if it weren't for whisperer and others the media would get away with this.

      I thought disclaimers were the law, how is this happening??

  3. Another great find!!! Keep up the good work!

  4. George Orwell said it best regarding the definition of journalism: "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

  5. In a normal world, the RE "correction" we are experiencing would be front page news and everybody would be talking about it. But not in our manipulated new world where the media and the RE industry are in bed with each other; pulling the wool over the public's eyes. Those two industries have lost any remaining shred of credibility they once had.

  6. Great work again Whisperer....

    This is a severe conflict of interest across the board, and an ethical violation at minimum by RRP and the media. As a member of the public I do not want to see representatives of RRP masquerading as someone like me to get their message across... that is a scam. This is done without disclosure, which is intent to deceive.

    "Of course if CBC-TV and CTV-TV knew they were actually talking to two MAC employees, do you think they would have run the feature?"

    I think it is possible. The MSM may still run industry pieces regardless of journalistic quality or integrity, because they are bought and paid for by the industry. Follow the money...

    The media here is complicit, this is as clear as day.

    What I also find disturbing is the use of child photos to illustrate the RRP team. I infer that this is an agency that operates as a bunch of children, luring you in with the notion of innocence to gain your trust. This is not professional but in my view unprofessional. It is none of my business what you looked like as a kid.

  7. New low reached. Next up, an even lower low. RE scumbags have zero cred

  8. I did some further investigating since RRP and team are well known to me and scandal does not fit in the least with the profile and reputation of Rob and his team.

    This article was initiated by the communications company not RRP as is suggested.

    RRP made full disclosure to the journalist as to who Allan Hoeg was and his relationship to the RRP team.

    Through the editorial process, some comments were taken out of context.

    1. Thanks for this Gary.

      If we may, how do you know RRP and who did you talk to in their firm?

      The communications company was BlueSky?

  9. RRP and I work for the same company and I have been associated with him for years.I also know Rob through our work within the mortgage industry as we both have held or currently hold positions with our professional associations.

  10. Hello Whisperer - Rob Regan-Pollock here. Mr. Siegle advised me of this incident as part of our company's governance. Happy to share facts with you and your readers. Postmedia contacted our Marketing Dept requesting a western broker to interview for a retirement piece focusing on how high home values factor into retirement planning. I was introduced to Denise Deveau at her request and was interviewed. She asked if I knew of any retirement aged individuals who met the profile and introduced my employee Mr. Hoegg with full disclosure. I fully expected Denise to mention this in the article and was shocked to find out about what really happened. I appreciate you fact checking the article. In future I welcome you to undertake your own fact checking as this rests solely with the reporter.

    1. Rob, thanks for the response -- that seems like a pretty major omission on Mrs. Deveau's part.

      Can you clarify whether the rest of the article was a fair reflection of your conversation? That article contained shockingly poor financial advice. For example, it broadly perpetuates the myth that HELOCs are "free money" rather than debt. You are even quoted as calling HELOC borrowing "sustainable" based on a presumed increase in home value.

      Between Mrs. Deveau's omission of your employee/employer relationship with Mr. Hoegg and the breathless and innumerate endorsement of the services you offer, I hope you can understand why some may have leaped to the conclusion that you had engaged Mrs. Deveau in a PR capacity.

  11. *shakes head and glares at Rob Regan-Pollock

    karma is going to get you. and your house.

  12. Thanks Mary. Totally agree and understand. Yes I was misquoted. what I had advised in the interview is when investments are below book value, rather than cystalize the loss and face the double whammy of having to pay income taxes on the redemption, a HELOC can act as bridge to make ends meet. Would never advocate living off a HELOC without consideration of how to pay for it.