Monday, April 8, 2013

Mon Post #1: The head of INVIS Team RRP speaks out about Financial Post article

Meet Ron Regan-Pollock.

He's the head of INVIS Team RRP, the mortgage brokerage company which was the subject of the latest real estate media scandal we brought to you March 28th.

From Regan-Pollock's website profile:
Rob has been a trusted media commentator on mortgage issues since 2000, regularly providing his insights to print, radio and television journalists. He has served the mortgage industry as a board member on a national and a provincial level since 2006.
That reputation for trust took a bit of hit when this article from the Financial Post came out:

As you may recall the article, a recent retirement piece in the Financial Post focusing on how high home values factor into retirement planning, introduced us to Allen Hoegg and wife Karin. After giving us the Hoegg's background (with requisite problem/issue), the FP profiled INVIS Team RRP along with solutions to the dilemma faced by the Hoegg's.

Sharp eyed blogosphere sleuths noticed that Hoegg wasn't just a retiree facing retirement planning concerns. He happened to work for the very company profiled in the article (INVIS Team RRP), a fact that wasn't originally revealed to readers.

The glaring omission gave the article the appearance of a glorified advertising piece for Team RRP.

The scandal intensified when it was discovered that the freelance author of the Financial Post article happens to appear as an employee on two communications company websites (since deleted since this story broke). One of those communications companies outwardly boasts of their successes in obtaining media coverage for their clients, coverage which appears to come from placing those companies in what look like benign news stories.

Sort of like bringing the practice of product placement to the newspaper industry.

The whole matter raises disturbing questions about the concurrent relationship of the article's author to the Financial Post while associated to those PR firms.

Meanwhile the entire issue is anything but good PR for Team RRP.

For what does it say if a business misrepresents an employee in a news article? If they would allow a simple white lie like that, would you want them to provide investment advice for you?

Correcting this perception may be what lead several members of the INVIS team to contact this blog last week.

First it was Gary Siegle, VP of INVIS Prairies.
I did some further investigating since RRP and team are well known to me and [this] 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 (sic) was and his relationship to the RRP team.

Through the editorial process, some comments were taken out of context.
Next we heard from Rob Regan-Pollock.
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... 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.
Regan-Pollock wasn't just concerned about the omission of Allen Hoegg as an employee. There were other errors in the article, errors with some of the actual investment advice itself. In a subsequent  email Regan-Pollock said:
[I] did provide my employee’s contact details with full disclosure. Yes I expected disclosure in the article. When I did read it, I was concerned about the non-disclosure and [a] truncated quote to borrow from your line of credit if you can’t make ends meet.

What I had said was, “that when RRSP’s or investments are below book value, rather than crystallize the loss and face the double whammy of having to pay income tax, a homeowner line of credit can act as a good buffer if one can’t make ends meet."

This was truncated to "borrow from your home equity if you can’t make ends meet", which we do not support. Rather we recommend having tools consumers can use, especially in these volatile times.
Once the article was published, did Mr. Regan-Pollock try to contact anyone to correct the errors?
[I] did not have a chance as Denise called to advise of some issues she was facing as a result of her non-disclosure of Allan as my employee. [She] called to ask if he was full or part time. Allan is Part Time. Given her challenges I didn’t push for a correction on my quote.
So if Team RRP didn't initiate the article, was Ms. Deveau working on behalf of a PR communications firm for the parent INVIS company? Regan-Pollock says he doesn't think so:
When Denise Deveau contacted Marketing, she mentioned she was contacting us on behalf of Post Media for an article she was writing. Invis as a National firm is often contacted by media... Denise contacted our VP of Marketing Kelly Neuber for an article Denise was writing for Post Media, requesting preference for a Western Broker where home values are higher for a retirement piece.

We were advised Post Media could run the article in a number of their publications. No specific publication was mentioned so we did not know this was going to run in the FP. I will confirm my belief that Invis is not a client of Blue Sky on Monday. We were simply the advisors who could assist Ms, Deveau who was writing for PostMedia.

Appreciate the ability to clarify as our reputation is all we have.
So there you have it.

Rob Regan-Pollock clearly indicates that his firm did not initiate this article. When contacted, he was very clear and upfront about fact that Allan Hoegg was a part-time employee of his. Furthermore a key part of his advice was 'truncated,' conveying a practice his firm clearly does not support.

There are still many unanswered questions in this affair.

We'll update you if we learn any more.


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  1. Lots of finger pointing but no clearly believable answers. I also think Denise Deveau is someone's pen name.

  2. Hopefully others can help figure how this occured, but this is pretty much the way I see it:

    I look at the overall message and who benefits? The message given by the FP in this article is "take out HELOCS" or "take out a line of credit" against your home "it is dead easy"

    and "give it to your children" to fund their home purchases. This is the message given in maxed out and flailing markets, which is anything but sound advice today.

    Yet it happened. Who benefits? The banks, the industry.

    The message has to be coming from the where the power is in the industry, which is not in a lone broker.

    In my estimation it comes from the big banks and/or the media themselves. This is where all the money, power, and influence lies. They then lie by trying to make it look like the story comes from the other end.

    It's a story that is generated with the intent to manipulate public perception. With the intent to fraudulently convince people that this is what the average retiree or older homeowner with lots of equity might think and do.

    It's consistent with Benny Tal of CIBC coming out and saying the parents are going to write their generationally worse-off children "a nice little cheque."

    So the media/industry either uses Deveau as a freelancer or they pay her as part of a communications firm to go out and make the story.

    She finds the client who in this case is a local mortgage broker, and who then becomes the useful pawn for the message that is intended to be put out. They then make it look like the story is coming from a local source.

    I do not see all of this as just a coincidence. It is not just bad journalism with numerous mistakes and ethical violations being made on accident. The whole story has a "bad smell" because the media itself stinks.

    The mainstream media is one of the biggest culprits propagating industry lies and deceit. They are corrupted by a hidden agenda favoring certain high-powered business and financial interests.

  3. Mrs. Deveau is curiously absent from the conversation -- she's obviously aware that her reputation is taking a beating and so far she's nowhere to be found. I would like to hear about the genesis of the article.

    Her article comes from the lineage of press releases and advertisement, not journalism. The omission of Mr. Hoegg's employment by INVIS Team RRP is only part of it; there is also the breathless endorsement of their services, including in my opinion some very dangerous financial guidance:

    - Current rates are described as "stable". The Bank of Canada describes current low rates as "considerable monetary stimulus [which] will likely remain appropriate for some period of time, after which some modest withdrawal will likely be required." These have been called "emergency rates" and are far, far below any historical measure. They are widely predicted to rise within a couple of years.

    - HELOC borrowing is described as "sustainable" based on a presumed increase in home value. Describing HELOC borrowing as a way to "free up cash" -- it's not, it's going into debt with the lender.

    - Mr. Hoegg's statements (prior to FP's amendment) were originally presented as man-on-the-street opinions, but he is biased due to his employment: "Real estate is a very good investment in Vancouver [...] The longer we can stay here, the greater the possibility of no-tax capital gains." These statements strain credulity to the limit given recent sales and price figures, not to mention own/rent comparisons and historical measures.

    - Reverse mortgages are described as a means to "acquire cash." They're not, they are borrowing from the bank with the house as collateral.

    - Renting part of your house to make mortgage or HELOC payments is not retirement, it's going back to work as a landlord.

    If Denise Deveau is responsible for the omission of Mr. Hoegg's employment and there was no PR relationship between Mrs. Deveau and Team RRP, then Team RRP still appears to be responsible for some egregiously poor and self-serving guidance. However, I'd like to hear more from Mrs. Deveau before I consider the PR angle of this closed. This article is not an example of how good journalism works.

    1. Note that Mr. Regan-Pollock has responded to a similar, though briefer, comment that I wrote an an earlier post. He stated that he was misquoted and "would never advocate living off a HELOC without consideration of how to pay for it." Thanks, Rob.

      Mrs. Deveau appears to have an increasing amount of digging to do.

  4. Hmmmm, possible next investigation:

  5. Do you think Denise Deveau, if ever existed, would read this blog?

    1. Yes, I think Mrs. Deveau exists. I also believe Barrack Obama was born in Hawaii. Call me crazy.

      Mrs. Deveau now how has a Google problem and FP is on her case about her non-disclosure. She's aware of this blog.

  6. It's also curious that she (Ms. Deveau) was removed from both Blue Sky and Echo communications almost immediately after this blog ran with this story.

  7. Moving on - Regarding anonymous and googled Kevin Cochran and discovered he's a Mortgage Broker and VP with Dominion Lending Centres in charge of Franchise development. - Does the Globe know this? They title him as enrich academy. Total Conflict!