The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal

  1. Here I show what I consider to be intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog by those responsible for a BBC TV programme broadcast in November 2016. The three-stage BBC complaints process was inadequate in so many ways – both process and outcome. The trusted public-service broadcaster displayed arrogance throughout as it fobbed me off with evasive and obfuscatory responses. The lessons are many – but two stand out. First, the BBC sees nothing wrong in what I allege to be its unethical conduct. Its position would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Second, the BBC can’t be trusted to deal with complaints about its journalism. Self-regulation by the BBC is no regulation.
  2. What do I mean by plagiarism? This definition from the University of Oxford website for its students is as good as any: “Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional.”
  3. The Great Military Charity Scandal” was on BBC One Scotland on 8 November 2016 at 19:00 and available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards. It was made by BBC Scotland Investigates. I haven’t written about the TV programme until now because I was following the BBC complaints process – and then that of communications watchdog Ofcom.
  4. On 28 January 2017, I wrote about the announcement by charity regulator the Charity Commission that it had opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager. The relevant commission press release, the link for which is in that post, refers to the TV programme in its “notes to editors.”
  5. Liam McDougall was the producer of “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” He first contacted me about his programme on 8 January 2016, referring in an email to the “great work” I’ve been doing on charity fraud and abuse, particularly military charities. This is on my blog, dralexmay.wordpress.com. My charity investigations have been reported in national newspapers: The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror and BuzzFeed (news website). Ive also twice appeared as a live studio guest on BBC Radio 5 live programme, 5 live Investigates, to discuss my findings. In 2016, influential Frank Field MP tabled two written parliamentary questions to the Work and Pensions Secretary after one of my charity exposés.
  6. My 28 January 2017 post gives the background on the commission’s actions on STH, describing the role of Tony Chadwick of Blackpool, his rip-off fundraising companies and three linked military charities, all high-profile: Afghan Heroes (AH), Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), and STH. Each, separately, continues to be the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the charity regulator. FOR EACH CHARITY IN TURN, I BROKE BOTH THE LINK TO MR CHADWICK AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AS WELL AS FAILURES OF REGULATION.
  7. I first wrote about STH and its link to Mr Chadwick on 21 April 2015. It was my scoop. Thus the programme-makers were guided by my revelations then and thereafter.
  8. My proof of the link was critical to the programme: both Mr Chadwick and STH had actively tried to hide their working together (see blog, passim ad nauseam).
  9. As I wrote on 28 January 2017, my first post about STH, on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposed almost all the issues the commission said in January 2017 it wants its statutory inquiry to investigate.
  10. My 28 January 2017 post acknowledges the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ (WMHCHQ), a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. There I also state when the group first contacted me about the charity, thus proving I exclusively exposed STH.
  11. WMHCHQ wouldn’t have allowed or continue to allow me to present my dealings with the group as described in the 28 January 2017 post unless accurate. WMHCHQ don’t hold back, online or offline. Nor do its followers.
  12. In addition, the WMHCHQ timeline itself confirms the timeline of events for STH.
  13. Prior to the TV programme, there were three related publicly available sources for the connection between Mr Chadwick and STH. The three are in chronological order: my blog; WMHCHQ; and The Sunday Times (2 October 2016). Both WMHCHQ and the newspaper, separately, credited me as source. Yet “The Great Military Charity Scandal” failed to acknowledge me in any way. Thus the programme-makers intentionally plagiarised facts from my blog.
  14. So what about STH was new in the TV programme? Well, BBC Scotland Investigates secretly filmed STH representatives misleading the public as to how much of the £2.50 price of a prize draw ticket actually goes to the charity. The representatives were in fact working for Mr Chadwick‘s company, Targeted Management Limited (registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed. Long-time readers of the blog won’t be surprised in the slightest by the programme’s filmed evidence. For years I’ve repeatedly written about my own and others’ experiences with Mr Chadwick‘s rip-off fundraising companies and their work for AH, OLHF and STH. My first 5 live Investigates programme in November 2014, for example, reported different people’s experiences of unsatisfactory and misleading encounters in shopping centres around the UK with OLHF representatives controlled by Mr Chadwick (see 10 November 2014 post). The OLHF representatives were flogging prize draw tickets – as were the AH representatives before them (see blog, passim ad nauseam). Mr McDougall obtained both my 5 live Investigates programmes and listened to them. I know because he told me.
  15. As well as plagiarising facts from my blog, the TV programme intentionally plagiarised images. Images only available on my blog were shown without credit or attribution. These images include, but aren’t limited to, the identifiable AH prize draw ticket, a key piece of evidence. The identifiable images were central to the programme. And the images had to be accurate and trusted for the BBC to show them on TV. Put simply, the source had to be credible. I’m the “UK’s expert,” as Mr McDougall said to me several times. It’s simply indefensible to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  16. Another indication of the importance of my images of particularly the AH prize draw ticket in “The Great Military Charity Scandal” is the fact one of them (my images of the AH prize draw ticket) appears prominently in the official 31-second trailer, too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04f16bk.
  17. As I say, here my focus is the intentional plagiarism of facts and images. Nevertheless there are many other matters I complained to the BBC about in relation to its TV programme. From January 2016, for example, I spent tens of hours talking on the phone and corresponding with the producer. He told me at the outset hed interview me on the programme – and repeatedly reminded me of the fact. Further, I lent him highly sensitive, original documents: I gave them to him in person in Manchester city centre in July 2016. (Mr McDougall was accompanied by the programme’s reporter, Sam Poling, that day.) He promised hed return them in person. I didn’t stipulate delivery that way: nevertheless he said he would, and as soon as possible. At 5 December 2016the date of my first formal complaint to the BBC – I still hadn’t received my original documents. I finally received them – without apology or explanation for the delay – at the end of January 2017!
  18. On 8 November 2016, I complained to Mr McDougall in an email: Do you think I’d have spent so much time talking and corresponding with you if I’d known that you weren’t in fact going to interview me, let alone credit me in any way?” He didn’t reply.
  19. I formally complained to the BBC on 5 December 2016 in an email to the Director-General, Lord Hall, because he’s Editor-in-Chief. Imagine my surprise when I received the BBC’s response to my first formal complaint: it was written by Mr McDougall! It’s self-evidently unsatisfactory for Mr McDougall to consider my complaint on behalf of the Editor-in-Chief. Further, I regarded his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  20. So I escalated my complaint to the BBC explicitly calling for independent consideration of my complaint for the process to be credible. I also stated disclosure of emails was essential after allegations made by Mr McDougall in his response for the BBC. So who now handled my second formal complaint for the Editor-in-Chief? The programme’s executive producer, Daniel Maxwell!
  21. Mr Maxwell failed to request any emails from me. There was no evidence in his response he’d scrutinised my blog, either. And, again, I found his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  22. Thus I had no option but to escalate once more my complaint to the BBC – to its nominally independent Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). There my complaint was handled throughout by BBC complaints director, Colin Tregear.
  23. Mr Tregear instigated disclosure of emails – at last.
  24. I shall now examine how each of the three BBC responses dealt with the alleged intentional plagiarism of facts and images.
  25. First, here’s what Mr McDougall said: “All of your posts are published on a public forum, and are freely accessible via an open-source search of the internet.” He added: “… It is entirely untrue for you to suggest that you somehow hold the exclusive rights to information about Tony Chadwick, Afghan Heroes, Support the Heroes or Our Local Heroes Foundation. As I say, there is much publicly available information about these organisations and indeed your posts themselves place the information in the public arena.” Astonishingly, the producer also wrote: “And surely, given that the facts have been published by you means that by definition the information is public and freely available?” And another vague statement: “Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  26. True, my blog is accessible to all – but use by a third party of the information published there, including images, requires credit and attribution. Otherwise it’s intentional plagiarism. Prior to the TV programme, the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH was exclusively broken by me – and then picked up in turn by WMHCHQ and The Sunday Times (see above). Both, separately, acknowledged me as source. The BBC did not.
  27. Now onto the BBC’s second response, from Mr Maxwell. He said: “On the allegation of plagiarism, it is untrue to say that our producer ‘intentionally plagiarised’ your blog. As you know, for many months the BBC was in discussion with you about the nature and content of some of the BBC investigation. The fact that we featured individuals like Tony Chadwick and the charity Support the Heroes would have been no surprise to you. In fact, our producer had discussed some of the detail we would feature in the programme with you and you were entirely happy for us to do this. That said, every piece of information contained in the programme was gathered, checked and verified beyond something simply being repeated from your blog. Everything was corroborated independently of any single source. In addition, information regarding concerns about Mr Chadwick, Afghan Heroes and Support the Heroes used in the programme was already public. Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  28. Note Mr Maxwell‘s vague final sentence there. Sound familiar? He copied it from Mr McDougall! (see above) As you can see, the executive producer, too, ignored the provenance of the published evidence for the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH. He also said nothing about use of images from my blog without due acknowledgement. On the alleged plagiarism, then, Mr Maxwell was as evasive and obfuscatory as Mr McDougall before him.
  29. Finally, what did Mr Tregear of the ECU say? On the intentional plagiarism of facts, he wrote: “… I understand you may have been the first person to uncover information about Tony Chadwick, his businesses, his links with military charities such as Afghan Heroes and Support The Heroes and failures of regulation. However, to the best of my knowledge, you were not the only source for the information which was included in the programme and much of the information was already in the public domain.” The BBC complaints director concluded: “… I appreciate why you say you should have been credited in the programme and I can understand why you are annoyed that didn’t happen. However, I cannot agree there was intentional plagiarism of your work bearing in mind much of what you had written had been repeated elsewhere in the media and in official reports.”
  30. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, Mr Tregear stated: “… The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines include guidance on the use of pictures from social media and third party websites [9]. It recognises that material which has been put in the public domain via publication on a website or social media may be re-used but programme-makers should consider the original intention in publication and the impact of any re-use. The guidance says ‘A picture available without meaningful restrictions on a website may be considered to be in the public domain and the media may consider that it has the right to exploit it – but that does not always make it the right thing to do.‘ In this case, I think the manner in which the images were re-used matched the original use, namely illustrating the activities of military charities, and there were no particular privacy issues arising from their use. I therefore cannot see how the use led to a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.”
  31. Thus the BBC complaints director dismissed my allegations of intentional plagiarism. He finished: “…This will be the BBC’s final finding on your complaint unless there are reasons to modify or amend it in light of any comments you may wish to make.” So I duly sent comments as I was not satisfied with his rationale for dismissing my allegations of intentional plagiarism.
  32. The chronology, I pointed out, is critical: how and when did facts become first uncovered and reported? It’s self-evidently unacceptable to not credit me for breaking the relevant stories, particularly the link between Mr Chadwick and STH. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, I said his response would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Privacy isn’t relevant here. It’s simply indefensible, I repeated, to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  33. In his reply, Mr Tregear said he saw no reason to amend his decision. In particular, he stated: “I agree it would have been courteous to acknowledge your role [in breaking the link between Mr Chadwick and STH] but as I said in my letter of 18 July there is nothing in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines which says sources of information have to be given public credit; the requirement is to ensure material is checked and verified.”
  34. Because I was so dissatisfied with the BBC’s final decision, I still wrote back. There I also brought to Mr Tregear‘s attention the fact he’d referred in his last letter to Save The Heroes” (sic), not STH. There was no response, no correction.
  35. Having exhausted the BBC’s complaints process, I submitted a complaint about the alleged intentional plagiarism to communications regulator Ofcom, which now regulates the BBC, too. Unfortunately, it said in a letter my complaint failed to “engage any rules in the Code [Ofcom Broadcasting Code] and is therefore out of our remit”.
  36. My experience with the BBC should be a warning to any individual or organisation that undertakes and publishes original investigations. According to its complaints director, the BBC could use facts you’re the first to uncover and report – but without crediting you in any way. It could without due acknowledgement use images you exclusively publish, too.
  37. Then there’s something else: BBC Scotland Investigates, remember, made the TV programme. Plagiarism is self-evidently unacceptable and unethical. It’s even worse when the journalism styles itself as investigative.
  38. Never mind “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” This is surely The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal.
Advertisements

Brand manager at HRT manufacturer is trustee of charity providing “support, information and networking opportunities” to women with premature menopause

  1. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the main treatment for menopause. The manager of the HRT portfolio at pharmaceutical company Mylan UK is a trustee of The Daisy Network, a charity providing “support, information and networking opportunities” to women with premature menopause (registered charity number: 1077930). At date of publication the charity website fails to disclose her paid role at the drug firm, however. Her fatal conflict of interest as a trustee is hidden.
  2. The charity website is key for transparency and accountability. Daisy hasn’t been required to submit its trustees’ annual report (TAR) and accounts to the Charity Commission in each of the last five financial years because reported income each year was below the £25k threshold. Without TAR and accounts, though, there’s very little information about the charity on the public record. It’s thus easy for The Daisy Network and other small charities, as defined by income, to avoid scrutiny (see 9 September 2015 post). There’s no suggestion that the charity has done anything illegal.
  3. Daisy has five trustees, according to the commission online public register of charities. The trustee biographies on the charity website are vague and incomplete. For a start, the group isn’t explicitly identified as the trustees: it’s simply “our people” (screen shot in Figure 1). Last names are undisclosed. Katie, for example, has worked in the “healthcare industry for over 4 years… [with] experience in advertising, journalism and marketing.” She’s “editor” at the charity.

    Figure 1. Charity The Daisy Network website: “our people” page at 6 July 2017

  4. Katie is actually Katie Sewards, who manages the HRT portfolio at Mylan UK (screen shot in Figure 2). Ms Sewards told Pharmafield in a profile published on 24 April 2017 that she’s used her “[pharma] experience to volunteer my time to a women’s health charity over the past 12 months” (screen shot in Figure 3). The charity isn’t named, though.

    Figure 2. Katie Sewards: brand Manager at Mylan UK at 6 July 2017

    Figure 3. Katie Sewards: voluntary role at “a women’s health charity” at 6 July 2017

  5. Ms Sewards previously worked for Swedish drugmaker Meda, which Mylan took over in 2016: https://www.pharmafield.co.uk/Pf-Fox-News/Talent/2017/04/Mylan-Uks-Katie-Sewards-on-what-it-means-to-make-a-difference.
  6. And last year Meda funded a PR campaign to promote use of HRT in women, a campaign aimed at both primary care professionals AND patients (screen shot in Figure 4). The campaign was run by agency Events 4 Healthcare Ltd (E4H; registered company number: 06237925), whom Ms Sewards thanked for its “superb job” (screen shot in Figure 5).

    Figure 4. Funded by Meda, PR campaign to promote use of HRT in women; aimed at both primary care professionals AND patients at 6 July 2017

    Figure 5. Katie Sewards thanks Events 4 Healthcare Ltd for its “superb job” on HRT PR campaign at 6 July 2017

  7. E4H used a linked organisation, the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF), that it operates from the same address, to reach primary care workers. Although PCWHF says it’s a charity on its homepage (screen shot in Figure 6), it isn’t one. Rather, it’s a community interest company (CIC; registered company number: 08747435).

    Figure 6. The Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF) “is a charity”: homepage at 6 July 2017

  8. PCWHF now no longer states it’s a charity on the website, after I questioned the claim in an email. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this has now been addressed,” said the single-sentence response the next day.
  9. Pharmafield, who published the profile of Ms Sewards (see paras 4-5), is part of the E4H group, too.
  10. In July 2016, PCWHF published its “HRT Myths Uncovered” document, the basis of the PR campaign: HRT-Myths-Uncovered. The two-page document states: “Funded and supported by Meda Pharmaceuticals. Developed by Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF). Please note Meda has had no involvement in the content of this graphic, but reviewed for factual accuracy.” It finishes by telling readers: “For further information, please visit Menopause Matters [a website] & The Daisy Network.” There’s no mention that Meda is linked to Daisy (via Ms Sewards), however.
  11. The “HRT Myths Uncovered” document thus creates the impression that The Daisy Network is an independent charity. It isn’t. The link with Meda (now Mylan UK) undermines its independence and credibility. What’s worse, Daisy hides the link.
  12. Independence and credibility are critical for any charity, let alone one for women experiencing premature menopause. The problem is that The Daisy Network is only the latest menopause charity to be entangled with pharmaceutical companies. In November 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its guideline on the diagnosis and management of menopause. On the back of the NICE guideline, charity the British Menopause Society (BMS; registered charity number: 1015144) organised a PR campaign to “educate women about all aspects of the menopause and post-reproductive health.” The trustees documented the objectives of the campaign in their annual report, made up to 31 December 2015. They also stated that it was funded by “three unrestricted educational grants” from “pharmaceutical companies and a healthcare company.” But they failed to disclose the names of the three firms whose grants funded the national PR campaign.
  13. I therefore asked BMS in an email to identify the companies. They were: Novo Nordisk, Mylan and Pharmacare, said Sara Moger, BMS chief executive (email). Mylan again, then.
  14. I shall return in a later post to something else Ms Moger told me in the email about BMS’s reporting of funding from companies.
  15. In the month before publication of the NICE guideline, Mylan funded a controversial PR campaign – in its own name this time – to promote use of HRT for menopause, as Sarah Boseley revealed in The Guardian newspaper: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/07/scientists-fear-pr-campaign-underplays-hrt-cancer-risks. Here’s the relevant Mylan press release on 19 October 2015, “Women may be suffering needlessly during menopause:” http://www.mylan.co.uk/en-gb/news/2014/women-may-be-suffering-needlessly-during-menopause. I asked Ms Moger in an email whether the Mylan press release was part of the BMS national PR campaign. Why the question? For two reasons. First, the press release is entirely consistent with the objectives of the BMS national PR campaign, according to the charity TAR, made up to 31 December 2015, p.6. Second, something not mentioned by The Guardian: the two non-Mylan experts quoted in the press release are linked or have been linked to BMS/WHC: Susan Quilliam (screen shot in Figure 7) and Dr Sarah Gray (screen shot in Figure 8).

    Figure 7. Susan Quilliam joins medical advisory panel of charity Women’s Health Concern at 16 June 2017

    Figure 8. Dr Sarah Gray “sat on the British Menopause Society council for 10 years”: speaker biography for 2017 PCWHF annual conference at 5 July 2017

  16. Charity Women’s Health Concern (WHC) is the self-styled “patient arm” of BMS (registered charity number: 279651). Ms Moger is one of the three trustees, and again public contact.
  17. The Mylan press release wasn’t part of the BMS national PR campaign, replied Ms Moger (email). Nevertheless my question was reasonable for the two reasons above. Something else about BMS’s campaign deserves attention: the PR company the charity used.
  18. Disappointingly, the BMS annual report failed to identify the company. It was Edelman, I can reveal (screen shot in Figure 9). And Edelman acts for Novo Nordisk on menopause treatments, according to a 2013 press release from the drug company for a research paper (screen shot in Figure 10). But it’s cosier than that: Novo Nordisk explicitly mentioned the then BMS affiliations of two co-authors it quoted in the press release for its study, Dr Heather Currie and Dr Nick Panay. Dr Currie has just stepped down as BMS chair, while Dr Panay is a trustee.

    Figure 9. Edelman PR campaign for charity the British Menopause Society at 8 June 2017

    Figure 10. Edelman press release for Novo Nordisk at 8 June 2017

  19. And Dr Panay, who’s former BMS chair, brings us back to The Daisy Network: he’s “a longstanding patron” of the charity (screen shot in Figure 11). It’s a small world.

    Figure 11. Dr Nick Panay: “a longstanding patron” of charity The Daisy Network at 6 July 2017

  20. There’s another problem with Daisy, and it again relates to medications. On 29 June 2017, the charity tweeted a link to its interview on the website Treated.com (screen shot in Figure 12), which describes itself as “a private online health clinic based in the UK” (screen shot in Figure 13). Its services include an online pharmacy. At date of publication there’s a sentence, undated and unexplained, at the foot of each page on Treated.com: “We are reviewing our services and systems and we are unable to process orders at this time.” The same message appears prominently on the homepage. Similarly, callers to its customer service number during the advertised opening hours hear a recorded message that finishes abruptly: “We’re sorry there’s no one available to take your call right now. Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”

    Figure 12. Charity The Daisy Network on Twitter promoting its interview with Treated.com, online pharmacy at 7 July 2017

    Figure 13. Treated.com “about us” page at 6 July 2017

  21. Treated.com has recently been in the news – for all the wrong reasons. In March this year, regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning inspection report into the online provider, as Dr Faye Kirkland reported on the BBC News website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39134061. The CQC suspended its registration “in order to protect patients.” In October 2016, Dr Kirkland exposed Treated.com in her investigation of the inappropriate sale of antibiotics by online pharmacies, for programme 5 live Investigates, on BBC Radio 5 live.
  22. In light of the CQC’s censure and suspension of registration, it’s astonishing that The Daisy Network is happy to be associated with Treated.com. That the charity is promoting its association on Twitter is equally astonishing.
  23. As BMS shows, the problem of menopause charities being too close to the pharmaceutical industry, or reasonably perceived as such, isn’t new. Yet The Daisy Network is a worrying escalation: the manager of the HRT portfolio at a leading drug company is a trustee. She thus has a fatal conflict of interest, actual, potential, or perceived, as a trustee. As a small charity by income, and so without publicly available TAR and accounts, its website is key for transparency and accountability. Of as much concern as the conflict of interest, therefore, is that the charity website hides how it arises. Further, Daisy is happy to be associated with a discredited online pharmacy – and promote its association on Twitter.
  24. At date of publication The Daisy Network hasn’t responded to requests for comment via email.

Our Brave Heroes: fake military charity is no more, says Charity Commission

  1. On 16 March 2017, regulator the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on Our Brave Heroes, a fake military charity from – yes, you’ve guessed it – Blackpool. It’s no longer operating, says the commission. Here is the Charity Commission case report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-brave-heroes-case-report.
  2. It’s taken a while, though: I exclusively exposed Our Brave Heroes on 26 October 2015.
  3. Andrew Penman in The Daily Mirror newspaper then used my investigation as the lead story in his column on 19 November 2015 (see my post that day for a link to his article online). At the end of that year Our Brave Heroes also featured on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme, when I appeared again as a live studio guest (see my 21 December 2015 post).
  4. Mr Penman has today (16 March 2017) revisited Our Brave Heroes after the commission’s intervention: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/collectors-brave-heroes-told-generous-10032216.

Charity donations used to fund work at company jointly owned by charity chief executive and charity trustee

  1. Money raised by charity Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) was used to fund work at a company owned by the charity founder, who’s also chief executive and president of the charity. A trustee of OLHF, with the same surname as the charity chief executive, is also director of the company. In 2014, I exclusively exposed OLHF for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working when fundraising. Nevertheless it wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on the charity, identifying “serious regulatory concerns”. Here I now show, too, that there’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by the charity founder, Steve Pearson. Finally, links between the new chair of the charity and Mr Pearson demonstrate that questions remain about the governance of OLHF.
  2. Hitherto Ive examined the fundraising activities only of OLHF, a military charity based in Bamber Bridge, Preston (registered charity number: 1142029). It isn’t a member of the official umbrella organisation for military charities, the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo). In 2014, I exclusively exposed the charity for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working with a rip-off professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). Previously, I’d shown that the same discredited professional fundraiser had worked with failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it’d opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
  3. On 9 November 2014, I appeared for the first time as a live studio guest on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme. There we exposed PPL and its work for the two military charities. OLHF had told BBC Radio 5 live then that it would stop working with PPL – only to still be working together at the end of that year (see my 26 December 2014 post). In February 2015, I reported that the charity was finally working with another company, newly formed Targeted Management Limited (TML). Yet TML is owned by the same person behind PPL, Tony Chadwick. Unlike PPL, TML claims it isn’t a professional fundraiser; rather it’s a “management” company. Nevertheless TML appears to perform or have performed on behalf of OLHF some or all of the same activities as predecessor PPL (see my 11 August 2015 post).
  4. In January 2015, PPL entered administration, which ended in December that year when the company was wound up by the High Court. Liquidators were duly appointed in February 2016. PPL remains in liquidation.
  5. It wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, published a highly critical case report on OLHF, identifying “serious regulatory concerns” (see my 4 April 2016 post). These include “a very low level” of charitable expenditure and “high” fundraising costs – only 20% of the money raised in its name actually goes to the charity, a fact I revealed back in 2014. (What took you so long, Charity Commission?) OLHF only avoided a statutory inquiry, the commission’s most serious form of engagement with a charity, because the trustees apparently showed an “open and responsible approach” in their dealings with the commission.
  6. The commission’s case report raises many questions. Why exactly was the commission so lenient on OLHF? I’m not the only one: Stephen Cook, former editor of Third Sector, wrote a column in the charity sector magazine asking the same question: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-commission-lenient-once/governance/article/1390419. Why, too, did the commission fail to mention rip-off PPL and its role for the charity? The case report examined fundraising concerns involving TML only, without considering the relationship between that company and predecessor PPL, owned, of course, by the same person. A glaring omission.
  7. But now I show that concerns about OLHF extend beyond fundraising. There’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by the charity founder, Steve Pearson. The charity founder is also its chief executive and president.
  8. The OLHF trustees’ annual report (TAR) with the most recent accounts, for financial year ending (FYE) 28 February 2015, documents payment of grants to beneficiaries for boiler installation. Similarly, grants for boiler installation appear on the “What we have done” page on the OLHF website (screen shot in Figure 1). As you can see, there are no dates on the page for the charitable activities. On 4 July 2016, I therefore asked Des White, chair of the charity, in an email for two dates. First, when did OLHF help “Sarah from Blackburn”? Second, when did it help “Peter from Blackpool”? No response a week later so I sent a reminder. At date of publication I’ve received nothing from the charity.

    Figure 1. “What we have done” page on Our Local Heroes Foundation website at 23 June 2016

    Figure 1. “What we have done” page on Our Local Heroes Foundation website at 23 June 2016

  9. In a glowing testimonial, “Peter from Blackpool” praises by name the company that fitted the boiler, Premier Property Maintenance. Indeed, he recommends them. So who are Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited (registered company number: 08933567)? Well, all three directors share the same surname – Pearson. First, there’s Steve Pearson, who founded OLHF. More about him and his exact role at the charity in a moment. Second, meet Antony Pearson, who was a trustee of the charity until 20 October 2015. Finally, we have Robert Pearson. Incorporated on 11 March 2014, at date of publication the company’s first accounts are eight months overdue at Companies House.
  10. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited isn’t actually on the Gas Safe Register, but another of Steve Pearson‘s companies is – B-Safe Property Services Limited (registered company number: 07501243). He’s the sole director. The Gas Safe registered engineer at B-Safe is familiar: Robert Pearson (screen shot in Figure 2). At date of publication B-Safe‘s accounts are more than 2.5 years overdue at Companies House. The company is again threatened with being struck off for failing to file its accounts on time.

    Figure 2. B-Safe on Gas Safe Register at 28 June 2016

    Figure 2. B-Safe on Gas Safe Register at 28 June 2016

  11. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited and B-Safe Property Services Limited are just two of Steve Pearson’s companies. He owns a complex web of companies, several of which have “Our Local Heroes” in their names: Our Local Heroes Monitoring Services Limited; Our Local Heroes Limited; and OLHF Events Limited (now renamed Challenger Events Management Limited). Warriors of Steel Limited is another in his empire: the charity held two fundraising events called Warriors of Steel, according to the TAR with the first OLHF accounts, for FYE 28 February 2012.
  12. As I said, Steve Pearson is the charity founder. He’s been president since registration of OLHF as a charity on 20 May 2011, according to his LinkedIn page (screen shot in Figure 3). Mr Pearson is also chief executive: see http://www.garstangcourier.co.uk/centre-for-ex-servicemen-in-fowlers-hill-wood-causes-controversy-1-7087310. He runs the charity: see http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/collector-stole-cash-donated-to-war-heroes-1-7343277. There it says: “Run by businessman Steve Pearson, the charity finds employment for injured military veterans by setting up companies for them. If successful, the revenue from the ventures is invested to create further companies and more jobs.” But, as we’ve seen, there’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by Mr Pearson. Here I’ve shown that money raised by the charity was used to fund work at a company owned by the charity founder, who’s also chief executive and president of the charity. A trustee of OLHF, with the same surname as the charity chief executive, is also director of the company.

    Figure 3. Steve Pearson LinkedIn page at 28 June 2016

    Figure 3. Steve Pearson LinkedIn page at 28 June 2016

  13. The charity had four trustees in its first year, three called Pearson. None of the now three trustees, though, have that surname. The chair of a charity usually line-manages the chief executive on behalf of the trustees (see the Charity Commission guide, “The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do” (CC3)). Yet new chair Des White set up a company with Steve Pearson AFTER becoming a trustee on 16 February 2015. Community Covenant Housing Management Limited (registered company number: 09598436) was incorporated on 19 May 2015, with Mr White and Mr Pearson as the two directors and two shareholders. Mr White resigned as a director on 1 April 2016, but remains as a shareholder, according to the company’s annual return made up to 19 May 2016. Community Covenant Housing Management Limited is active with Mr Pearson as sole director. Mr White, meanwhile, is sole director of a new company with a similar name, Community Covenant Homes Ltd (registered company number: 09381764). He incorporated that company on 9 January 2015 – that is, BEFORE becoming a trustee of OLHF. He’s sole director, too, of another similar-sounding new company, Community Covenant Development Limited (registered company number: 09930786). Date of incorporation was 29 December 2015, so AFTER Mr White became a trustee. The registered office address of both Community Covenant Homes Ltd and Community Covenant Development Limited is the modestly titled Pearson House, also the address of the charity, according to its website and the Charity Commission public register. The links between Mr White and Mr Pearson are a potential concern: are the trustees only really in charge of the charity? The trustees must take joint responsibility for management of OLHF and be able to challenge Mr Pearson, who could be perceived to be a single dominant individual at the charity. It was him, tellingly, not the then trustees, who spoke for OLHF to BBC Radio 5 live in our November 2014 programme, for example.
  14. The arrangements for boiler installation revealed here and the previously documented fundraising concerns both prompt the same reasonable question: is the charity being used for inappropriate private gain?
  15. STOP PRESS: Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited IS now on the Gas Safe Register for business registration number 520996 (screen shot in Figure 4). The trading name for that number on the register was changed from B-Safe (Figure 2) on 10 August 2016.

    Figure 4. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited on Gas Safe Register at 11 August 2016

    Figure 4. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited on Gas Safe Register at 11 August 2016

Rip-off professional fundraisers – on BBC Radio 5 live

  1. On 20 December 2015, I appeared again as a live studio guest on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme. The programme revisited charity scams involving professional fundraisers with excessive fundraising costs. This was a follow-up to its November 2014 programme when I also came into the studio (see my 10 November 2014 post).
  2. This time 5 live Investigates used my investigation of the “charity” Our Brave Heroes (see my 26 October 2015 post), which also appeared in The Daily Mirror (see my 19 November 2015 post). Presenter Adrian Goldberg interviewed live on air the Blackpool man behind the fake charity, Kristofer Sutcliffe. It didn’t end well for Mr Sutcliffe.
  3. You can listen to yesterday’s episode of 5 live Investigates for four weeks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06skyv5.

The disappearing Mr Wallace

  1. On 30 June 2015, I noticed that the military charity Our Local Heroes Foundation had again redesigned its website. There was an important omission, though: patron Ben Wallace MP had disappeared. I couldn’t see his name or photo on the section of the homepage then listing patrons. There were now two patrons. Yet Mr Wallace’s website (www.benwallacemp.com) had nothing to indicate a change in his relationship with the charity.
  2. As a patron, the MP for Wyre and Preston North has defended the charity and its fundraising activities with Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool to both me and others, including BBC Radio 5 live (see para 11 in my 26 December 2014 post).
  3. As an MP, Mr Wallace lends credibility to Our Local Heroes Foundation. Further, he’s been a minister since May 2015 – Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. His endorsement is worth even more because he himself is ex-military. People will assume that the charity is credible as Mr Wallace will surely have done due diligence. But former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP was a patron of failed military charity Afghan Heroes (as was comedian Bobby Ball). Talking of Afghan Heroes, it too worked with the discredited professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited.
  4. On 30 June 2015, I emailed Mr Wallace at parliament to ask whether his vanishing from the Our Local Heroes Foundation website meant he was no longer a patron. If so, as of when? No response.
  5. Two weeks later, I sent a reminder because he still wasn’t listed as a patron on the charity homepage at 14 July 2015. Again, no response.
  6. Nine weeks after my first message I emailed Mr Wallace a final time 1 September 2015 seeking a response to my 30 June 2015 message. Still nothing.
  7. The unresponsiveness of Mr Wallace is unacceptable, especially because he was responsive previously. Trustees of charities must be accountable; but so should patrons (see my 13 August 2015 post). I’ve discovered celebrity patrons unwilling to answer legitimate questions about involvement with a charity: trusted TV presenter Valerie Singleton, for example (see my 16 July 2014 post). Mr Wallace isn’t a celebrity. It is reasonable to expect an MP – let alone minister – to be accountable.

Our Local Heroes Foundation at Gadget Show Live 2015

  1. My 11 August 2015 post (para 2) reported that the charity Our Local Heroes Foundation was apparently still working with Prize Promotions Limited, the discredited professional fundraiser, when the charity exhibited at Gadget Show Live 2015 in April. The link I provided there on the Gadget Show Live website is no longer functional as the site has been updated for next year’s show. So here is a screen shot (Figure 1) of the charity page on the Gadget Show Live website, showing Prize Promotions Limited named in the link itself:

    Figure 1. Our Local Heroes Foundation at Gadget Show Live 2015 at 6 July 2015

    Figure 1. Our Local Heroes Foundation at Gadget Show Live 2015 at 6 July 2015

  2. As I wrote 11 August 2015, this was further evidence that Our Local Heroes Foundation had continued working with Prize Promotions Limited despite telling 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme, in November 2014 that it would stop doing so (see my 10 November 2014 post).