Isn't this a "Scorched Earth" Marketing Strategy?
Far from it. I'm opening the window and letting the sunshine in. Most of the primary market structured settlement participants complain about the business practices of factoring companies, but few do anything about it except complain to each other and NSSTA. This is not a criticism of them or the NSSTA, but a statement made on the basis of more than a decade of observation. Many structured settlement secondary market participants routinely complain about the business conduct of people and companies in their industry. If there was a regulator of the structured settlement secondary market (which in my opinion there should be) they could complain to the regulator. Instead many complain to me. I write primarily during my spare time.
"Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." Louis Brandeis Supreme Court Judge (1845-1941)
(i) JRR Funding's "website companies". "Website companies" are websites made to look as if they are real companies. One of them, Einstein Structured Settlements was a notable example of a purported company having using fake credentials and paid video reviews. Its founder, " Ryan Einstein'" (one of the pseudonyms for a Maryland based poker player and gold dealer Ryan Blank), was falsely promoted in late 2012 and early 2013 as a PhD and LLM from Yale University. Contact with the the Yale registrar's office proved the claim to be a complete fabrication, as was another reference regarding attendance at UCLA. Ryan Blank, graduated from a school in Charleston, SC. The Structured Settlement Watchdog® was able to determine that two video testimonials were posted at a time Einstein Structured Settlements had yet to do a deal, according to a conversation I had with Ryan Blank's father. They were later determined to be undisclosed paid reviews. One testimonial claimed that an annuitant raised money from the sale of her structured settlement to buy a Bentley and ocean front property in Miami. Anyone with knowledge of the Florida Structured Settlement Protection Act would have reason to be skeptical of such claims. The supposed Hispanic client was later discovered by research, to be a paid Fiverr actress named Pinkkoala. For those not familiar with Fiverr, it is an online outsource platform where you pay $5 (or a very nominal amount of money) for "a la carte "web related services Unfortunately many folks are not knowledgeable and may therefore be vulnerable to the dreadful attempt by Einstein's ownership to influence consumers under false pretenses. The behavior of those that control Einstein Structured Settlements is notable because they continually demonstrate no desire to correct the stunning level of inaccuracy on their websites.
A newer "website company" associated with Ryan Blank, Annuitysold.com has made the outrageous claim that the company is licensed and qualified in all 50 states to purchase annuity payments. Simply not true. There is no such licensing or regulation of settlement purchasers. There should be.
Ryan Blank failed or is unwilling to learn from mistakes of inexperience in structured settlements. Rather than correcting serial inaccuracy, the best Einstein Structured Settlements and its leaders can do is attack us online, which they have done from time to time on their blog or on complaint sites. Deception has been the name of the game with Einsteinstructuredsettlements.com, AnnuitySold.com as they exploit the regulatory gap. It's hard to take any brand associating JRR Funding (e.g. Einstein SS, Greenspring Funding, Edison Funding, AnnuitySold, Sell-structured-settlement.com) and structured settlements seriously, since we uncovered the use of fake testimonials, fake BBB seals, made for SEO fake seminars advertised in business journals and online newspapers and inaccurate content associated with one or more of these sites.
In late 2013, Einstein began flooding the internet with web pages displaying repetitive content, save the name of virtually every city, town and hamlet in the United States, in a locations.einsteinstructuredsettlements sub-domain of its website. A survey of two states, via the Secretaries of State for New York and Connecticut, showed no active registration for Einstein Structured Settlements; and no registration ever for that matter.
Einstein also selectively created numerous web pages associating its competitors' brands with the words "scam" and "complaints".
There is also evidence that the promoters of Einstein Structured Settlements placed comment spam on consumer complaint sites for marketing purposes. That's unfortunately the world we live in. In early 2014 calls to Einstein Structured Settlements toll-free number resolved to Atlanta based "cash now pusher" Fairfield Funding. A call at the beginning of June 2014 reconfirmed this. On July 15, 2014 a call to Einstein Structured Settlements' 888-497-0724 number was returned from 202-417-2122 with the caller ID JRR Funding. The JRR Funding website was subsequently discovered as a sub directory to an Einstein Structured Settlement website. The website conclusively shows the material involvement of Richart Ruddie and Ryan Blank in the entity, despite denials. In January 2015 I discovered a December 6, 2013 Prezi presentation created by Ryan Blank called JRR+Fairfield Success that detailed the "game plan" between JRR Funding LLC,which is led by Ryan Blank, and Fairfield Funding including how scraping of court records was an integral part of the process of how customers were identified and acquired.
In September 2014, an associated brand Sell-structured-settlement.com was linked to a fake structured settlement sale seminar advertised on SanJose.com [Read San Francisco Structured Settlement Sale Seminar SEO Motivated Fraud for details]. In late 2014 Einstein solicited tickets what proved to be a phantom structured settlement planning conference,purporting to be at the Holiday Inn downtown Chicago, IL. An ad was taken out in Crains Chicago and tickets were going for $675 for a purported 2 hour meeting. There was no such event at the Holiday Inn according to the general manager of the hotel [Read Einstein Structured Settlements' Chicago Settlement Planning Pavement Scrape]
JRR Funding is associated with Edison Funding and Greenspring Funding as well as Einstein. JRR Funding javascipt was found in the source code of these websites in February 2015. On the one hand the Einstein alter ego trashes the Better Business Bureau referring to it as a "scam organization" while the other two websites post Better Business Bureau seals with non clickable links. Such links are intended to permit consumers to verify BBB membership. An independent search I made of the BBB local to the addresses stated on each of the websites shows no BBB memberships, drawing only one possible negative conclusion about JRR Funding and its website "offspring".
(ii) During 2013, the Structured Settlement Watchdog® focused on a purported executive and multiple purported individuals, purportedly associated with what a Maryland judge found to be "purported company", Sovereign Funding Group, another Maryland based actor in the structured settlement factoring segment's "cauldron of deceit", whose purported academic credentials promoted on line, did not check out when the academic institutions were contacted. In the case of Sovereign Funding Group and its proprietor, David Springer of Mount Airy MD, the fictitious characters included President "James Goldstein", whose LinkedIn and Google Plus profiles displayed stock photos of a middle-aged businessman. [Thanks to Ohio insurance broker Todd Associates for the heads up. They used the same stock photo image that David Springer was using for a fictitious character that Sovereign/Springer was holding out as its chief executive]. The David Springer created fictitious characters actually appeared to communicate with each other like 'finger puppets" and endorsed one another on LinkedIn to enhance David Springer's deception, in public facing social media. To think that companies and individuals like David Springer were soliciting American consumers with these false credentials is disconcerting.
Coincidentally the fabrication of education credentials for both of the Maryland actors' aliases "Ryan Einstein" and "James Goldstein", involved a false claim of a degree (or degrees in the case of Einstein) from Yale.
On March 30, 2015, David Springer was found liable to Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC for Trademark Infringement and Common Law Defamation by Maryland Federal Judge Marvin J Garbis, following a 4 day trial in August 2014. In his decision Judge Garbis referred to Sovereign Funding Group as a "purported corporate name". A similar suit ,filed by JG Wentworth against the same Defendants in Maryland state court in Frederick County, was settled in March 2012.
Almost two years after being put on notice about David Springer's shenanigans with respect to the Sovereign Funding Group BBB listing, as of June 15, 2015, almost one year after the trial and more than two months after the judge's decision finding against Springer, The Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland continued to give the defunct David Springer purported company its highest rating, underscoring how unreliable the BBB of Greater Maryland is for structured settlement consumers. Coincidentally BBB of Greater MD only took action after I excoriated them for their inaction on the blog.
Scary stuff learned about Sovereign Funding Group and David Springer During The Course of The Woodbridge Litigation against David Springer.
- In June 2012 David Springer and Sovereign Funding Group stated in their answer to the Woodbridge complaint, that the company had ceased operations, yet the website continued to operate purportedly under the direction of fictitious character "James Goldstein" at an address that later proved to be a UPS store mailbox in Rockville Maryland purchased by David Springer, in June 2012! David Springer continued to use a Sovereign Funding Group email address after the time he and Sovereign claimed to Woodbridge that the company ceased operations.
- Sovereign Funding Group's Better Business Bureau listing named two people, James Goldstein and Sandy Jackson, both fictitious characters, as of July 13, 2013. David Springer was deposed on June 28, 2013. When a portion of the David Springer deposition was posted on Pacer.gov, it revealed that when deposed, David Springer admitted, under oath , to creating multiple phony names James Goldstein, James Spelling, Alexander Ross, Sandy Jackson and other fake identities such as Karen Jones and Melanie Miller and the later discovered David Smithen, the attendance of the fake identities at schools (that turned out to be fabrications) and several fabricated LinkedIn profiles , Google Plus profiles and the insertion of fake names (James Goldstein and Sandy Jackson) as company contacts on the the BBB report . There is evidence about David Springer's use of the alias James Spelling as early as 2008, in direct conflict with his deposition and trial testimony. The fake identity of James Goldstein was also used on Pinterest and Manta, sites which target American consumers. On March 31, 2014 I showed how David Springer's wife, "or her Facebook account" even chatted with her husband's fake character on the Sovereign Funding Group Facebook page.
- Again, many of the fake Sovereign Funding Group characters were staged to have endorsed each other on business networking sites, when it was just David Springer giving himself a "selfie" over and over! David Springer assumed fake male and female role to endorse himself and then personally endorsed a number of his fake personalities on LinkedIn.
- The Sovereign Funding Group BBB report stated on July 24, 2013 that the company had 9 employees, then including the real name David Springer, for the first time in 13 months, among the fictitious names. On August 8, 2013 there were 2 names, David Springer and Sandy Jackson, who does not exist.
- On February 2, 2014, I reported Sovereign Funding attempted to pass off a glamorous looking office as its own via its listing with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. The structured settlement watchdog noticed that there was a difference between what was passed off as Sovereign Funding Group's office with the real image of the self-described "virtual office", a Regus Office Center in Westview Village, Frederick, MD. Sovereign Funding Group used the same image to falsely portray its office at what turned out to merely be a UPS mailbox on Hungerford Turnpike in Rockville, MD.
- Sovereign Funding Group posted to YouTube in October 2012, advertisements which falsely portrayed paid actresses from Fiverr.com and another pay for testimonial service as "customers who really did business with the company". Sovereign Funding Group failed to disclose that the purported customers were paid actresses [ see #4 below for more details]. Yet notice of Springer's substantial pile of BS was not enough to get the useless BBB of Greater Maryland to doing anything to protect consumers.
The Structured Settlement Watchdog® is conducting an ongoing investigation into other individuals or entities associated with the structured settlement secondary market that make use of fake identities and employ a labyrinth of entities whose ownership or control is not easily ascertainable, when soliciting American citizens in their approach or solicitation to buy structured settlement payment rights, or to solicit American investors to buy these deals. These 'ghosts' have been enabled by the under-regulation associated with that side of the structured settlement world. These fake identities may appear in a variety of forums, such as do it yourself press releases and as we've seen, Google Plus profiles, and "gussied up" LinkedIn profiles which are linked to other fake identities.
It is not hard to see why rooting out these acts is important. The structured settlement secondary market targets some of the most vulnerable and unsophisticated in American society.American consumers have the potential to be harmed by those who conduct deceptive practices. Same with yield-starved investors contemplating an investment in structured settlement payment rights.
(3) To expose the use of fake testimonials,where "cash now pushers" attempt to get a call to action by falsely portraying that a person has done business with them and displays an image that proves to be a stock photo or a paid video "testimonial" that they obtained from Fiverr.com.
For example, see my May 20th, May 27th and June 3, 2014 blog posts regarding my investigation into "Kristen", a supposed client of DRB Capital and Imperial Structured Settlements who "called in and received her money in days". Do stock photos have bank accounts? Following our expose and given ample opportunity to disprove our allegations by supplying copies of transfer orders involving the alleged client giving the alleged testimonial (which would have been public record), DRB Capital re-did its website.
Two such video testimonials were posted promoting Sovereign Funding Group on YouTube in November 2012. One featured a British lass who has done 11,900 of these sorts of videos, according to our research. Her screen name is "Kymmy Pops", but for the purpose of the Sovereign Funding Group ad she was "Karen S". There was another one featuring "Jessica P. from New York" which actress was found on another paid testimonial website.
I then busted Einstein Structured Settlements for two paid for testimonials, one from Fiverr.com and the other from Buytestimonials.com. Read the report about fake Einstein structured settlements Review from Chip here. Read my report about fake Einstein structured settlements review from the "hispanic client" Fabiola (a/k/a Pink Koala) here
(5) To highlight and encourage, potential informants and other commentators who expose, or help to expose, bad business practices with a goal to help improve the greater structured settlement industry.
Practices such as:
How are consumers protected by the current state of affairs? While you need a license to sell securities, sell insurance, sell real estate, operate a bank, act as a life settlement broker, cut hair, ink a tattoo, or even run a brothel (in the State of Nevada where such an establishment is legal), there is no enforceable standard of professional conduct, no mandatory licensure, or regulatory body that can fine, penalize structured settlement secondary market participants for providing unlicensed financial advice, for engaging in predatory advertising and solicitation practices, or ban them for a history of illicit activities in previous employment.