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An Open Letter to the Board of John Wiley & Sons with respect to Wiley's defamation of bionicturtle.com

David Harper CFA FRM

David Harper CFA FRM
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This a cross-post from its source on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/open-letter-board-john-wiley-sons-respect-wileys-david-harper/

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To the Executives, Employees and Directors of John Wiley & Sons (NYSE: JW.A):

I regret to inform you that Wiley has engaged in the defamation (aka, trade disparagement) of bionicturtle.com's reputation for the past 14 months. I will summarize three highlights:
  1. We learned about the misconduct: In early December 2017, GARP's SVP of Adminstration sent Kaplan and bionicturtle.com an email (see https://trtl.bz/2SRTcYI) to inform us they had spoken with Wiley for the purpose of requesting that Wiley adjust language on their website "that does not appear to be language that is used in a professional manner." This action by GARP was not solicited by us; at the time, we were unaware of Wiley's tactics such that GARP's email was how we learned about Wiley's deceitful marketing messages. She further wrote, "Wiley did acknowledge that the CFA had contacted them about the same messaging, and they told them the same thing they told me. They will review it, but will probably not make any change to their marketing or campaign plans. We realize that this is not exactly what you wanted to hear, but we wanted you to know that we are aware and listening." We subsequently had a conference call where surprise was expressed at Wiley's breezy defiance.
  2. We requested corrections or removal: In March of 2018, after having prospects and customers forward Wiley's comparison matrix to us, we began to notify Wiley that the matrix contained at least four (4) egregious misrepresentations of Bionic Turtle and our FRM product. I (David Harper) specifically itemized the falsehoods; see https://trtl.bz/2xrKNlc. It took almost three months for Ashima Aggarwal, Wiley's Associate General Counsel, to confirm that Wiley would remove the matrix from their website. Ms. Aggarwal wrote (see copy of the email here https://trtl.bz/2E7INQq): "As a courtesy, I wanted to let you know that after a thorough review of the competitive grid, Wiley is confident that the contents accurately describe the different elements and choices available to candidates. We do not feel that Wiley’s offerings are the same as Bionic Turtle’s. That said, this has been such a wholly unpleasant experience for the team at Wiley [sic] who take pride in being collaborative, fair and ethical at all times with our partners, customers and competitors, that we are bringing forward plans to revise our competitor page and generalise our USP. This update will occur within the next 14 days." Subsequently, only after I persisted in making demands of their marketing department, Wiley did eventually remove the static page containing the comparison matrix from their website. At that time, I had assumed the issue was resolved ...
  3. Wiley resorts to under-the-radar direct emails: Recently (January 2019) prospects and customers have forwarded us emails that contain the same Comparison Matrix. Below is displayed (plus my red arrow annotations) the Comparison Matrix that Wiley has been sending recently (as of January 2019). We were surprised to see this behavior, to say the least, if for no other reason that it cannot remain hidden for very long: not infrequently we sell subscriptions to former Wiley's customers who have requested refunds from Wiley. The evidence shows that Wiley has resorted to deploying the same Comparison Matrix in 1:1 and/or direct emails to prospects. In my opinion, deploying the deceitful Matrix in direct email is more aggressive than hanging it on a static sub-page. In any case, at this point in time, Wiley has known the Comparison Matrix is overtly deceitful for over one year. Some may reasonably retort that such comparison matrices are commonplace in business. Indeed that is true, except that in addition to misrepresenting bionicturtle.com, the matrix significantly overstates the features of Wiley's own product (note #1). Legally, a company is actually not supposed to lie about its competitors. As an entrepreneur, I find myself grateful for such laws. Even as comparison matrices go, Wiley's is beyond the pale. On January 31st, Nicole did send Ms. Aggarwal another "cease and desist." But we do not expect her to reverse her position given she has a self-interest in CYA, at this point, having enabled the activity. Nor do we trust the marketing principals involved, for obvious reasons. (Please email me at davidh@bionicturtle.com if you would like a copy of this email chain).
In legal terms, we are advised that Wiley's conduct qualifies as trade disparagement; aka, defamation. However, Nicole and I have neither the time nor interest in getting bogged down in a soul-sucking lawsuit. We enjoy our workweek spent creating educational materials and supporting customers. We cannot say what impact these deceitful marketing campaigns have had on our business.

Beyond the business or legal implications, truth be told, I am offended in two specific ways. First, the comparison line that reads "Professional Online Mentoring" shows a green check mark for Wiley ("") but a red X-mark for us ("X"). This is the exact opposite of the truth. Christian Cooper and Wiley's FRM team are fully aware of this. I spend hours each morning, including most weekends, supporting candidates in our forum at https://www.bionicturtle.com/forum, where I have replied to over 15,000 customer questions (I effectively keep a weekly journal of my mentoring highlights here https://trtl.bz/2SVztaR). If there is an individual in the world who has provided more mentoring to FRM candidates than me, I have no idea who that is. In contrast, I recently signed-up for Wiley's FRM trial and discovered they appear to be offering no mentoring (this was corroborated by my live chat inquiry). As their forum contains very little activity, I was able to quickly itemize all posts. Over 70% of their forum posts are either unanswered questions or complaints about quality. Typical posts by their customers include "are you guys getting responses to your questions ... I don't see any responses" or "I emailed them last year requesting an errata but they sent me a link to a blank page of errata" or "why there are a lot of errors in the book and example questions ... the errors are so many that I don't want to even list them," or "I agree, I am absolutely disappointed with this course, it is not only full of errors in all materials, but also abuses of imprecise language quite often and explanations and so non rigorous ... which combined with the errors make the materials impossible to trust. This is the money worst spent ever" (note #2). It therefore seems safe to suggest that Wiley probably is not providing Professional Online Mentoring. It's okay with me if they don't have the capabilities to mentor FRM candidates, but it irks me that a big corporation can lie about a big part of my life's work over the last decade.

Second, Wiley's behavior offends my sense of fairness. By way of illustration of a polar opposite in value systems (i.e., switching from awful to exemplary), we have competed head-to-head with Kaplan Schweser in this market for 13+ years. I have respect for Kaplan's product and their leadership team's integrity. Kaplan is a tough competitor who plays fair. The byproduct of fair competition is better products for customers. Wiley has taken a different route entirely. Wiley is a publicly-traded company with considerable marketing resources and an in-house legal department. We are a core team of two people, Nicole and myself. If Wiley wants to take market share from us, that's American capitalism, but they should earn it with honest marketing and a better product. It offends me that a publicly-traded corporation would attempt to displace our generally superior product and service by sheer force of bright-line deceit. Wiley's arrogant persistence in unethically casting us in a false, negative light suggests they prefer shortcuts to improving their product.

In 14 years, this is the first time I've written anything negative about any competitor for public consumption (including in our forum, where we feel we have a responsibility as hosts to all candidates). We don't sell against our competitors. We host a large community for purposes of sharing ideas. Pushing our product on visitors is not the atmosphere we want to invoke. So I'm really not thrilled to be posting this. For over a year we have repeatedly asked Wiley to "cease and desist" in framing deceitful messages about us. Just on the pure principle, I've called on GARP to revoke Wiley's EPP status because these antics obviously fail to satisfy GARP's Code of Conduct. I repeat: four of Wiley's statements about us continue to be bald-faced lies. Wiley's legal department has known about these lies for 14 months. The only thing we have ever asked in this matter is that Wiley stop lying about us. My patience wears thin, so I am appealing to you (Wiley's employees, its Board of Directors and its CEO). I am confident this unethical behavior by a handful of people does not mean to reflect on the integrity of (not to mention the desire to act in compliance with the law) most of the good people at a company who I had previously held in high regard.

Thank you,

David Harper, CFA, FRM, Founder & CEO, bionicturtle.com
  • Note #1: Wiley's high-defect FRM question bank is smaller, less comprehensive, much less rigorous, and much less supported than ours. Any comparison to ours is inappropriate and supremely ironic, if for no other reasons than, unlike Wiley's authors, I am proficient in supra-arithmetic mathematics (aka, mathematics) and we transparently capture, respond and correct our mistakes on a public forum that is monitored daily. Their material is well-known to lack quantitative rigor, especially where advanced or intermediate math is involved: the text often talks about math without doing math. In many cases, this avoidance approach leads to utterly nonsensical qualitative statements or hand-waving dismissals of harder concepts as "not likely to be tested." To support with three citations among many available, see AnalystForum (https://trtl.bz/2N79qrA, where a basic but important risk metric, kurtosis, is incorrectly misspecified and explained in nonsensical terms); Amazon (https://trtl.bz/2N3PuGh; "Questions are Atrocious", "Content is Poor"); or reddt/FRM (https://trtl.bz/2GsOYB7; "... complete garbage. Pretty sure they did not proof read anything they published because it was full of basic math errors and content that would conflict with the GARP material."). I've known about this since they entered the market as I've corrected literally dozens of their mistakes for confused candidates. Their material's mistakes have included even basic math errors and/or imprecise definitions of fundamental risk terms. The study of risk, after all, is necessarily mathematical and detail-oriented. I kept this to myself for years, until today.
  • Note #2: I collected screenshots of the entire forum into an MS OneNote notebook. Please email me at davidh@bionicturtle.com if you would like access, in order to verify my statistics and/or quotations.
 
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David1973

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#4
You have our full support David, and can assure you that the time and effort that you put into running this forum and caring for the needs of your members does not go unappreciated or unnoticed. Best of luck with this unsavoury distraction, I hope it has a very favourable ending for your sake. Keep up the great work!
 

jockey1995

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#5
I was using their trial and at the same time paid membership for Bionicturtle. After experience their trial, I had a bad feeling about their teaching as well as their practice questions. And thus, I was very lucky that I didn't pay to continue with them and 100% sure of the decision I paid for Bionicturtle. There was no better decision than to go for Bionicturtle and i was happy with the well-spent money.
 

David Harper CFA FRM

David Harper CFA FRM
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I just wanted to give a quick update. We've received a lot of support on this matter, for which we are grateful. GARP has filed a copy with their legal team (I've told GARP that I welcome any of their legal involvement because "sunshine is the best disinfectant.") More importantly, a number of candidates have volunteered to go "on record" in regard to corroboration. In truth, we've not received or read a single dissent, we've only received corroboration and encouragement.

One of our former customers suggested that we ask the CFA Institute to investigate. So I did make this request, as these actions are indeed violations of the CFA's Code of Ethics and Standard of Professional Conduct. And I am glad to report that the CFA is investigating, and we are fully cooperating. I am proud to be a CFA Charterholder. Fellow Charterholders already know that the CFA Institute has always take the Code of Ethics seriously; it's a real honor to be part of an organization that, at a minimum, has a channel for these sorts of complaints. Given the CFA's inquiry and the public support, I do fully expect Wiley will stop false marketing against us. Thank you!
 

Flashback

Active Member
#7
Well. This was non-ethical marketing on first instance. Based on rumors, not on facts and might be interpreted as discrediting your company as a valid service provider. While it's legal and even common occurrence within many industrial sectors, it is forbidden by regulators in financial sector at least in Europe. I don't know what is the situation in the US regarding this. However, your satisfied customers are your confirmation that you are on the right path. This likely law suit might also end as discrediting to you in the eye of some customers. Just mine $ 0.02.
 

Nicole Seaman

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#8
Well. This was non-ethical marketing on first instance. Based on rumors, not on facts and might be interpreted as discrediting your company as a valid service provider. While it's legal and even common occurrence within many industrial sectors, it is forbidden by regulators in financial sector at least in Europe. I don't know what is the situation in the US regarding this. However, your satisfied customers are your confirmation that you are on the right path. This likely law suit might also end as discrediting to you in the eye of some customers. Just mine $ 0.02.
Hello @Flashback,

None of the dishonest practices that we have uncovered about Wiley are "rumors". (I'm not sure why you would have thought this was all based on rumors??) We have concrete evidence that Wiley has been deliberately sending out inaccurate marketing information about Bionic Turtle (and other prep providers). We would have never pursued this investigation based on rumors. They are very clearly involved in the defamation of Bionic Turtle so there are no grounds for them to file a lawsuit against our company, as we have done nothing wrong. We have received nothing but support from our previous and current customers regarding this so I do not see it hurting us as a valid service provider. If anything, it shows that we have extremely high standards of honesty and integrity.
 

David Harper CFA FRM

David Harper CFA FRM
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@Flashback I have no idea what you are even talking about, including "rumors." There are absolutely no "rumors" in my letter; everything is factual. So fact-based and solid is my position that I hired a VA to distribute the letter to each of Wiley's Board members with a follow-up conformation (a step that has been completed). Plenty of lawyers have copies of the Open letter, at this point; some have supported evidence (not rumors). There won't be a legal action unless we want one, because Wiley is fully aware they broken a law by trade disparaging a competitor. In the US, it's actionable. I teach risk, I didn't write this Open Letter without having all of my ducks in a row. And, just in case you didn't read the actual letter, it was a last resort after 14 months, precisely because I have no interest in legal distractions. We're very confident in our statement that their actions are illegal in the US. But thank you for your $0.02, although that price seems a bit steep for what you are offering :rolleyes:
 
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Flashback

Active Member
#10
I have never been using Wiley as a prep. provider but have purchased many books printed by Wiley and those books are high quality. May be those who hurt you are from another department of Wiley and Sons. However, I read that what happened and seems not such a big issue but maybe I do not know all facts. It happens. If you think that your image as a prep. provider was jeopardized, go for it. I think really that wasn't. You're pretty well positioned among FRM providers. I also recommend your portal and studying material to fresh candidates.
 

David Harper CFA FRM

David Harper CFA FRM
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@Flashback okay that's good, and me too: I also have purchased many books from Wiley. It seems like maybe you did not read the actual letter that I wrote? It is a narrow problem: see the marketing material above. It may not be a big deal to you. But, I can tell you that even my contact(s) at GARP are not happy about the above marketing material (if you read the letter, you can see that Wiley basically gave GARP "the hand" also, such is the arrogance).

Their marketing material lies about us. An honest comparison matrix would have us compared quite favorably to Wiley, yes? Especially on support .... so, maybe it's not a big deal to you, but imagine somebody published materials that lied about your job performance. You have a resume, yes? Would you like me to markup your resume with utter falsehoods, claiming you do not perform job duties that, in fact, you perform very well? I am guessing you would not like that. You are the only person who has expressed anything except full support. Yes, we are very well positioned, but that's actually not the point. I work too hard to have anybody paint me falsely, casting our very strengths as weaknesses I will defend my reputation, if it's all the same to you. I will defend it against lies, and I will defend it with the facts (aka, the truth). For me, it's about the Principle, actually.

But ... thank you for recommending our portal, we appreciate that.
 
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Flashback

Active Member
#12
It happens constantly in my neighborhood and usually I do not care so much about it. If i was in the US, would probably have acted like you. In my neighbourhood each law suit is a risk per se for each party in the process so that being said is usually solved by gentlemen mutual agreement of a conciliation.
 

David Harper CFA FRM

David Harper CFA FRM
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@Flashback I don't want a lawsuit (although I would almost certainly profit from one). I have been advised to sue, numerous times (I have had offers to help me sue). Nicole and I do not want to spend any time on lawsuits. I wrote the letter after 14 month (multiple notifications to Wiley) because they resorted finally to surprisingly under-handed tactics. Their last activity (resorting to email after taking down the public page) is not common or "acceptable" here in the US. I have seen what happens when people get consumed by a lawsuit. I'm a teacher, it's not worth any amount of money to me, to spend my time in a long lawsuit.

That said, if Wiley were to initiate an action, our evidence pile would contribute to a PR disaster for them, and probably would be quite profitable for us. We have nothing to fear from them.

Also, maybe you are missing the fact that we (BT) are very small and they are very large? e.g., they are much larger than GARP who, maybe you noticed, they also didn't listen to. I don't think you understand how it works ... they want the market share and they never cared that I asked them to do the right thing. (They actually tried to acquire me extremely cheaply before they launched with CC, saying they expected to have at 50% of the market so it would be in my interest to take their lowball offer). We aren't anything like equal counterparties. They act like a very big company who will do as it pleases. There was never a chance for a gentlement's agreement to be had. Their product, lucky for us, is pretty terrible (i.e., CC doesn't really know mathematics and Wiley bring utterly no advanced editorial capability) and so they stepped up the marketing to compensate, aggressively. There is a reason their matrix is thusly fashioned: they can't win on product and they can't beat me or Kaplan, but painting us falsely is "safer" than doing that to Kaplan. Get it? I tried to get a conversation many times, but I've never in my business career encountered such an arrogant response (dismissal) as they gave me, to be honest. Their lawyer basically said, we'll do what we want. I can't tell if you read the letter, sorry, did you notice that they sneakily resorted to emailing the matrix after talking it down from the static site. That's why I wrote the Open Letter, because, um, they are not Gentlemen. Okay? The only "Gentlemen's agreement" we ever needed was a simple agreement to stop lying about us in marketing materials! It's not complicated ... I hope that's helpful context.
 
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David Harper CFA FRM

David Harper CFA FRM
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Hi @akrushn2 We noticed that you posted here @ https://www.analystforum.com/comment/91864519#comment-91864519 (screenshot below). We're happy to try and answer questions, we've been doing it here for a decade. Per the post above, we've had to defend ourselves against some truly unethical anti-marketing. So I hope you are okay if I add this to the public record? Let me know please ... thanks,



Also, we've lately received multiple reports that Wiley is not responding to questions from its customers. I was curious, so I visited their chat and the transcript of that chat is attached.
 

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