Ombudsperson ADR: “Money Changes Everything”

13 February 2011

I’ve chosen this title as the “theme” for one of the most critical types of situations that I’ve “engaged” for decades in business.  It also creates the most conflict, polarization and chaos in all types of business “personalities”; and it basically has to do with any type of funding to make the entity viable.  Normally I’d practice “ombudsmanship” if this were in my “other practice”, but this time I got a referral from a past client I coached on his dispute as an Independent Contractor.  In this scenario, money acts as a catalyst for change and is regarding the ongoing internal dispute between “owners” of a new start-up e-commerce company.  We handled this using ODR methods with the 6 C’s Of Sociocratic Peace Building process.  The outcome was very successful and it’s been over three months now without any recidivism. As I’ve mentioned previously, a vast majority of our work is “coaching” the dispute process asymmetrically, which continues, but this case was “traditional” and satisfying to handle.

The background on this is that one of the group was referred to me by a previous client and the new client is a 19-year-old “web developer” that has been “informally” participating with a group of about 6-10 guys, depending on the time of year, regarding starting a new web based e-commerce company.  He quickly, verbally, laid out his case as one of the “younger guys” of the informal group, where ages ranged up to the mid twenties.  Key to the informal group structure is that it shrank and grew in its informal membership, where no business plan had been developed, but they would have “lan parties” for gaming and informal pizza and beer meetings over the development of the new start up company.  When I asked how long this “idea” phase of the new business had been going on, my client indicated he’d been “in it from the start” and it has been sporadically ongoing for all of 2010.  What was making things so urgent now was that one of the guys was talking to a “rich guy” about funding their new e-commerce business and got a commitment of $300,000 cash in an email, with contingencies; and so they are all now “rushing” to meet requirements.  Indeed, from this moment forward, money changed everything as every type of dynamic between “business partners”, mostly bad, began to unfold.

To start I simply got my client to email everyone, have a meeting and present me as a person to help them “sort out” their conflict now that “cash” has corrupted everyone. Surprisingly, they all agreed, including more people than has been actively involved.  First step, formally define who’s in and who’s out.  Surprised me again when they had a roster within 48 hours.  Thus we discovered, to my clients elation as he was included out of all the “informal” members to date, a roster of 6 people total.  This process is also indirectly contributing to the planning they overlooked.

Next step, get a one page narrative on the WWWWHW’s (who, what, when, where, how, why) including their role, contributions to date and description of what the conflict is from each individuals perspective.  Again, surprised, all email contact information and cell phone numbers were provided to me and I sent these out… all came back completed within days.

I then did quick 20-30 minute phone interviews with each “member” of the new entity for purposes of building consensus and determining how adaptive each guy would be to formalizing the business structure. I also did some preemptive discussion where I detected an intractable ‘position’ by relaying my years of experience and wisdom in such situations and the “worst case scenarios” I’d witnessed through the years, thus cautioning them all, individually, that if they can’t “play nice in the sandbox”, everyone will be impacted and the financing opportunity they have in front of them would be over.

Everyone agreed that things got “really serious” when the “letter” from the investor offering $300,000 was circulated and this triggered greed and selfishness rather than the continued “fun and teamwork” they had all been demonstrating for a year.  In a conference call I related my previous experiences where the worst I’d seen in my career was a group of  “grown men” who broke from “formal” agreements, business plan and slit throats practically for their own gain over everyone else in their yet to be funded company.  I then asked them, “do you wish to all do the same?”  Verbal consensus quickly came, thus providing the common point of focus to cooperate and continue to have them develop a document that they all sign and agree with so as to have structure and boundaries of membership in the face of potential protest from individuals who are now excluded. Again, I’m surprised, as everyone agreed with roles and titles with responsibilities in the new company based on the “concept” model of the business as discussed.

I then simply laid out, from the interviews, written and verbal, where the “points of conflict” potentially were, got consensus again for a solution as to what would be best based on my business development experience and venture finance, in various areas.  One key point I made was that, “the money is not yours” that you are getting, it’s the funds for the new company as an entity and they are stewards of the money and accountable to each other and their benefactor. It happens in every case I’ve ever had for over two decades that the common misconception is that the beneficiaries think the funds are theirs now.  This fact further stabilized perceptions and brought some order from chaos over “money” issues.

The second common “theme” was that everyone was, in their own way, maneuvering and holding each other “hostage” over “ownership of contributions of Intellectual Property” to make the enterprise run.  Everything from one guy hurrying to register the domain name and then charge everyone thousands of dollars to buy it from him, to another guy wanting royalty payments from his programming of the financial interface on the website as money came in from transactions.  There’s more, but again, once it was pointed out that they were “holding each other hostage”, polarizing the group in to “me versus them”; and not cooperating they began to see more clearly.  At this point I simply asked each person, live in the call, “do you want out now or want in for the long-term?” so as to get intentions out in the open for all to confirm.  In addition to this, the solution everyone is to follow through on their commitments, contributes as they said they would all along and then in reality, for a start-up, revenue sharing of net gains improves as the company performs and does well.  If anyone holds back, it affects everyone.

In the end they completed their “terms of consensus” memorandum as a prelude to their business concept and planning.  I reviewed it for completeness from gathered information, they all signed, I have one on file, and they are now moving ahead with a new company and the understanding that before it’s over, more conflicts will inevitably come up and they now know how to resolve them.  Once again, my previous experience and background go hand in hand as I’m in my second year formally as an OO and referrals now come… a pleasant surprise finally.


Brief Analysis: Wallstreet Reform Bill Has Ombudsman Provision

25 June 2010

Again, OO is following, as best possible as we are busy, the Wall Street Reform Bill developments as they unfold. In this Press Release Update on AGREED provisions in the Bill as of this week, an Ombudsman would serve as part of yet another new agency in the Investment Advisory Committee.  My immediate analysis is that once again this will NOT be effective for consumers at all because individuals called upon to serve will continue to be pulled from the ranks of the Washington “elite” in government circles of influence.  What would have been closer to meeting the needs of consumers would have been the empowering and enabling of the private sector to represent consumers to the committee from local, regional, state and organized consumer interest groups nationwide.  Instead, “independence” is lost and any “virtuous” alternative to really engaging in and creating fair and accountable policy for consumers is lost before it even begins.  Consolidation and centralization of all decisions on the behalf of the public, consumers and constituents continues without any clear perspective from lawmakers.

The New Ombudsperson: Corporate Business Abuses

1 May 2010

I don’t know what it is exactly, but a significant handful of my “independent” OO work comes from Canada.  Consumers, businesses and subjects of the Crown have no problem with emailing me in Tulsa and laying it all out on the table.  The common thread and trend is most often “unfair” corporate or institutional practices where the very rules and contracts that are suppose to be honored by “both sides” seem to be changed on a whim or ignored out of convenience; both in the USA and Canada.  This type of situation is very widespread and the more “powerful” prevail by making the rules and then punishing business customers without consideration for the economic downturn or demonstrating ethical practices.  In fact, I would question whether large corporations or institutions currently support consumers and small business interests or are they now more of a threat?  It’s very “brutal” out there right now and getting worse.  Indeed, my practice has been shaped by the “trend of the times” so as to be a truly “independent” entity in facilitating disputes and most often “advocating” for the disadvantaged consumer or partner in a less than ethical relationship with a more powerful corporate or institutional entity.

In a recent case early this year an auto repair business in Alberta first emailed and then called me about a dispute with their bank over their merchant card and POS (point of sale) equipment in their business.  The client had, at the beginning of 2010, made a change of location for their business taking a smaller repair facility than what they had previously.  They had rightfully made moves for their survival given the economy and future projections of a more lengthy “recovery” than government “propaganda” will admit.  Being a good and ethical business too they notified their “big bank” that they had their merchant services with, that they were changing locations, filed an online form to make the change, new business checks, the whole package.  Initially the connecting of the equipment to telecommunications lines for card processing continued without any problem and then about 60 days later a NOTICE came that their account had been reviewed and that they had broken the terms of their agreement and a new contract was to be signed immediately.  Nope, no collaboration, no phone call, nothing… we are all so familiar with this “method” as consumers… are we not?  The client initially did their best to try and determine which part of the contract had been violated so as to trigger the forced termination of their current 3 year agreement, of which they were 2 years into, and the warranted reasoning for a new contract for a longer period, with significant rate increases and no upgrade in services or equipment.  This went on back and forth for about 30 days and then “service” was cut off by “big bank” in Alberta.  To make a very long story short, we reviewed the documents/agreements, current online merchant offers and tried once again to engage the bank of which they refused us as having any LEGAL authority to engage them.  The client also provided a copy of an email where the “big bank” ombuds team “only considers complaints about consumer products and investments”, not merchant services.  Additionally, I could have guessed this part before calling, Ombudsman Banking and Investments for Canada did talk with us and the client in a conference call and “merchant services” are not under their auspices and they could give no other authority or alternative for filing a grievance.  This case yet again confirms “gaps” or areas of practice deemed off limits as dictated by corporate or institutional policy rather than having a policy to address any issue a customer or constituent may have.  This needs changed.

On a personal and rational level, what strikes me most often, is the “double speak” we hear in the media versus what is really going on.  In this case “big bank” had no problem cutting off the “life blood” of the business, debit and credit card transactions, in what was still technically a valid agreement.  It was at this point my OO services were over and I had to rescue a business using my years of wisdom in my “other practice” to keep them alive.  A solution was formulated and implemented in hours with  some built in redundancy and the client was back collecting payment for services rendered.  The case is still open and I told the client they really won’t press this issue until year 3 is up, but if they contact them further, contact me and then cooperate if they want the hundreds of dollars in used POS equipment back.  Don’t take it to them NOW, wait till the contract is up, keep it connected if you can.  And so it goes for now…

I have long said that to really be a good Ombudsperson in today’s world you have to first be very ethical and have a good level of courage to engage in a sort of modern day David and Goliath scenario.  The “external” organizational ombudsperson has plenty of “Blue Ocean” opportunity out there, probably won’t make the fee they would like, but can gain a high degree of satisfaction in their work.  I can report that I am working twice as hard as ever to make less income than previous years, but still, it’s rewarding to be “of service” to others.  Also, these “trends” are not over as the media tries to tell us and as a “Second Wave” of recession/depression approaches.  In my projections I predict this will continue for at least the next 3-5  years as the “common people” get pushed down and out and the “elite” as powerful institutions, continues to “consolidate power” in the newly identified “corporatocracy” and other supporting professional entities align with it.

I sincerely hope that you are “inspired” to make a difference, be proactive on a media story, and grapple with “the right thing to do” in your choices in your own practice; ethical, courageous and altruistic for your clients… it is sorely needed.

The New Ombudsman and Payment for Services

5 June 2009

In my “other practice” a majority of clients are having  “cash flow” issues including one client I have as their “business adviser” for their Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing firm.  This is just one case, but virtually ALL of the places I am “virtually” are filing more complaints and issues about not being able to reconcile Accounts Receivables, Invoices and even POS or Point of Sale transactions later “charge back”.  Traditionally these go to a collections department in a big company, but what do we do when our “one person office” has such a large percentage of dead accounts.  We “paradigm shift” do we not?  If I’m observing this across the board in the last 60 days… it’s “melting” quickly out there as it’s my job to “know” before clients get stung.

I’ve noticed now if I go into a pub and even some restaurants, they treat me like it’s “fast food”.  I suspect lower prices to compete in the current economy were the main “driver” to this.  I’m reflecting on my last experience in a recession in the 80s where more than once I was asked to “leave the table” with my party so they could seat another “paying party”.  Indeed, it was back in the 80s many changes in financial transaction procedures began.  Hotels “blocked” out payment on your reservation by phone in advance for the full stay and gas stations started “pay first” before you pump.  Also I’ve noticed that often my credit card is requested when I place my drink order.  “Why”, I ask, “do you need my credit card now?”  With a big smile and flip of some hair and hips, “we are just opening your tab now, that’s all”.  Translation:  “We want to make sure you are good for it now and not find out at the end of your meal you can’t pay”.  Indeed, they “block” out about $100 in advance to “see if I’m good for it” before my drinks and meal come to the table.  Have you noticed any of this?

I am eavesdropping and reading and “chat”ing with professionals who all do business over the Internet and 100% are now saying business has been drastically OFF the last 30-45 days and started declining 60-90 days back.  A lady psychologist and friend has told me she has no new clients this year at all.  For me personally, my number of clients is up, but my fee per invoice is down, BUT I’m surviving.  Why?  Lower fees for services and advance payment policies.

It’s time everyone moves to “advanced fee payment” cycles.  I’ve advised clients to begin doing this.  Net terms and credit cards are fast obsolete as we can’t risk discovering 90 days later that the client took services or products and now they are BK.  Many people are shocked, humiliated and embarrassed as they discover their bank, no notice, cut their credit card limit significantly.  These “surprises” are what is driving this change and my recommendation here to you.  This is the best “free” consultation you’ll get from me this year.  My advice is “our profession” should begin to take fees in advance, even legal firms, psychologists, CPAs and “me” are all doing this now just like the hotel, pub and gas station.  If it’s a huge project, consider an “escrow” account similar to buying a house.  If fees are over small claims limits locally, set that as the point to move to escrow with “terms” for payment and anything “under” that limit is “cash in advance” please.  Once the work is complete it’s the mutual decision that requirements have been met.  This works well for fixed fee contracts, but can also work for projects that expand outside of the original time and scope projected for completion.  The idea is the clients want a result or solution and we want assurance they can pay for services.  There is “risk” here, but it is not related to funds anymore if clients deposit the fee, the risk shifts to “ethics, quality, resolution, satisfaction” from all parties for your work.  Collections agencies are a joke right now, over burdened and no way to collect from “defaults” where people can’t pay as the economic tidal wave slowly moves across America.

You also have an excellent option with which more and more professionals are using.  It’s gaining in popularity.  Again, the client(s) deposits cash, you perform your “ombuds role” with a clear “self directed” result (service agreement terms) and the clients “release” payment from account.  They do take a percentage of the transaction based on amount of the transaction, but it’s worth it to “assure” payment and it’s tax deductible as “banking fees” for business.  They will also “investigate” if you and the clients cannot come to terms, additional fees for this, but if it’s clear this is “self directed” then risks of additional disputes are lowered and the conclusion of the ADR services should happen without a negative consequence.

So, your choice, continue to bill… give net terms and hope to get paid or change your “habits” to up front advance fees and/or escrow procedures.  These times require that we adapt to survive.    All of my clients and myself now take payment in advance.  My Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing client has had “no resistance” to this for all of May.  I used to offer “half day” rates as a minimum block of time, lately I’ve offered 30 minute phone consultations to be more affordable and this scenario has “many takers” lately and is leading to longer term “commitments”, which is the goal.

OO’s First Month: Updates, Recap & Trends

20 February 2009

It’s just been 30 quick days that Organizational Ombudsman has been on the Web.  Given the support and “reciprocity” of readers, mostly from the ombuds community, I’d like to point out some discoveries, future trends and changes to better access the OO blog.

OO traffic and views are linked to 3 main “trackbacks” prior to adding FeedBurner syndication services.  These sites are listed in the Blogroll:

  • Tom K at Ombuds Blog
  • Diane L at Mediation Channel & World Directory ADR
  • Google Search Engine & Google Blog Search

I’ve been asked to provide more subscription options and the Standard RSS Feed Icon for most of the over 200 news readers on the web is available.  You can also go to the Blogroll and select OO FeedBurner Syndication and choose a specific news reader service there.  You can also subscribe, as of yesterday, by FeedBurner e-mail subscription, just click on the link in the top of the right sidebar.

The petition to President Obama is still circulating and can be found in the OO Blogroll, please “digitally sign” and e-mail out for more support.

My web support tools tell me one of the most popular searches on the web regarding key words “Organizational Ombudsman” has been the phrase, “How to become an organizational ombudsman”.  This phrase tells “us” in the profession that the downturn in the economy is driving people to seek other expansions, extensions or alternatives to their current profession or career.  I would say this is very true of the legal profession at this moment.  Indeed, my OO services are an extension of my corporate, business and organizational practice where I often negotiated and mediated “issues” inside running projects to get them completed.  This key word search phrase also says that existing business and corporate functions are seeking ombudsman solutions.  My prediction is that America and the World is “fed up” with unethical practices and wants ethical, honest and trusted relationships and “we” can help provide this.  After conversation this week with one “associate”, the problem for all of us remains the huge “gap” between desire for wanting ethical practice and actually taking action.  One example is executives that need to acknowledge the need and move from “denial and dysfunction” towards healing their organizations.  Within the last year there are “indicators” that employees in large companies are experiencing “morale issues” over the economy, their jobs and management practices.  “Resistance” to such change slows efforts and it takes persistence unless some chaotic event triggers immediate change.  Add to this, my recent experience, is that as I’ve talked with potential clients and educated them to what ombudsmen do; I later return for follow through and discover their web site content has changed to include language about how they are now ‘ethical practitioners’ and assist their stakeholders themselves with conflicts and disputes.  There was a day I’d be “upset” about this, but if it helps to provide awareness and they move towards actually improving ethics with the resources “we” have for them… then this is good.  They will discover though that you can’t be part of the conflict, be one of the ‘sides’, and mediate your own conflicts ethically.

I can’t post my full analysis of the profession and future trends here, but the opportunities are in the most “conflicted” areas of government (classical ombudsman) and business for organizational ombudsmen including but not limited to: corporate governance, corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility, EH&S, whistleblower functions, ethical leadership training, executive ethics coaching, HR conflict management and what I call “ombudsmanship roles”.  I also detect, have no evidence yet, that “community ombudsman” models could be an early “emerging market” for ombuds services working from an “outside and penetrating in” model.  This means scenarios like contracting with individuals, groups, non-profits, public community organizations and then taking the “issue” to local government or agencies for mediation.  Why?  Bureaucracies are “embedded” with conflicted “interests” and processes and are typically very slow to evolve.  By example, homeowners who are still working, but upside down in their mortgages could engage a community ombudsman to collaborate and lead towards a solution to preserving the banks interest and the owners assets.  If you have the “courage” to get in and “surface issues” there is plenty of work in our field.  Other trends may be religious or non-secular assistance for negotiation, issue, problems, complaints, mediation and ombudsmanship roles where “groups” suffer the impact of government “short falls” in the future.  As economic contraction persists over the coming years, social models tell us communities and groups “organize” to restructure, become functioning and strengthen their local economy.  For my own self, linking back into my own 22 year career, discussions are about “ombudsmanship principles” as part of a “role” in a project with a client.  They are saying they like the “ethical quality” and want it back and want me to “preempt” problems that cost them money, time and other resources from the past.  This is a form of “risk mitigation”.  It’s also a new “social network” strategy called “leading from the middle”, which is where “we” are positioned in our profession.

Other emerging trends will come from the best ombudsman infrastructure there is, the university system in America.  Why?  Many business models are “technology transfer” models from seed programs in universities and they naturally spread out into the community.  The US is the largest “educator” and can “leverage” internal ombuds office or program “know how” into the private sector by starting a practice, groups join in a practice or take “dual hat” roles in organizations needing ombudsman ‘ethical’ approaches as a now recognized “harmonizing” business function.  Again, Laura Lonsdale with Tyco International is the best example of the potential of corporate ombudsman success.

Another major trend is to provide a “network” of ombuds professionals.  I’ve added 5 “associates” in a loose “alliance”  since the start of the year.  This capability is linked to another trend and that is WEB 2.0 technical skills in working collaboratively over the Internet.  This technical function also enables “auditing” of ombudsman performance and “ethics quality”.  Everyone should also move to be able to reach rural America on the web and bring teams together for cases.  My OO practice standards and promotions state that I am required to have at least one other ombudsman review the case with me.  The classical ombuds model for states has 3 member teams with a mandatory legal counsel on the team.  What about yours?

Finally, the association and term “conflict resolution” is getting the most web search engine recognition outside of ombudsman terminology as the public perception is that ombudsmen are not universal, but proprietary functions associated only with universities and government mostly.  This was also confirmed by an associate this last week.  Conflict resolution and ADR seemingly go hand in hand where arbitration by the legal profession is the method for solving issues when public perception is considered.  One of the goals of this blog is to “differentiate” and possibly change that perception. The third most key word searched phrase is “financial ombudsman”, which has been the topic of my most recent posts and is driven by current B2C issues that consumers read, watch and listen to in the media… so there is a shift happening now.

Again, thanks to all for your support and assistance my first 30 days.  I hope the insight provided here makes a difference for all of us in 2009.  Please add your comments regarding this post and your analysis of trends.

Standard & Poors New Organizational Ombudsman

12 February 2009

This is the first attempt in the financial services industry to use an Ombudsman to act as a mediator on behalf of the holding entity and with financial information consumers, corporate entity employees and financial industry member companies.

McGraw-Hill Companies holds a broad variety of business publications including Standard & Poors, the securities credit ratings unit.  The S&P President and CEO Deven Sharma “admitted failures”, expressed a variety of lessons that had been learned; and committed to independent and transparent Credit Ratings and to moving quickly to make changes and develop new “valuation methods and procedures”.  Mr. Sharma made that commitment 22 October 2008.

As a result several, other press releases came down and the key word that “we” are all familiar with was always present.  That word was and is, “independent”.  Yes, you guessed right, former Ernst & Young CEO Ray Groves was appointed Ombudsman by the McGraw-Hill Board of Directors and he goes to work 16 February 2009, just a few days from now.  He reports to both the CEO of S&P and Audit Committee of McGraw-Hill, a typical structure for “independent directors and advisers” to be in and one that works.  I do think this can work.  Why?  Consultants do get “close” to their clients, but from my own experience engagements stay at “arms length” a majority of the time.  Even more to the point this is a very innovative step that says “big business” is listening and observing trends, is responding; and now knows what has to happen. In this case, McGraw-Hill has moved in the right direction using the first Ombudsman to rectify “trust and integrity” issues.  Will it work?  I believe so, yes.  There will be the recognition during engagements with ALL “clients” that S&P provides ratings to, that they are “safe” from legal prosecution and free to “talk confidentially” with Ombudsman Groves who can recommend changes and finally “fix” a key dysfunctional element of the financial services industry that “went along” and perpetuated the problem.  If outright self dealing, fraud, embezzlement, insider trading, ponzi scams have been committed, Groves can move those towards “justice”.  As an Ombudsman, Groves is suppose to handle “conflicts of interest” at all levels and field complaints from S&P employees, most likely in relation to “pressures” on them from powerful clients who want to skew reports, ratings and information, which “skews” market trading.  This is significant because of the historical “go along to get along” relationship that ratings units have with the companies they rate. More importantly, if Groves can restore “integrity” and truly be independent in establishing a new ratings methodology; and publish poor ratings if warranted, he will be successful in restoring regulator, investor and legislator confidence in the industry.

My advice would be that while “integration” of systems is efficient and improves access to information and reduces time cycles, objectivity MUST also be a core principle in the new method so that “favors” and “tips” cannot influence ratings or any form of “quasi-insider relationship”.  Ratings units CANNOT anymore be the contracted  “risk mitigation” functions in a supply chain structure with the  financial institutions they obtain information from.  This IS conflict of interest.  Such relationships have proven to be “self dealing” and “inherently subjective” ignoring fundamental economics laws.  The key to solving this is to always keep your mission statement in mind and that is “who do we serve” and do it by implementing a new physical operating structure with objectivity and integrity in analysis and decision processes.  If necessary, new unit charters and committee oversight at the board level may be a good idea too.

This is the first instance of an Organizational Ombudsman approach in any segment of the financial services industry that I’ve seen, it’s “well positioned” to make the appropriate impact.  I hope this leads to more Ombudsmen appointments and a good industry model for others to follow.

Financial Services Ombudsman – We Want More!

7 February 2009

Wow, OO has struck a nerve.  Just a few days back I was “worried” about possibly “polarizing” the ombudsman profession  and now there’s  a pouring in of responses to the UK FSO post from yesterday.  I’m still going to point out the contrast of how other countries handle “complaints” and the US method where “legal due process” is “the only way” currently.  We need independent, fair, neutral, trustworthy ombuds offices nationwide, perhaps regional offices; and we must “learn from mistakes” from the past once and for all.  This is needed because “government” and “Corporate America” continue to have Enron and WorldCOM “integrity” issues that persist evidently.  Remember, Enron’s issues “peaked” in 2001, but the legacy of poor accountability goes back to 1996 or even earlier.  While the US government currently struggles to develop a financial model to solve the “economic crisis” we should move towards “catching up” by adopting the European Ombudsman business models here in the USA.  For all of you that had great contributions and links, it’s better we put it here than in comments.

From Switzerland’s Banking Ombudsman

Canada Financial Services Ombudsman Complaints “Slightly Up”

Ombudsman Banking Services & Investments (OBSI) News

Not all “comments” are posted, links most relevant to the topic are here and in keeping with ethical practices no links are posted that name financial institutions and complaint specifics.  The main “thrust” here is for the US to catch up, establish offices and separate “legal due process” out as the final step with a new ombuds office to be the initial consumer complaint step in direct collaboration with the “lending institution” towards a solution.  By example, one ombudsman financial services office in the news is determining that about 35% of consumer complaints have a well founded basis and the financial institution is “accepting” the results of the investigation and “correcting mistakes”.  At the same time between 25-35% of consumer complaints have NO basis and are dismissed yet archived for future ombuds office case reference only, per ethical requirements.  The remainder of cases proceed to formal legal channels at the government level and are pending.  Most likely “forced” arbitration or mediation will be the final phase as ordered by the “state” with final authority.

Again, there is a petition circulating as written by Kenneth Cloke and his Center for Dispute Resolution.  His leadership with the Obama Administration is to establish what “we” all see as a necessary step to bridge the gap in our US system between consumers, government and the financial services industry.  Please “digitially sign” the petition especially if you are part of the ombudsman profession.