The Carrington Dean Scottish Teen Money Survey Scam
“THINKING of combining all your debts into one affordable monthly payment? Looking for help as you reclaim mis-sold PPI?” Those kind of TV ads and their chirpy voices begin to sound more like vultures picking over a carcass after a while—who are the people who run these money-lender scams that prey on the poor? The Carrington Dean Scottish Teen Money Survey was carried out by one of these ‘combine all your debts’ firms called Carrington Dean. It’s a Glasgow-based operation that boasts that it is Scotland’s largest independent ‘debt solutions business’ and it provides ‘advice’ (which you pay for) on a range of financial issues to personal and corporate clients. Further details here. Now they are getting into the equally dubious world of the political propaganda fronts used to create a climate of fear surrounding Scottish Independence. Although the ‘survey’ gained a lot of media attention no one has asked why Carrington Dean decided to carry out their poll or why they have been so pushy with it in the media. No one has asked why the media have soaked it up and made ridiculous claims on the basis of a ‘survey’ that is so obviously deficient as to be better described as a scam. Clearly the purpose of this is to frighten people off voting for much needed political change. So this is what I will explore and try to establish below.
Although there is no explicit indication of motivation as regards why they did the study, Carrington Dean clearly wanted to get their negative message into the mainstream press who largely repeated the press release. Valarie Darroch who runs Carrington Dean’s communications used to work with the Glasgow Herald and other media outlets such as Reuters and clearly has good connections here—and I will return to her business connections in the conclusion. The ‘survey’ is another contribution to what we might call the ‘Negativity’: the ‘No’ Campaign’s arsenal of PR stunts, cons and propaganda scams usually involving supposedly independent (but actually phoney) organisations who are at times directly funded by government.
This time the survey trick is being used: you set up a survey, make sure it says what you want then the message-friendly media outlets can respond to it as if it is some kind of scientific fact—it’s a trick as old as propaganda itself. The Herald’s coverage of the survey (May 19, 2014) was biased enough in how it presented the survey’s ‘findings’, but tipped its hand by quoting Blair MacDougall, the ‘Better Together’ campaign director. Mr Negative complained that: “When even the SNP’s favourite polling company Panelbase is showing the Nationalists going backwards, then you know they are in trouble.” While touching on how polls are used politically the author ignored the fact that they had just presented us with the work of new freelance pollsters no one has heard of for precisely that purpose. Then the propaganda finished off by notified Herald readers in a tone of utmost solemnity that the Queen:
…sent a letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland praying for both sides in the debate to work together for the social good of Scotland whatever the result, signalling the monarch’s concern at the potential divisive consequences of the referendum.
Yes the Queen is paying, sorry praying for a fair crack of the whip for us all by warning (one side in the religion business) about division in a referendum to divide power. But can an economy based on keeping the majority of the population in massive un-payable debt ever be a social good? Without this sizeable chunk of the people of Scotland way over their heads for the rest of their lives Carrington Dean would be out of business—this is why they want the status quo: much the same goes for the Queen and the bankers.
The survey’s press release was recited in a few places accompanied by hyperbole, exaggeration and lies. Much the same script as the Herald’s (minus the ridiculous bits on God, HRH and Mr MacDougall) appeared in a Reuters article. The survey was also used to attack independence in the Times, May 19, 2014 which used possibly the most ridiculous headline of all: “Young voters set to say ‘no’; Yes camp has not won economic argument, poll shows Economic doubts set young ones against independence.” The poll shows nothing of the kind, nothing even remotely resembling these claims. The Times’ Hamish Macdonell is simply lying when he says the survey is “the most comprehensive undertaken into teenage attitudes to the economics of independence”. No it isn’t and you would have to be either an idiot or at it to say so: Hamish blends both and insults his readers. His article is an unsubstantiated piece of propaganda that asserts that the survey: “shows that Better Together’s warnings of the financial uncertainties of independence appear to be hitting home.” This is contrived. Its first line is “Alex Salmond’s hopes of winning over the youth vote suffer a significant setback”. Think about it: this is a straw poll taken seriously by purportedly serious newspapers—the only reason you’d do that is to make a specific point. It is the equivalent of two or three of us polling our Facebook friends and thinking the result was conclusive. An idiot could see the survey’s limited questions are stacked. The mass media cannot.
Carrington Dean has received numerous puffs in the Daily Record (where it advertises) and elsewhere but not one word of criticism exists in the media databases. Carrington Dean have no track record of conducting surveys that I can find, no authoritative voices draw from its survey results. There is no real reason for the newspapers to be anything other than suspicious or at least slightly questioning of the claims of the survey: but BOTH the newspapers (who are against independence) and Carrington Dean are doing this largely in cahoots.
Carrington Dean make their money out of people who are desperately in debt, indeed Peter Dean, their head Vulture boasts they charge in six minutes chunks when insolvency time comes along and the carcass is being picked clean. For its business clients the company will also engage in getting money out of people. according to Dean:
If your customers are failing to pay you on time, Carrington Dean can help you by providing access to a network of contacts that specialize in the recovery of aged Debtors.
Because of the sinister, ugly nature of how they obtain their money Carrington Dean work both sides of the street. They will appear all concerned about cuts by government but their concern is because if the government offer advice for free that means they wouldn’t be getting the poor people’s cash. The Herald puffed the organisation in September 6, 2010 whereby Carrington Dean: “want to be seen as a trusted helping hand at every stage of life”, kind of like the welfare state. But the fact that they do not want the Scottish government to offer a helping hand when they can make money off lending a ‘helping-themselves’ hand is passed over. The Vultures are introduced by the Herald with: “we hear from one of the debt management specialists who found that there is money to be made from helping people to clear a way through the financial wreckage, even though the industry has come in for criticism.” But this does reveal that the helpful Vultures want insolvency law to stay with Westminster, rather than the Scottish politicians meddling with it. Thanks to the impartial work of Carrington Dean the Scottish Government retreated from a proposal to part-nationalise the management of personal insolvencies by transferring work from the private sector to its agency, the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB). According to The Herald, November 25, 2009 Carrington Dean were raking in so much because of the economy—profiting from the wave of personal bankruptcies and indebtedness—that they offered to recycle 10% of their profits into what they deemed socially useful projects—surveys perhaps?
Are they to be trusted? A few months ago the company got into a bit of trouble over how it represented itself in its advertisements on radio for its now defunct ‘YourDebtExpert.com’. Here the Advertising Standards Authority found that:
1. the ad was misleading because it did not refer to the risks associated with a trust deed, including the likely adverse effects on the consumer’s credit rating; and
2. the ad exaggerated the efficacy of the product, and falsely implied that consumers were guaranteed to become debt free.
The ASA ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again and that the company must ensure that future ads presented their products in a balanced manner to ensure consumers were not misled and not to exaggerate the capability of their products. It doesn’t sound like they have been listening.
So who are they? Carrington Dean says it is a group that includes Dean Financial Consultants, an almost invisible company offering money advice; Luvurmoney.com, “an educational site for younger consumers and students” that seems to have tried to move into the lucrative student debt market as some some of variant of the ‘Pay-Day-Loan’ routine but failed and subsequently vanished; and Web-Energy, which designed websites and software applications. But these companies are something of a mystery—perhaps Web-Energy could design them a web site. A lot of the ‘companies’ that make up the group have been dissolved or are not trading. The Glasgow Evening Times, March 25, 2010, while masking their activities inadvertently gave us some context in relation to who Carrington Dean shaft or help out depending on your point of view:
Public sector workers across Scotland have amassed multi-million pound debts and the vast majority of them live in the Glasgow area. Debt solutions firm Carrington Dean today lifted the lid on the financial nightmare facing hundreds of their clients who have created a debt mountain of £5.1 million.
This is not a nightmare for the debt Vultures—this is a feeding frenzy on the victims of capitalism. So who are these crazy spend-a-holics who have ran up huge debts for which the good people of Carrington Dean can take no moral responsibility for? Who do they make their money out of? If we read beyond the spin on how wonderful the company is the answer in the Evening Times’ report was:
From teachers to nurses Carrington Dean’s debt solution specialists have been trying to tackle the crippling finances which dog their public sector clients.
The group most in debt are council workers; with teachers accounting for 16% of the total, while one in 10 is a nurse. The profile of a typical debtor is a mother who lives in her own home and has a job. That indicates that the problems relate more to the social structure that our form of ‘democracy’ has produced rather than the psychology of individuals. Those who make money out of debt know this and wish to extend it further to make more money. This is one of the reasons why the newspapers tend to convince us to hate the oppressed rather than the oppressor. The debt companies who feed off the disastrous effects of capitalism’s control of democracy are complicit in the process, and have prospered while the local media present them in a good light. While they are feeling sorry for you it is not just your loans that are being ‘consolidated’ the whole business is being streamlined into an even bigger feeding frenzy: and this revels how their work structures society, how it limits the opportunities the people have. Business 7 (March 19, 2010) says Dean is hopeful of being given the ‘opportunity’ to work with the banking sector to provide a “one-stop-shop” for the full range of debt solutions. He said:
I think we could do an excellent and more cost effective job than the so-called charities such as the Consumer Credit Counselling service. The charities do a good job, but they charge the banks for providing the service. I would like to charge the banks less for providing a better service. It would be technology linked and we have the technical wherewithal to integrate our systems with the banks.
Banks already use pawn shops for their foreign currency and obviously drool at the interest rates the pay-day lenders extort—and of course the banks have a nice little scam going whereby if the business fails… well they still cash in. The Herald, March 6, 2010 quoted Dean as saying his company “paid out £4m to £5m in dividends this year”. This is a figure that matches the amount people are in debt to quoted above—a simple transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. It would appear though that there are only two shareholders: Dean and his wife Mary who own 61.1% and 38.9% of the shares respectively. Carrington Dean also sell on their debt-ridden people to other companies—you are traded like a debt slave. And so what of the survey itself?
It looks suspiciously like Carrington Dean were surveying their future young debt slaves anyway and have spun this as some kind of independence survey, but this is simply not its focus. It quickly moves into attitudes towards debt, to ascertain borrowing habits to make money out of the kids. Remember the survey is called the ‘Scottish Teen Money Survey’ (I would not imagine that many of the 1000 teenagers knew they were being asked about independence or that the survey would be bent and used for such political purposes). The survey contains only 12 questions and just 4 or them relate to independence. Just think about that for a moment: four questions. The questions are not repeated in a rephrased way and it is designed to ‘satisfice’ as survey designers say i.e. people tend to tell the survey what it wants depending on question order and to get it over with. The survey questions are loaded and use the fear inducing tactic of the ‘Negativity’. Now any survey would find out that teenagers are anxious over debt and a ruined economy and much else, but somehow this has been tied to anxiety over independence. There is nothing in it to establish a ‘control’ i.e. to find out if the respondents would be anxious about the economy anyway, without the variable of independence. Here’s the very limited four questions and the limited responses available and you can judge for yourself:
Q1 Economy: Tick the statement that most reflects your view:
Answer Choices Responses
I worry about the outlook for the Scottish economy if Scotland becomes independent
I don’t worry about the outlook for the Scottish economy if Scotland becomes independent
I don’t think independence will have any impact on the Scottish economy
I have no view on this
The two middle options are largely the same except the third one is a bit odd: how could this possibly be the case and why is the term ‘worry’ abandoned? The next question isn’t a question but it carries on from the ‘worry’ theme:
Q2 The older generation:
I think my parents generation would be better off financially in an Independent Scotland
I think my parents generation would be worse off financially in an Independent Scotland
I think my parents generation have the same future financial outlook regardless of whether Scotland becomes Independent or not
I don’t know
The idea with a survey is to find out attitudes, not put them into people’s heads with emotive language. An attitude is what happens between stimulus and response, thus it is latent and getting at it in an honest fashion is difficult. Using the word ‘worry’ is a joke in this respect. What does ‘worry’ mean here: it is ambiguous at best. There is nothing in the report’s finding that explores why people might be worried: the cause of their worries—and that would be the banks and the politicians and those who feed off the poor. The assumption is that the status quo will be less worrying. From there the third question is confusing:
Tick the statement(s) which most closely describe your own views: Financial outlook in an independent Scotland Me and my generation [sic]:
I think young people my age would be better off financially in an Independent Scotland
I think young people my age would be worse off financially in an Independent Scotland
I think young people my age have the same financial outlook regardless of whether Scotland becomes Independent or not
I don’t know
The final question that relates to independence is:
Currency: Tick the statement that most reflects your view:
I believe Scotland should keep the British pound if it becomes independent
I believe Scotland should have its own currency if it becomes independent
I think Scotland should join the Euro if it becomes independent
I have no view on what currency Scotland should have if it becomes independent
That’s it as regards its enquiry into what the youngsters may or may not think about independence—that’s what the Times called “the most comprehensive undertaken into teenage attitudes” which demonstrates a contempt for their readers typical of the Times. This is a Facebook poll, conducted via Facebook by ‘Your Debt Expert‘ (another one of Peter Dean’s companies) with Carrington Dean providing prizes for the teenagers who rushed through the questions to win a Playstation. The survey simply used ‘Survey Monkey‘ to determine its findings: there’s no real survey design here. But why did the newspapers take it seriously? I can only suggest they are either incompetent or complicit or some other variant of being routinely cynical and negligent. But they are most likely lying because they were paid to do so.
Valarie Darroch the Director of Communications of Carrington Dean was also Director of Communications at the Customer Contact Association CCA, another ‘leading authority’ on ‘customer contact strategies and operations.’ She works with the UK’s biggest private and public sector organisations to “research and shape the future of customer service”. Members include Tesco, Sky, Barclays, O2, NHS24, Standard Life, and the Royal Bank of Scotland who got us into the economic mess we are in. Valarie also worked for Scotland On Sunday and later The Sunday Herald (and had editorial input into other newspapers) as ‘Business Writer of the Year’. She continues to use her writing skills in producing crisp and lively copy for corporate clients—at times drawing on impartial surveys no doubt. She was also with Scottish Equity Partners, their advisory board includes a revealing cross section of Scotland’s power elite who want to carry on the mess that serves them well: Wendy Alexander, Cameron McLatchie CBE (formerly a non-executive director of The Royal Bank of Scotland, deputy chairman of Scottish Enterprise); Ian Marchant who is in the drone business and David Shaw the former chairman of the European private equity firm, Bridgepoint Capital. Where did these people, politicians, bankers take us? Why aren’t they in debt along with everyone else?
Peter Dean’s new company is a venture called Veritas Treasury, he has one other director, Scott Cowan, who is with the Bank of Ireland Global Markets and a manager at HSBC with Valarie Darroch as the media contact. Of the 23 companies that Dean has been part of 19 of them have been dissolved. Most of them (8) are run by Dean and his wife, Mary and are based on the 4th Floor of their Buchanan Street address along with Carrington Dean. Valarie Darroch is also with CCA Research Institute that is supported by Capita and Cisco and will expand to include others. The partners are collaborating with CCA on a research agenda focused on the impact of “radical changes in consumer behaviour, technology and other factors affecting customer contact and service operations” according to Business Wire (November 12, 2013). With her Sunday Herald writing she provided us with ‘Boss of the Week’, a series of puffs of wealthy capitalists including John Howie responsible for Babcock’s submarine and warships businesses at Rosyth (Sunday Herald, March 26, 2006) and Gerald Ratner of the crap jewelry (The Sunday Herald, November 23, 2003). She offered headlines such as: “How disaster turned to triumph as Katrina blew the oil industry off course in 2005; Soaring oil prices and a rush to replace dwindling reserves made this a bumper year for many companies in the exploration sector” (Sunday Tribune, December 25, 2005). For Valarie big business can do no wrong even if it kills people. That is one of a series of fawning puffs on the oil industry. Here is the first line of her take on the not entirely unconnected war in Iraq:
The wave of kidnappings of overseas workers in Iraq has sent ripples of fear through corporate boardrooms, forcing senior executives to make tough decisions on whether the rapidly rising cost of risk insurance and advice could outweigh the appeal of lucrative reconstruction contracts. (Sunday Herald, April 18, 2004)
Not one mention of the suffering of the people of Iraq. That is the problem with capitalism—the human cost: and here the plight of the people is systematically ignored. The whole article is based on the outlook of a company called Control Risks (full of spooks and war mongers), Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root who make their vast amounts of money out of wars. Her other writing on Iraq argued that the “UK government is expected to reinstate export credit guarantees for trade with Iraq.” These deals with government enable De La Rue who print money, Standard Chartered who handle it and construction specialist Mowlem to be insured by the government so that when they do deals to rebuild Iraq and it goes wrong they still get paid by the taxpayer. For Valarie once more just gloats over the money telling us this is “a task which could cost up to $100 billion. So far, the lion’s share of deals have gone to US companies including Kellogg Brown & Root and construction giant Bechtel”.
In conclusion, the survey seems to me to be not unlike what Valarie’s other company a ‘strategic corporate communications consultancy’ offers. This is: “Communication Planning, Messaging Framework Development, Campaign Planning and Implementation”. Propaganda to you and me. So here’s the ad again: “THINKING of combining all your debts into one affordable monthly payment? Looking for help as you reclaim mis-sold PPI?” As the vultures pick over the carcass of the people that the predators of the free market have left behind to rot, we might consider just what the status quo that those who feed off the poor actually is. Awash with the wages of the working poor, the people who run these companies, sleep soundly at night because they will tell themselves debt is the individual’s fault and not the companies who cash in on it. Their moral exculpation will be “no one asked you to borrow all that money…did they now?” But what if the wider economy is a trap and people are forced to go into debt even although they work hard? Then we are left with questions as to who designs and maintains this economic system, who benefits from it and perhaps more importantly: how can we escape?