The Wall Street Journal is reporting a development in the investigation of wrongdoing by D&B Credibility and Dun & Bradstreet, a story for which The Good Search served as whistleblower. I brought the story to Wall Street Journal search firm columnist Joann Lublin. She and Angus Loten broke the story in June, complete with a photo shoot: Just a half year later, the story has legs. The WSJ has just reported on its website that Dun & Bradstreet Will Face Charges Over Credit Ratings. And there is more to come. (Stay tuned!) To understand why I urged the WSJ to report the story, I thought it might help to give you a sense of why what they are doing is so infuriating. D&B Credibility had emailed me an “alert” stating that it had lowered my firm’s credit rating, which struck me as odd because we have excellent credit and always pay on time.
When I called them to find out what the issue was, our conversation went something like this:
Krista Bradford: I just got your email credit alert. What’s caused the drop? We are current on all of our payments.
D&B Credibility: Nothing negative has been reported on your company.
Krista Bradford: Then how can you justify lowering our score?
D&B Credibility: It was probably an algorithm.
Krista Bradford: Probably? You mean you don’t know?
D&B Credibility: Not really. It could be a lot of things.
Krista Bradford: I’m not asking what it could be: what exactly happened?
D&B Credibility: Dun & Bradstreet is the company that gathers the data. We’re D&B Credibility. We offer a credit builder program to help you with your problem. The cost is about $1000 a year.
Krista Bradford: Yes, but it isn’t my problem: it is your problem. I don’t think I should have to pay $1000 for Dun & Bradstreet to get its facts right.
D&B Credibility: The credit builder program is designed to help improve your credit score. You can upload your financial information and share vendor information to bring your score back up — all for around $1000 a year.
Krista Bradford: So let me get this straight, you want me to give Dun & Bradstreet proprietary financial information that is not public (we’re privately held ) to build out your database with data you’ll turn around and sell — just so you won’t falsely report that we’re a risk? And to top it off, you want me to pay you $1000 for this “subscription”? You still haven’t given me any proof that you’re not making this up.
D&B Credibility: The companies reporting credit data do so voluntarily.
Krista Bradford: In other words, the credit reporting is entirely random and unreliable.
D&B Credibility: We do not share names of the reporting companies.
Krista Bradford: How about specific transaction dates or amounts?
D&B Credibility: Nope. We do not share that information either.
Krista Bradford: Gotcha. . . .Chase and American Express do not voluntarily give Dun & Bradstreet credit details on my firm. I know because I asked. They’re our primary creditors with whom we have excellent credit. So, where exactly are you getting your information?
D&B Credibility: I told you, that’s confidential.
Krista Bradford: Okay, so if you aren’t getting the information from my primary creditors and won’t tell me what companies, if any, are providing information about us, perhaps you could explain why no one from D&B ever contacted us to verify any of your information.
D&B Credibility: You were called.
Krista Bradford: Oh, really? What’s number did you call?
D&B Credibility: (203) XXX-YYYY
Krista Bradford: I don’t know whose number that is, but I can tell you that most certainly is not ours.
D&B Credibility: Ms Bradford, we’re trying to help you. The credit builder program is designed to help improve your credit score. You can upload your financial information and share vendor information to bring your score back up — all for around $1000 a year.
Krista Bradford: Wow.
I encourage you to read the WSJ articles and to comment:
The Good Search CEO Turns Whistleblower
The Good Search is a retained executive search practice that believes in advocating for the greater good. That is why, as the company’s founder, I embedded that word into the very name of our company. Moreover, we believe in the power of information and harness that power in our executive search practice. Our core beliefs are informed by my earlier work as a television journalist and investigative reporter.
The truth really does set us free.
So what’s a former investigative reporter and television journalist to do when her company is shaken down by the strategic marketing partner of highly-regarded business credit reporting agency? Tell the story: The Good Search CEO turns whistle-blower.
From a business perspective, remaining mum would be considered by many to be a prudent choice. I am but David to a business credit agency Goliath. However, remaining silent would mean that millions of other small business owners like me would continue to be targeted and taken advantage of by Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation, in league with D&B. Many of these small business owners would find themselves $1-thousand dollars poorer each year when that money would be better spent on the business itself. Worse, when you do the math, the potential financial toll of the highly questionable, if not illegal, practices would be astronomical. Millions of business owners would run the risk of losing, collectively, billions of dollars in business when small business is supposed to be the engine of our economic recovery.
So while I could close my eyes and pretend the problem does not exist, the truth is it not only exists, it has been going on for years — practices so predatory they fit the definition of extortion. While I am no longer a reporter, there really is only thing a former investigative journalist could do: tell the story, in this case to the Wall Street Journal.
I encourage you to read the articles and comment:
I will provide other details in the coming days on why D&B and D&B Credibility must be stopped and why the law needs to be changed to provide business owners with the same credit reporting protections as consumers.
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Westport News Article
At the height of the financial downturn, the Westport News featured The Good Search CEO Krista Bradford on its front page , praising her ingenuity in helping unemployed executives. An executive recruiter, Krista formed a Facebook social media group called Westporters Helping Westporters to enable neighbors to assist unemployed executives living in her town. The article was written by Anthony Karge of the Westport News is featured below. Download a PDF version of the article to read. Full text of the article is copied below.
Westporters Helping Westporters
By Anthony Karge of the Westport News
Back in the “good old days,” as Krista Bradford described the time well before she was born, there used to be barn-raising events where the entire community would work together to help out a neighbor. She wants to foster that mindset in Westport and is utilizing social-networking tools like Facebook and Linkedin with the goal bringing people together and lessening the pain of the recession. To do this, she created a “Westporters Helping Westporters Network” on those Web sites. “There are no better networked people than those living in Westport, and it seems insane not to leverage it,” she said. The idea to do something to help people came indirectly from her daughter, Katie Cioe, who is a sophomore at Staples. It seemed like everyday her daughter would come home with news about a parent who had lost their job, so Bradford decided to bring the issues to the Internet.
Bradford doesn’t limit the group to one particular need. Job hunting, supporting struggling businesses and other problems all fall under the group’s umbrella. The goal is that people who join will become connected in ways that may boost business at a store, get a foot in the door in a job hunt or simply obtain or give out valuable advice. “The thing I thought that was cool about this is that it’s an opportunity for neighbors to help neighbors,” she said. The problems of the difficult job market are particularly close to Bradford since she owns an executive search firm that helps companies fill top positions. She explained that many companies are flooded with resumes, but with a little help from a friend on the network, a person that’s out of work might land a job.
“How much effort does it take to put in an introduction?” she said. “All it takes is a phone call.” Recently, she learned that approximately a half-dozen seniors at Staples have had to change their college plans due to their parents’ finances. “We’re Westport,” said Bradford. “That shouldn’t have to happen.” “When somebody goes unemployed in Westport, it doesn’t affect them,” she added. “It affects the future of their children.” Once she heard about the struggling students, she set up a page on Facebook to accepts donations for the Staples High School Tuition Grants committee in order to aid students who are struggling financially. “If people can give a dollar $20, or give up a latte or a pedicure, then it’d help,” she said.
It’s OK to ask
When somebody loses their job and experiences financial difficulties, Bradford said that it’s difficult for some people, especially Westporters, to ask for help because the ordeal can be so damaging. “Westport is a place where people are reluctant to come forward when they’re having problems,” she said. She hopes that people will see that there is no shame in suffering, but if people are still concerned about privacy, they can message individuals of the group rather than posting their problems for everyone to see. Local business owners are also encouraged to post. “I put it [the group] up, but I don’t own it,” she said. “Everybody is free to post” As of Monday, there is a modest following of 15 members and several discussion topics on the board. Also, $125 has been donated for tuition grants. Bradford hopes that more people will pitch in to help as the group becomes established, even if isn’t out of generosity.”There’s a big self interest to help too,” she said. She explained that if somebody doesn’t want to help simply out of kindness, helping people find jobs and stay in their homes will help maintain property values and benefit everybody. No barns have been raised just yet but Westporters Helping Westporters is working toward that kind of communal experience.
(Article by Anthony Karge republished from the 2/25/2009 issue of the Westport News)
Westporters Helping Westporters
Lending A Westport Hand
April 3, 2009 · No Comments
As a mother, Krista Bradford heard her daughter’s regular updates about friends’ parents who lost jobs.
As a Westporter, Krista realized our town is better equipped than most to deal with an economic nosedive. Few places have as many residents still able to make well-placed calls that rocket an out-of-work neighbor’s resume to the top of the pile, or pry open doors for an interview.
And as a self-described “idealistic, tilt-at-windmills former investigative reporter,” Krista wanted to put her energy and talent to use.
The result: Westporters Helping Westporters, an innovative online group that does exactly what its long, inelegant name promises.
Existing primarily as a Facebook group, Westporters Helping Westporters links job-seekers with job-offerers (or at least job-connecters). In just a couple of weeks it has already facilitated a CFO opening, and opportunities at consumer products and risk management companies.
“I started it, but it’s really owned by everyone in town,” Krista says. “I see this as a gathering place for lots of different efforts involving the economy. People can report observations, make suggestions, rant, soothe, and help other people land on their feet.”
Already, Krista has heard from a few “desperate” people. One man thanked the group for being there in his “darkest hour.” It meant everything, he said, to know that people cared.
The online element is important. Though people need help now, they may feel awkward meeting in groups. However, Krista hopes warmer weather will bring offline gatherings, perhaps at the beach.
In California, where she grew up, “everyone shared their personal problems. My experience in Westport is that people don’t want to share that they’re hurting. But because our group includes people who can help, maybe there’s less of a stigma. It’s all about getting to know each other, and share connections.”
(For more information, search for the Westporters Helping Westporters group on Facebook, or call Krista at 203-227-8615.)
Categories: Economy · People · Westport life
Tagged: Economy, Facebook, Krista Bradford, Westport, Westporters Helping Westporters
Republished from Dan Woog’s blog “06880” at http://06880danwoog.com/2009/04/03/lending-a-westport-hand/