Citizens' Issues
ET Wealth claims it ‘warned’ investors about Speak Asia scam. Really?

ET Wealth is claiming it saved its readers from Speak Asia in 2011? Here is a case of a mainline publication that was then running for the advertising buck and now pretending to hunt for the investors! 

 
After the recent arrest of scamster couple—the Khaires—who promoted StockguruIndia (first exposed by Moneylife) which promised 120% returns per annum, ET Wealth—an investment tabloid from the Times group—published an article warning investors not to fall for Ponzi schemes. The 26th November article claimed that it had alerted readers about Speak Asia, a Ponzi scam that duped lakhs of Indians in May 2011. In this article, it claimed that on 9th May 2011 it had pointed out that “Speak Asia’s model was suspiciously similar to a Ponzi scheme. In the weeks that followed, the Speak Asia bubble burst and top functionaries were taken into custody for financial irregularities.”  ET Wealth almost seems to claim its article led to Speak Asia’s downfall.
 
This claim appeared strange to Moneylife. While our persistent efforts at warning investors about Speak Asia had earned us a legal notice and a defamation threat from Speak Asia—why was ET Wealth rewarded with advertisements? We decided to investigate what was actually written on 9th May 2011 and whether it played any role in unraveling the Speak Asia fraud.
 
To our shock, far from openly calling Speak Asia a fraud, as Moneylife has done (see links below), the ET Wealth article on 9 May 2011 downplayed the fraud with tentative comments like “It is this feature of online survey companies that makes them appear similar to Ponzi schemes.” However, it provided generous space to Speak Asia Chief Marketing Officer making nonsensical claims like “These surveys are conducted on behalf of our corporate clients and very large market research agencies. The survey results are used in preparing commissioned industrial research reports which are priced at lakhs of dollars.” All these claims were patently false and could have been verified with a few calls or emails. Readers would recall the Speak Asia CMO claiming that Indian corporates who used its survey services were—ICICI Bank, Bharti Airtel, Bata and Nestle.
 
Instead, ET Wealth wrote: “If online survey companies are to be believed, millions of Indians are making bushels of money through this innovative multi-level marketing (MLM) model. That is almost 1% of the total Internet population in India. At least four other online survey companies are active in India right now, drawing all kinds of fortune hunters.” This careful doublespeak avoids saying that Speak Asia’s claims are mathematically unlikely and hence, probably false. Instead, the Speak Asia CMO was unquestioningly quoted as saying: "We have almost 1.3 million panelists (members) working for us.” (Readers would recall that each panelist had to pay Rs11,000 for the privilege of joining Speak Asia and getting access to fill out two surveys a week, for which they were offered an astonishing Rs1,000 each. They were also paid handsomely for enrolling new members, which was the key to spreading the Ponzi.)  Despite this, ET Wealth claims that it had warned investors about Speak Asia. 
 

Fact is, when the Speak Asia fraud was raging ET Wealth was happily printing full page advertisements about this dubious company and writing neutral articles about it. 
 

Here is something more startling. Even after Speak Asia’s COO Tarak Bajpai and other officials were arrested on 29 July 2011, ET Wealth continued to receive and publish the dubious advertisements. The pitch in these latter ones was, “Contrary to popular belief we are not going anywhere except forward. We reiterate that we are not here just to stay, we are here to grow.” 

 
On the other hand, in sharp contrast, Moneylife, which carried a series of articles on how the Speak Asia’s claimed tie-up with scores of blue chip corporates was fake and that there was no money to be made in filling out childish surveys, let alone an opportunity to earn stupendous returns. 
 
Here are some of Moneylife articles published much before May 2011, which exposed Speak Asia and were available on the internet for anyone who wanted another view. Moneylife was the first to expose the Speak Asia fraud in October 2010, a fact that was acknowledged by the mainstream media after it became clear that the promoters of this Singapore-registered company had transferred over Rs800 crore overseas and it could collapse. 
 
Read - Another MLM scam in the happening, this time under the pretext of an online survey
Competition heats up in online survey space with the entry of domestic MLM companies
http://www.moneylife.in/article/competition-heats-up-in-online-survey-space-with-the-entry-of-domestic-mlm-companies/15827.html
 
ET Wealth’s guarded language had a clear financial purpose. It was the happy recipient of full page advertisements from Speak Asia on 2nd May, 9th May, 16th May, 25th July and 1st August in 2011. The first three pitched son versus father, daughter-in-law versus mother-in-law and husband versus wife with the claim of the younger ones claiming they had made the right investment by joining the Ponzi. We now know who was right after all!
 
What is intriguing is that the Times group, which publishes ET Wealth, makes no bones about the fact that it is a vehicle for advertisements first and a source of quality information later. That could be the corporate policy, but when it claims that it played a role in warning investors, while in fact it was only grabbing revenues from the advertisements and attached editorial coverage, that is certainly hypocritical. 
 

 

User

COMMENTS

240p FLV

4 years ago

Too bad you some people like Pattabhi don\'t like the self-congratulaory tone of the article. Are you people at least Moneylife subscribers or a freeloaders?

As long as your subscription and all the advertisement money goes to the mainstream media, please learn to be a bit tolerant of the other voices, especially when such people are consistently fighting against all odds.

Siddarth

4 years ago

Times Group Chairman has gone on record saying they are an advertising company .News is just an byproduct so it is not fair to expect them to have any sort of integrity anyways. Shysters of the first order.

P M Ravindran

4 years ago

Well, I forgot one more thing. Whether what we refer to as government in this country itself isn't a Ponzi scheme and possibly the biggest of 'em all?

P M Ravindran

4 years ago

Kudos to Sucheta Dalal for taking on the Moghul of the media, long notorious for its mercenary activities! Anyhow, their successful model has certainly reduced the space for honest, reliable media. Wish Moneylife can continue undaunted and lead the charge in the interest of the gullible citizens of this country. While gullibility may be an inadequate term, the question arises whether they are also the greedy and never say learn types also!

Madhur Kotharay

4 years ago

It will be interesting to find out if the Times group had a 'Private Treaty' with SpeakAsia.

Merchant M S

4 years ago

Time has arrived to expose the links between stock brokers, promoters and financial magazines.

PATTABHI

4 years ago

ET has really been caught on wrong foot .. Considerations of AD Revenues apparently overrides objective analysis, misleading readers..

However, is it necessary to show off the oneupmanship so openly? It could have been understated exposing the facts.. unless, of course, there is some earlier animosity.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to PATTABHI 4 years ago

One upmanship? If David has something to say about Goliath... its one upmanship?

Here we are sticking our necks out to bring correct and true information to readers -- those of you who read it on the NET get it FREE. We dont get the advertising - we get abuse for our trouble. And when ET Wealth makes false claims, it is past animosity and we need to be understated?
I am shocked? What happens when you watch television channels making false claims everyday about stories they have allegedly broken? Do you swtich off? Or do you call them, write to them, email them and say - be "understated", dont indulge in "one upmanship"?? Sometimes our readers are so extraordinary, we wonder why we bother to remain on the straight path at all.
Fortunately for us, the majority are appreciative and you are an exception

MOHAN

4 years ago

ET claim is indeed hypocritical

Chandrasekaran

4 years ago

you are right. When read the article there I too felt the same.

Suiketu Shah

4 years ago

ET Wealth is so so so pathetically outdated.No surprise.

nagesh kini

4 years ago

Can not ET be hauled up at the Advertising Standards for the entire series of grossly mis-selling ads now that the wrong doings sand exposed?

nagesh kini

4 years ago

Can not ET be hauled up at the Advertising Standards for the entire series of grossly mis-selling ads now that the wrong doings sand exposed?

Noted RTI activists Shailesh Gandhi and Aruna Roy file Intervention Petition in the Supreme Court

In a landmark move to fight for citizens’ right and to preserve the sanctity of the Right to Information Act, noted activists Shailesh Gandhi and Aruna Roy have submitted their intervention petition to the Supreme Court, seeking to quash the controversial provisions for selecting Chief Information Commissioners

 
Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner and Ms Aruna Roy, member of the National Advisory Council which helped draft the RTI Act, have filed an intervention petition (in the matter of Union of India Vs Namit Sharma) seeking to review the regressive measures—that Chief Information Commissioners should have judicial background—which would otherwise harm the Right to Information (RTI) Act, make it redundant and subvert democracy in India. The intervention petition stated, “the direction that the Commission should work in benches where one of the Commissioners is a judicial member would create several problems that have the potential of defeating the objective of the Act itself”.
 
Ever since the pronouncement of the Supreme Court judgment for selection of candidates for the post of Chief Information Commissioner was announced, there had been a lot of hue and cry from not only the activists and RTI community but even some notable judges were appalled. The recent move to mandate candidates to have judicial background in order to become Chief Information Commissioner had citizens fearing of “judicial overreach”, which will eventually harm freedom of speech and democracy. 
 
Earlier, the Supreme Court entertained petitioner Namit Sharma’s stand against the Government of India for the need of Chief Information Commissioners to have judicial background, which would require the RTI Act be amended. The Supreme Court, in its controversial judgment, stated that, “Information Commissions at respective levels shall henceforth work in benches of two members each. One of them being a ‘judicial member’, while the other an ‘expert member’.” However, Mr Gandhi and Ms Roy argued that the RTI is not a court but a tribunal merely to seek ‘information’ and not ‘justice’. In their intervention petition, they stated, “The Information Commissions are not ‘judicial tribunals’ since they are not administering justice, but are only providing access to information to make administration transparent. The work being done by the Information Commissioners (ICs) do not require them to be judicially and legally trained, but only expects that they be persons of intelligence, common sense and integrity.”
 
Mr Gandhi had opined on Moneylife on this very issue and they can be accessed through the articles mentioned below:
 
 
 
The Supreme Court decision has also shocked the current Chief Information Commissioner, Satyanand Mishra, who recently said at the Commission’s annual convention on 12th October, “The approach of the Commissions in all these years has been to act like an umpire standing right on the field along with the players and not sitting on a pedestal and pronounce oracles. Openness of approach, informality in style and simplicity of systems has characterized the functioning of the Commissions. No robes, no lawyers, no liveried attendants because what the citizens seek does not go with so much of serious formality. Excessive judicialisation of the Information Commissions will rob these institutions of their flexibility. The society must decide if this is the right path.”
 
Furthermore, chief justice of Delhi High Court Justice AP Shah had written a critique of the judgement calling it ‘regressive’ and has hoped that the judgment will be reviewed. He had penned an article in The Times of India titled “Don’t Kill the RTI”, which said, “Namit Sharma is a regressive decision that only hampers the working of the information commissions by making it more legalistic and complex. It creates more problems while solving none.”
 
If the judgment is implemented it will make things a lot worse for the ordinary citizens, especially those who have already filed their second appeals. Due to the two-bench nature of the proposed structure, it will only prolong second appeals and the time taken to dispose them off will only skyrocket. This will discourage citizens seeking information from filing the RTI appeals when they know that the RTI will be subverted to suit the interest of the few who do not want information out in short time, or at all.
 
Rather than appoint Chief Information Commissioners based on judicial experience and background and stifling the disposal rate, Mr Gandhi and Ms Roy argued for a more pragmatic and common sense approach to increase transparency in selection process, as well as advocating for monitoring the performance levels of Chief Information Commissioners. Some of the steps he has suggested are below, which is open to debate, and requests Moneylife readers to pen down their thoughts.
 
The Information Commissions should set a target for disposals; say 5,000, per Commissioner per year. An attempt should be made to increase this target number.
Every six months they should review their actual performance per Commissioner and forecast the expected receipts and disposals for the next two years, factoring the retirements. This forecast would show the requirements for new Commissioners to be appointed.
The government should advertise its intention to appoint a certain number of Information Commissioners depending on the need, at least four months in advance. Eminent people could apply or be nominated by others.  
A search committee, perhaps, consisting of two members of Parliament, Chief Information Commissioner, one Vice Chancellor, one Supreme Court judge and two RTI activists could be formed to shortlist a panel which could be three times the number of Commissioners to be selected. These could be announced with the minutes of the meeting at which the short listing was done.
A public interview should be held to give citizens and groups the opportunity to hear the views and commitment to work of the candidates. After this the search committee could give its recommendation. Based on these inputs, the final decision to select the Commissioners could be taken by the Committee as per the Act consisting of the prime minister, leader of opposition and one minister.  
 
In the recent RTI workshop held at Moneylife Foundation for advanced users, Mr Gandhi said that “Freedom of expression without the Right to Information is meaningless”, citing the importance of information in a well-functioning democracy.
 
Here are some extra links in which you can read some of the pieces on Supreme Court’s controversial decision:
 
 
 
 

User

COMMENTS

jaideep shirali

4 years ago

Appointment of ex judges will kill the RTI Act, because judges are used to a certain type of functioning. Ordinary citizens may instead have to dig up case rulings and hire lawyers just to get information, which should be given easily. It would not be easy for ex judges to accept that the citizen should have access to data that bureaucrats and politicians stall even today by saying "go to the courts"

Vaibhav Dhoka

4 years ago

If Supreme court order is enforced in word and spirit,a person will file and RTI application and his next generation may probably get information.Same happened with Consumer protection act 1986. Wherever judiciary has stepped in they have killed that system.In fact JUSTICE has become SALABLE commodity i.e we are in era of Justice for sale.RTI should not be dumped in judicial grave.

NSriramamurty

4 years ago

Targetting 5000 cases disposal in a time period is Most Pragmatic.Even Judiciary,Govt.Departments Should have Targets in Disposing Cases/issues.Private Companies views MIS Reports as most essential and Useful.Govt. & all depatments should work with such Systems.
Eminent citizens have done Immence Social service,by approaching SC.

Babubhai Vaghela

4 years ago

Look at the scandalous
https://t.co/izrRvcMb manner in which Shailesh Gandhi was appointed as IC at CIC while he wants to be called CIC himself. All his Orders are as IC. His appointment being illegal, his salary during entire tenure as IC needs to be recovered. Prime Minister should act. References https://t.co/oPm4JrGy
https://t.co/OkfiD4D1
https://t.co/lPnIgBX2
Now, the Hero has become RTI Activist?

An open letter to Nandan Nilekani on Aadhaar issues

Aurobindo Banerjee, former chief commissioner of Income Tax, in this open letter to the UIDAI chief, highlights the issue of legal status of the Aadhaar number and its acceptance as valid proof by mobile operators

 
To
Mr Nandan Nilekani,
Chairman, 
UIDAI,
New Delhi 
 
As a young officer of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in the early 1970s, I can claim to have first mooted the idea of something like the Aadhaar number to track black money and we got a somewhat primitive version of today's PAN, which is much improved now. 
 
When Aadhaar was introduced and you took over as the head of the project, with your background, I was elated, though much older and already retired. I had great hopes and was simply waiting to get my Aadhaar number and was proud to obtain one last year. I even wrote to your office to link it up with the PAN, which is still NOT done in the current version of the project (I have again submitted myself, along with my nephews for yet another series of cards.) I can, however, add that I proudly carry my Aadhaar and Pensioners' ID cards, both issued by the Government of India (GoI), on my person always.
 
But, as one dabbling in the arena of law for 35 years and even now, I have serious doubts about the legal sanctity of the very concept from my personal experience and hence this mail, for whatever it is worth to you. People like us cannot be associated with this type of innovations, but we certainly can give our feedback, I hope. 
 
I am a retired chief commissioner of Income-tax and have a Pensioners' ID card as well as the Aadhaar number. I applied for getting my Vodafone mobile connection, migrated to Airtel on the basis of the aforesaid two documents. Airtel refused to accept the validity of Aadhaar number (and ID card issued by the I-T Department). As TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is NOT accessible, can I request the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to take up the issue to ensure that Aadhaar number is given its proper recognition by the private operators in the telecom arena? 
 
As a retired civil servant, it is insulting to me (and to my country) that a private party would refuse to accept the Aadhaar number as a legally valid ID or residence proof. In fact, the government should take action against Airtel for this utter disrespect of the sovereign Govt of India.
 
I am sure, you do feel the same way as this 68 years-old man does.
 
A Banerjee, IRS (Retd.)
Ex-Chief Commissioner of Income-tax
 
 
Note: Moneylife has sent a mail to Airtel and we would incorporate their response as and when we receive it.
 

User

COMMENTS

Geogy

3 years ago

My mother first applied for Adhaar on 27/02/2012. She waited for one year after that she got the information that the upload was not successful. Then again she applied on 19:04:2013, From then onwards I'm checking the status online and via Adhaar center, I'm getting the same answer "You Adhaar is still under generation". All mails to [email protected]
and calls to 1800-300-1947 give no results. Moreover in KERALA Government is mandating Adhaar Card for LPG subsidy.
DEAR TEAM IF YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF PROVIDING ADHAAR EVEN AFTER 1.5 YEARS, KINLDY RESIGN THE POST WHAT YOU ARE HOLDING AND SCRAP THE ENTIRE PROJECT. IN MY NATIVE I CAN SEE MANY PEOPLE FACING THE SAME ISSUE.
Why government is coming up with such utopian ideas when they don’t have the IT infrastructure to support the same. IT”S Shame on you THE ADHAAR TEAM & INDIA GOVERNMENT, even after copule of years you are not able to stabilize the problems in your dream project!!!!!

Akshay

3 years ago

The process sucks! my wife and I were forced to enroll twice and have not got any card as yet!

Kunju Kannan

4 years ago

ICICI bank has refused to accept the Aadhar card as proof of either identity or residence, leave alone both, under the KYC norms.

So much for the misleading govt. ads about Aadhar cards in the newspapers.

Geoffrey Allen

4 years ago

QUOTE:
"The National Identification Authority of India Bill,2010.
This Bill is still PENDING with the Government. This Bill seeks to issue a Unique Identififcation Number (called Aadhar) to residents of India. Every person residing in India (REGARDLESS OF CITIZENSHIP) is entitled to obtain an Aadhar Number after furnishing the required information. The Number shall serve as an Identity Proof, but NOT as a Citizenship proof."
I have copied the above from page 4 of the 'MINT Financial Newspaper dated 27/11/12.
UNQUOTE: Just can't understand the logic behind this ID being issued to every person regardless of citizenship. No wonder it does not serve as a Citizenship proof. The way the authorities concerned are going about issuing this Card is absolutely flawed too. Unlike the way the National Census undertakes its work by their personnel touching almost every
bonafide resident of India...the onus of data collection as far as this Aadhar Card is concerned rests upon the individual concerned. In other words... it is the Individual who has to take a personal interest in going to the Aadhar Centre and get him/herself a card. When the learned urban individual hardly has any interest in going to the polling booth to cast his vote... I wonder what is the incentive for him/her to go and collect this Aadhar Card.. which hardly could be of much use to him... when he or she could easily make do with other forms of ID (and which is more easily recognized and accepted i.e. The Passport, The Voter ID, Ration Card, Driving Licence, Pan Card etc.(Thats a total of 5 kinds of ID card.. is there need for more?) What then is the need for the man living in the slums of the big cities.. living hand to mouth care for getting this card when it would hardly mean anything to him.
In fact... I copy here a news item as appeared in today's "Times of India dated 1st December 2012.. page 11

QUOTE: The Supreme Court Notice to the Central Government on PIL against Aadhar... saying the Unique ID project Voilates the Right to Privacy. Senior Advocate Anil Divan also questioned the grant of the UID Numbers and Aadhar Cards to ILLEGAL MIGRANTS at a time when the Bill was PENDING before Parliament and its Standing Committee had REJECTED the Bill in its report.
Unquote: So much for all the noise about this UID Number Aadhar Card. The ultimate sufferer is the common man!
If Mr. Nandan Nilekani could read this too.

Sudheer M

4 years ago

Let me slightly deviate from Aadhar, but with regard to mobile operators here.

My wife had purchased a prepaid sim and was asked to give proof of address and id. She took a photocopy of her proof of id and address, wrote over it, "For the purpose of Airtel prepaid telephone number:XXXXX." Airtel Koramangala, Bangalore office refused to accept this saying that nothing should be written on the photocopy.

She had written it so that it does not go into the hands of any unscrupulous person to issue number to anti-social/terrorist elements. We had to finally surrender the prepaid card as they were not ready to accept proof this way nor they were ready to give it in writing.

This is the plight a common man has to face.

NSriramamurty

4 years ago

with AIRTEL, I had a Bad Experience.Having Lost my Mobile Phone Instrument with AIRTEL Connection , I talked to its Receiver,who told me that he would Return to me after a few days of his Talking with his girlfriends ,who is getting married to someoneelse.After getting Fed Up with his unwillingness to return it to me,i GAVE pOLICE cOMPLAINT AND WENT TO airtel'S MAIN OFFICE IN HYDERABAD and asked for my Mobile's ( Post Paid ) Statement,showing FIR copy ,so that I & Police can try to see with whom he talked on my Phone and question them,who he is.Airtel bluntly refused to give statement ,stating that DSP's Letter is required for them to give my Statement to me at my Cost for their chrges,if any.I wondered Why DSP's time is to be WASTED on this Petty Issue. After a lapse of Month & half Airtel gave me my Monthly Statement.We find therefrom that 50 calls/SMSes are to a girl in two days.When Police asked the Girl who he is,she brought her friend ( a Police Officer's Son ) with her and bluntly told Police they are Bald calls without helping Police . Being fed up ,seeing no end to trace Mobile's receiver,I left the Issue.Had I got my Statement at my request in that week ,we would have been able to trace out the Boy,who is harrasing Girls.Unfortunately Co-operation is non-existant,even if we intend to do social servive.(2) Many of our RULES are Totally out-dated in this jet age,but Nobody bothers to improve Rules.

REPLY

Vaidya Dattatraya Vasudeo

In Reply to NSriramamurty 4 years ago

You may try taking help of Consumer Court to teach a lesson to such organisations.

Shiju Sugunan

4 years ago

A number can never be ID proof unless there is a mechanism to retrieve the related personal data by feeding the number. People are mistaking the paper containing the UID number notification to be a card.

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