Franchise bankers are Always there for you (whoever you are)

December 23, 2008

friendIn August I wrote a post called Why Australia will get a McLaw.

WA Today ran a story this week by Chalpat Sonti called Franchising inquiry slammed as golden opportunity missed.

Perth-based Narelle Walter, a former franchisee who claims that an induced breach of contract left her out of pocket by $5 million, said the committee did not go far enough:

“Franchise renewals have not been addressed properly and I am distressed that the apportion of good will has not been determined,” she said.

“Franchisors can misuse this loophole in the franchising code and the (Trade Practices Act) to steal the assets of small business investors (through a process known as “churning”, when the franchise is on-sold by the franchisor to someone else).”

Interesting that Ms. Walter draws specific reference to franchise bankers co-operating closely with franchisors:

There was still a big incentive for banks to support the franchisor in the churning process, because they would rewrite loans with an [newer] “unsuspecting” franchisee, she said.

These allegations echo others, especially MP Jo Gash in my September post called Collusion allegation: AUS bank and franchisor.

I wrote about the very cozy franchise banker :: franchisor relationship in a paper to Industry Canada in 2005 called  Franchising Opportunism. It is also a good summary of how the Canadian and Australian franchise industry really works.

  • Feel free to download a pdf copy of Franchising Opportunism right here.

With friends like these bankers, investors do not need any enemies.

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Economic sanctions

September 21, 2008

The single best defense against things that go bump in the night for franchisees, is a mature and well-financed independent franchisee association, IndFA [see todays Thought-terminating cliche post on Blue MauMau].

  1. Each franchise trademark system should have their own.
  2. You should never buy into a system that does not have one.

Don’t be fooled: Unless there is a lawyer that the IndFA retains to give independent advice, the salesmen are telling you lies. The franchisor very often creates their own advisory committee to give the illusion of franchisee input. Ask for the lawyer’s name and talk directly to him or her.

National Associations: Starting and running a trademark system is difficult at times.

In the U.S. there are about 5,000 franchise systems and 1,200 in Canada. In Canada, there are only a few dozen functioning IndFAs for one reason alone: The franchisors don’t franchisees talking together.

In the U.S. there is the American Franchisee Association, AFA and the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers, AAFD. In Canada, there isn’t one and Australia’s seems pretty inactive lately.

  • I started the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators in 1998 and killed it off in 2005.

The only reason I stopped it was because others were using it to give the impression of strength that was not there. I approached all the major Canadian stakeholders (Big Franchising: franchisor association, 5 Canadian banks, product franchisors, law firms, salesmen, Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Industry Canada etc.) for assistance or financial support.

Big Franchising’s position has been consistent ever since 1998 when I breached the sacristy of the CFA’s trade show at the CNE with a CBC film crew. Franchising holds it beliefs rigidly: Like some 2nd rate religion or cult.

The irony, of course, is that without their resistance as expressed in my brilliant 6 week banking career [see The Apprenticeship of Les Stewart] and my recent blackballing (RE: providing general and employee benefits to Canadian franchises),I wouldn’t have the time much less the need to be typing away here.

  • Funny how things work out, eh?

Collusion allegation: AUS bank and franchisor

September 18, 2008

In a Smart Company article by James Thomson called MP renews calls for investigations into mistreatment of Bakers Delight franchisee, he quotes:

NSW parliamentarian Joanna Gash has renewed calls for the Australian Federal Police to launch an investigation into accusations Bakers Delight and ANZ bank colluded to put a franchisee out of business.

Quoting emails between the franchisor and the bank, Gash alleges:

On Monday, Gash revisited the case in Parliament, producing emails from Bakers Delight chief financial officer Richard Taylor and ANZ executives that she says shows “plans had been conspired to terminate Ms de Leeuw’s franchise well ahead of time”.

The bank and franchisor deny all the allegations.

This is the first public AUS public allegation of the key franchisor:franchise banker relationship that I identified and wrote about in a 2005 paper for Industry Canada called Franchising Opportunism [free download].

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police did a 10 month investigation of a related predatory franchise lending matter. [free download: Mounties investigate ‘predatory lending’, Ottawa Citizen, March 25, 2006]

And Mr. Oudovikine is accusing the bank of transferring the loans to Country Style without his authorization before he had a chance to obtain a business plan and other financial details from Country Style.

Mr. Oudovikine says his case shows how big banks, franchisors and franchise brokers team up to take advantage of franchisees, many of whom are recent immigrants like him.

“It’s predatory lending. (CIBC) didn’t do any of the due diligence they should have done,” says Mr. Oudovikine, who sent the Citizen e-mails confirming the RCMP investigation. An RCMP official said the police force doesn’t confirm or deny investigation.

And the Canadian bank’s reaction?

Mr. Oudovikine says he has repeatedly contacted senior CIBC officials and executives about the loan dispute, to little effect. He alleges that CIBC breached the Canada Small Business Financing Act regulations that require lenders to conduct due diligence on borrowers, including their ability to repay loans.


Investigating the bank (1)

February 23, 2008

IndustryI started working with two clients in 2005, Alex and Andrei Oudovikine. It was suggested to me that I take a look at what the Canadian franchise bankers were up to.

Bankers love it when governments guarantee small business loans but not for the reasons most people think but that is getting ahead of the story. Anyway…

I called Industry Canada about it and they suggested I write down my concerns because the Canada Small Business Financing Act was being reviewed. I did that and Predatory Lending, IC Feb 2005.

I waited and I waited.

After one full year (365 days), I called back to see if there were any questions. Within 3 days, I was in a meeting. He suggested I write a consulting Service Proposal. I did that and here it is.

I waited and I waited.

I called Industry Canada back. They wasn’t interested but, hey, he encouraged me to check back in 2011 when the next statutory law review would take place.

So it goes in franchising.


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