Landmark Education/Abd/Company

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The material on this page begins with text supplied by an editor interested in criticism of Landmark. I have left this text intact, at least for the most part, and comment on it in response. I consider it pointedly biased, with cherry-picked data, as I show. The user who created this has his own section of the top-level resource, where he is not restrained by my editing, see that section.

Background[edit | edit source]

Werner Erhard (1935-) developed the Erhard Seminars Training aka EST aka EST Training in 1971.[1] In 1981 he started Werner Erhard and Associates which delivered the course known as "The Forum".[1] In 1991 Werner Erhard sold the intellectual property from Werner Erhard and Associates to a group of his employees which included his brother Harry Rosenberg.[1] Those people then formed the company Landmark Education and used material from Werner Erhard's course "The Forum" to create their course "Landmark Forum".[1] Landmark Education is run by Erhard's brother Harry Rosenberg as CEO.[1] His sister Joan Rosenberg sits on the Board of Directors of Landmark Education.[2] Werner Erhard's lawyer Art Schreiber,[3] serves as general counsel of Landmark Education.[4] Terry Giles, Chairman of the Board of Landmark Education,[5] is another individual who has served as personal lawyer to Werner Erhard.[2][6]

Comment[edit | edit source]

The above text has been cherry-picked to make it appear that Erhard exercises, through associates, on-going control over the company. The current Wikipedia article has a more balanced presentation of corporate officers, listing as "key people," Harry Rosenberg, Mick Leavitt, Joe DiMaggio, and Nancy Zapolski. Only one of those four is an Erhard relative, AFAIK. Basically, Landmark has enemies, who have spent decades assembling "evidence" of this or that, "facts" designed to create appearances they consider negative. I know people who are generating the course material, and they don't ask Werner; the material is generated by the distinctions and what Landmark calls the Self, as such material has been generated for thousands of years or more. "You will know them by their fruits." --Abd (discusscontribs) 17:08, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Use of unpaid labor[edit | edit source]

Landmark Education makes use of unpaid labor which it refers to as volunteers,[7][8] or "Assistants".[9] These volunteers are instructed by Landmark that they receive benefit from the act of volunteering itself.[7][8][9]

Two governmental agencies have determined that these volunteers constitute employees that should legally be paid.[10][9]

France[edit | edit source]

In June 2004 labor inspectors from the French government determined that volunteers were exploited and ruled that Landmark had unreported workers.[10] A month later employees came to the Landmark building in France to find the doors locked and they moved operations and recruitment to a location in London.[10]

United States[edit | edit source]

Landmark has faced investigations from the United States Department of Labor in Colorado, California, and Texas.[9][11][12]

In the most recent investigation in Texas in 2006, the report from the U.S. Department of Labor determined that:

"Minimum wage violation found. Volunteers (Assistants) are not paid any wages for hours worked while performing the major duties of the firm. The assistants set up rooms, call registrants, collect fees, keep stats of classroom data/participants, file, they also are answering phones, training and leading seminars.

The assistants hours are delegated by an employee of the firm, the work is directed and managed by the site manager, the duties performed are vital to the employer’s business. The assistants are not given credit for the hours worked which vary from 10 per week to 60 and up. The assistants are keeping records of attendees, stats on classroom attendance, assisting the instructor with the classes, and also an integral part of the seminars. The employer could not conduct the seminars at the level it has been doing without the enormous amount of assistants (20-40) per seminar. The assistants perform primary functions of the employer such as finance conversations with potential attendees, purchasing, and facility management.

A heavy emphasis is put on volunteering at the initial Landmark Forum attended by newcomers."[9]

The U.S. Department of Labor pointed out, "By volunteering at these seminars and in the business office the assistants are convinced that they are acquiring skills and knowledge required to improve their social and mental skills that they can use in their full-time employment and personal lives. The assistants displace regular employees that would have to be hired. The employer could not operate with the 2-3 full-time employees per site."[9]

In a conference with Landmark, the U.S. Department of Labor noted Landmark's position, "The firm denies that the assistants/volunteers are employees. Interviews reveal that the employees are taking payments, registering clients, billing, training, recruiting, setting up locations, cleaning, and other duties that would have to be performed by staff if the assistants did not perform them."[9]

Comments[edit | edit source]

  • The description of assisting is inaccurate, there is no "heavy emphasis" on volunteering at the Forum. I don't recall it being mentioned at all. The possibility of Assisting is only raised formally in the Futures Meetings held with coaches in the last month or so of the Self-Expression and Leadership Program; which completes the Curriculum for Living (Forum/Advanced Course/Self-Expression and Leadership Program/Seminar series). In those private meetings, the Assisting Program is recommended as one option for continued participation.
  • The Assisting Program includes coaches in the Self-Expression and Leadership program, and it is a way to get intense coaching, since Landmark wants the coaching offered to be effective. I have twice assisted as a coach, and it was well worth the effort. Giving it away is a powerful method of getting it for oneself.
  • Someone at the Department of Labor misinterpreted the evidence, which isn't uncommon for bureaucrats. There is an emphasis on participants having conversations with friends and family about the training, that was probably confused with assisting. The statistic I have heard is that only about 5% of Forum participants join the Assisting Program. Most people "continue the conversation," if they choose to do that, in the Seminar Series, which is cheap precisely because it is entirely run by volunteers, except for overall Center involvement in scheduling providing space, etc. Seminar Leaders, while highly trained, are also part of the Assisting Program, they are not paid.
  • I have been unable to find out what actually happened in France, I've been interested in this for three years. Landmark simply withdrew from France when the determination was made there. As to the U.S., I know of no case where Landmark was required to pay the volunteers. The Department of Labor cases were settled by Landmark by paying overtime for employees who had voluntarily worked additional hours, apparently. The reports above mix up the two issues.
  • There are mission-critical jobs, jobs where Landmark is legally responsible for job performance, and those are done by Staff. The jobs that the Department of Labor considered necessary, that would "have to be performed by staff,' if not done by volunteers, are jobs that enhance quality and improve customer satisfaction. I.e., at the back of the room on a Landmark Forum Completion Evening, there may be a half-dozen tables with a dozen volunteers, generally from the Introduction Leaders Program, assisting participants in registering. They are wearing the orange Assisting Program badges. If the structure were different, to comply with the unfounded claims of the Department of Labor, while being economically efficient, there would be a single cashier. That's all. Instead, a person registering can have a deep conversation with someone who is actively involved in the work, who can answer questions in detail, and it isn't rushed. Filling out a credit card charge slip is something that anyone can do, in fact, if trusted by the customer. The customer can fill it out, in fact, if they know how to do it.
  • Again, evidence is being cherry-picked to create an impression. Outside of France, Landmark has never been required to pay volunteers, and the only findings that were sustained were failure to pay overtime and to keep accurate time records, and Landmark consented to correcting that.
  • Behind this presentation of claims about unpaid labor is a thinking about "poor oppressed employees." Staff, however, are all highly experienced graduates, generally Introduction Leaders as a minimum, and someone who "needs the job" doesn't get hired. They will be counseled to get a regular job! I've seen it happen. And, indeed, the person promptly got a fantastic job, well-paying, doing what she loved, etc. I saw two truly excellent Staff members get married, and leave Staff, because they were planning on having children and now needed better-paying careers.
  • People at the level of training represented by the Introduction Leader distinction can get jobs, because they have the necessary skills to inspire people to hire them. It's like clockwork. Landmark is expert at this. --Abd (discusscontribs) 17:56, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Landmark Education litigation[edit | edit source]

More: Landmark Education litigation

Landmark Education has a history of litigation both as a plaintiff against those who have criticized the company, and defendant against those who have accused that there are various problems caused by the trainings.[13]

According to the Landmark Education litigation archive, written by attorneys for a "cult education" web site operator sued by Landmark, and hosted on that site, "In an effort to suppress this unfavorable dialogue about the company, Landmark, like Erhard before it, has repeatedly used litigation and threats of litigation as an improper tool to silence its vocal public critics."[13]

Landmark Education CEO Harry Rosenberg has instead referred to these tactics as "altering the public conversation" about their company: "In the United States, we have altered the public conversation about our work and our enterprise. For example, it is no longer possible for informed people or publications in the United States to pin pejorative labels on us."[14]

Comments[edit | edit source]

  • Source for the first two paragraphs is entirely plaintiff's attorneys and possibly other primary source materials hosted on a highly biased web site, culteducation.com. The page is gone, apparently. A source for some of what was claimed could be cultnews.com, which links to the now-missing "litigation archive" on culteducation.com. A possible page, hosted by culteducation, is [1]. It's a copy of a New Jersey Law Journal/January 9, 2006. And the last lines are revealing about the subject. The defendant was about Rick Ross.
Landmark claims Ross’ public criticism is intended to raise alarm about it and drum up more business. Ross makes a living as a deprogrammer of people who have joined cults, has served as an expert witness on cults and is frequently quoted in the news media worldwide.
Ross says his interest in cults began in 1982 when the Jewish nursing home where his grandmother resided was infiltrated by members of a [so-called "messianic Jewish"] sect seeking to convert residents to [fundamentalist] Christianity.
  • Landmark withdrew that suit; my examination of it tentatively concludes that Landmark's attorneys interpreted certain safe harbor provisions of the law regarding web sites as making the lawsuit unwinnable. However, that may have been an error.
  • I have not seen a report of Landmark suing someone for ordinary criticism. However, they are famous for legally objecting to being called a "cult," which is an opinion or judgment, not a legal fact. Landmark is a ready target for lawsuits, they have assets. If they frivolously sued someone for legitimate criticism, someone would, indeed, sue back and could win. Any examples? What is reported above is opinion from a paper written by attorneys for the defendant in a suit, who maintained highly critical and often misleading public information as if it were fact, and who refused to take responsibility for that. So Landmark sued. Wikipedia, when faced with legal claims over expression of opinion like that, takes the material down, promptly. Many people don't know the law over defamation and attempted damage to reputation. --Abd (discusscontribs) 18:12, 26 October 2013 (UTC)edited 21:37, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
  • The document cited begins with a set of alleged facts about Landmark that are merely rumor that has often been repeated about Landmark. For example, keeping people in a room against their will would be kidnapping. It's unlikely that it ever happened, but I know what might have actually happened that got turned into the report. Maybe a participant asked, "Is it okay if I go to the bathroom?" and an unskillful assistant decided to remind them of a commitment they had made to remain in the room. And they sat down, and walked away with a story that "they wouldn't let me go to the bathroom." Participants, in registration, have formally agreed to be responsible for their own health and well-being. That includes deciding whether or not to break a prior agreement, because of necessity. I've never seen anyone be asked why they were leaving the room. People leave and go to the bathroom, it happens frequently, though experienced participants don't normally do that, because they have learned to plan ahead. There are people in the back, by the door, but they are there to open the door for anyone leaving, so that it makes no noise. They do not ask participants why they are leaving. That would disturb the session. --Abd (discusscontribs) 18:12, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Steven Pressman (1993). Outrageous Betrayal: The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile. St. Martin's Press. pp. 66, 183, 253–254. ISBN 0-312-09296-2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Xeni Jardin (August 31, 2009). "Wikileaks re-publishes 60 Minutes piece on est/Landmark cult leader Werner Erhard". Boing Boing. I am a lawyer and have represented Werner Erhard since 1990... line feed character in |work= at position 16 (help)
  3. Special Trial Judge Robert N. Armen, Jr. (August 26, 1994). "Memorandum Opinion". Erhard v. C.I.R. No. 25656-93. U.S.Tax Ct (1994). [[w:United States Tax Court |United States Tax Court]]. By letter dated November 1, 1991, Arthur Schreiber submitted a revised power of attorney to Revenue Agent Keung for the purpose of clarifying that the power of attorney previously submitted to the Internal Revenue Service on October 24, 1991, covered both Werner Erhard and petitioner. line feed character in |publisher= at position 28 (help)
  4. Electronic Frontier Foundation (November 8, 2006). "Background and Facts". Draft Motion to Quash Landmark Subpoena. The declaration accompanying the subpoena, signed by Landmark’s General Counsel Art Schreiber, alleges only that the videos include ““portions” of its allegedly “copyrighted and proprietary” course entitled “The Landmark Forum;” there is no reference in the Declaration to any registered copyright.
  5. Michelle Tennant Nicholson; Wasabi Publicity, Inc.; (for Landmark Education) (May 6, 2010). "New York Times: Landmark Education Chairman Facilitates Peace for King Family". Press Release. PR Newswire.
  6. Dewan, Shaila (May 3, 2010). "Hired to Bring Order, Kings' Adviser Brings Peace". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-11-02. Terry M. Giles ... the self-improvement techniques of EST. (Werner Erhard, the creator of EST, is a client.) line feed character in |work= at position 23 (help)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Steve Jackson (April 24, 1996). "When it comes to Landmark Education Corporation, There's no meeting of the Minds". Westword.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Charlotte Faltermayer (March 16, 1998). "The Best Of Est? - Werner Erhard's legacy lives on in a kinder, gentler and lucrative version of his self-help seminars". Time Magazine.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 United States Department of Labor (June 26, 2006). "WHISARD Compliance Action Report". U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Marie Lemonnier (May 19, 2005). "With the gurus wearing neckties - 395 euros for three days". Le Nouvel Observateur.
  11. [[w:United States Department of Labor |United States Department of Labor]] (December 8, 2004). "WHISARD ID: 1378023 BIN: 27-0033035". U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division. line feed character in |author= at position 38 (help)
  12. [[w:United States Department of Labor |United States Department of Labor]] (May 4, 1996). "Compliance Action Report". U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division. line feed character in |author= at position 38 (help)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Peter L. Skolnik and Michael A. Norwick; Lowenstein Sandler PC (February 2006). "Introduction to the Landmark Education litigation archive". Roseland NJ: Cult Education Institute.
  14. Traci Hukill (July 9, 1998). "The est of Friends: Werner Erhard's protégés and siblings carry the torch for a '90s incarnation of the '70s 'training' that some of us just didn't get". Metro News. San Francisco, California.