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In Reply to Articles in Äripäev*: ’Information-Era Debt Collection Threatens to Ruin Entrepreneurs’

I applaud Äripäev for their sanctimonious attempt at trying to explain the essence of business ethics to us. According to Äripäev, publishing information about debts and business risks is right in itself, but ’amplified’ presentation on Storybook is threatening to kill business. Apparently, it would be out of the question for Infopank (’Bank of Information’, belonging to the Äripäev portfolio), active in the same field as Inforegister, to publish an article reminding debtors of their obligations to Creditors.

Such business ethics – I am the goodie, you are the baddie – conveys two messages:

Message to the Creditor

Your debtors (if you have any) are well hidden in my Infopank and the information will only be revealed if You pay up. In other words, Your problems (read: losses) are not our concern.

Message to the Debtor

Your debts are under our protection, because it is fair to keep them locked up and even fairer not to say a word about them. In other words, Your benefits (read: debts) are well taken care of.

Let us be clear that Äripäev has focused on only one side of the story in their message and forgot about the other side – the Creditor. But without Creditor’s credit of trust Äripäev would not have any debtors whose figures to reveal only when you cough up the cash. If the main goal of Äripäev is to promote fair and fearless free press, then it still seems that in the shadow of this principle, the expectations of Swedish owners are being met. But the goal of Storybook and Inforegister is the exact opposite – to stand for a fair, friendly and more transparent economy! Be it in media, digital stories, or whichever form of conglomerate.

Fairness = honesty in actions and respect towards all parties!

Friendliness = accessible options to rectify the past!

Transparency = words say more than locked-up figures!

Let it be said that the Data Protection Inspectorate issued guidelines on publishing payment defaults already on February 2, 2010. Paragraph 4 of these guidelines states that the maximum deadline for publishing a time-barred default is 13 years since the payment became overdue.

Following from these guidelines, we consider fact-based digital stories to be publishing, and therefore Äripäev’s claims about a smear campaign are not true. We publish claims in a descriptive format, offering the option of rectifying the damage but do not demand

Neither is it true that debtors have not been informed of their debts beforehand and that source documents have not been provided. On the contrary, Kreedix has strict procedural rules regarding all debtors. Significant resources are spent on processing a claim: up to 25 attempts to reach the debtor by phone and up to 10 written reminders/letters; but on average phone call logs are times longer, not to mention the letters than no-one responds to.

To sum it up – information on amounts of debt, warnings, ratings, and persons has always been available on Inforegister. With the digital Stories based on these same facts we simply wished to offer entrepreneurs the chance to make up for the damages to Creditors for a token sum – and in the process improve the Credit Risk Scores of board members, soon to be available on board members’ CVs.

Following the article in Äripäev, we received many letters and messages offering support, and a heartfelt comment written by one of the most dignified entrepreneurs on the Estonian business landscape, Carl-Jüri Pihl, really touched my heart. His business career took off when many of the entrepreneurs active today had not even been born, and he is to this day defiantly at the defence of the same values as us. I publish his letter as it reached me, without any alterations.

Dear Marie

I read today’s article in Äripäev about your company.

I support 100% your mission to stand up for those who have been deceived and hurt by low-minded and irresponsible ‘businessmen, who have spent long sleepless nights in agony because the sums invested have been plainly pocketed by a group of investors.

At the same time, sweet-talking investment project developers, borrowers, receivers of goods without making advance payments with their glib promises of repayment try to consciously drag out the time in debt proceedings till claims expire.

A reasonable entrepreneur treats others with the same tolerance s/he applies to own business – fair, responsible, willing to meet obligations. For some reason, Äripäev has taken the position that cheats in business should be privileged and in a special safety zone. Straight away, stories about business ethics pop up, preaching on how cruel and vile it is to expose conmen, how unethical it is to remind them that they do not have the right to a safety zone unless they fulfil their promises and obligations or reach a constructive agreement with the investor/creditor about rectifying the debt.

It is convenient to hide behind legally time-barred claims, but even when the enterprise no longer exists, the people who made the agreements still do, and probably have secured themselves easy living with such deception. Why should the deceived one be oh-so-tolerant to the cheats. Nobody would stir up an old matter if an agreement had been made that satisfied the suffering party as well. Arrogantly, condescendingly and cruelly steamrolling the deceived party is the biggest and dirtiest violation of business ethics. It is such a shame that Äripäev, informing that their slogan is ‘fair and fearless’, in reality wants to be the guardian angel of cheats. Fearlessly protecting the cheats, in the eyes of the deceived Äripäev seems to be crawling up to the cheats. Since the moral suffering of the deceived is always very difficult to assess, the financial obligations to the deceived should not ever expire until the Parties have reached a new satisfactory agreement. It is mind-boggling that Äripäev would protect such Pearu-style* business methods.

*Pearu is the antagonist, a competitive trickster, in the epic pentalogy ‘Truth and Justice’ by A.H.Tammsaare, considered to be one of the foundational works of Estonian literature. Translator’s note.

I know many such people who have secured for themselves a nice life with fraudulent money and it’s as if they are not responsible for their signatures in contracts, since expiring claims are such a convenient ‘new situation’. After expiry, these cheats appear once again like sick rodents from their burrows as honest businessmen and once again, you can read about how they put together new pyramid schemes and businesses.

How do you not report that! How do you not remind a cheat to take care of your good name and reputation and finally make an agreement to clear up old matters. .

You good girls with your mission to fight dishonesty and unfairness, is a bold step by a new Estonia, a new business culture, to protect justice.

Every cheat-protecting journalist throwing themselves to the pyre of journalism, deserves a separate background check – why is s/he doing it, whose interests does s/he represent, what sort of morals and business ethics are being promoted.

Having been in business for a very long time, I do not understand why people promoting fair and fearless business should settle for dishonesty in entrepreneurship and in relationships. I believe that the time has come to fundamentally change our business culture and business environment by speaking our mind about time-barred matters. I doubt that anyone goes to a business portal just to have a go at someone, without compelling reasons. It would be good if Äripäev extended a helping hand to the thousands of entrepreneurs whose reputation is at stake to protect your reputation with fair admission to your obligations and making up for things gone wrong with agreements, not sneering at the deceived.

It is interesting that in politics, deceptions and cheats are dug up indefinitely (by journalists). Why should it be any different in entrepreneurship?

Best wishes,

Carl-Jüri Piht

____________________

Sincerely a heartfelt Thank You, Carl-Jüri!

Together for fairness and transparency in ecomony!

Marie

*Äripäev or ‘Business Day’ is the Leading Estonian Financial Newspaper

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