Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Vancouver Sun's David Baines' Farewell to Readers

Leaving the life of frauds scams and flim-flams.
We missed it last year so I thought a one year anniversary adios to one of the best business journalists I've ever come across would be in order. He wrote about some of the scummiest denizens of one of the most wide-open markets in the world and despite the death threats and the lawyers and the diabolically ingenious corporate structures he got the story and as long-time readers of this blog know I have a weakness for tales of the knaves, varlets charlatans and outright frauds that populate the underbelly of the markets.
I think Baines does too.
From the Vancouver Sun, June 21, 2013:

David Baines bids farewell to readers
Sun columnist has written 3,887 stories in the past 25 year
David Baines bids farewell to readers
In the mid-1970s, when I was in my 20s, people seemed fascinated when I told them I worked as a reporter for The Vancouver Sun.

When I left The Sun and went into commercial banking, I got a different response. Whenever I told somebody I was a banker, the conversation — or at least that thread of the conversation — came to a crashing halt.

What’s the problem? I thought. Surely I’m the same fascinating guy I used to be.
I then realized that whatever cachet and credibility I had as a reporter was due to my affiliation with The Sun. That is the bullhorn that amplifies voices, big and small.

Upon my return to The Sun in 1988, this time as a stock reporter, I came to another realization: There is no such thing as “free” speech. Whenever I wrote a column that cut close to the bone, the lawsuits would start flying.

I learned that it takes money, not just to publish stories, but also to defend them. I am fortunate to have worked for a newspaper that has the means and mindset to do both, and to have had great libel lawyers — notably Rob Anderson, Scott Dawson, and the late Barry Gibson — to guide me through this jungle.
It also takes guts to supervise this sort of reportage. Any editor who approves a contentious story has to be a strong and confident person. Lawsuits, if they do not go well, can break careers. I am fortunate to have had fearless editors over the years, most notably our erstwhile editor-in-chief, Patricia Graham.

Over the past quarter century, The Sun has published 3,887 stories under my byline. Most of those stories are about people who, one way or another, tried to take unfair advantage of others. Having the voice to run interference with those people has been a great privilege and satisfaction for me.

That all comes to an end today. When the Pacific Newspaper Group indicated it was willing to buy out employees, I put my hand up. I am 64 years old. It comes at a good time.

Whenever I mention that I am retiring, people invariably say two things. The first is “congratulations.” I am not sure why. I do not view retirement as slipping the surly bonds of servitude. Perhaps it is the mere fact that I have survived that many years without too many scars.

The second thing they say is, “What are you going to do?” Once again, I am not sure why. The word “retirement” comes from the French “retirer”, which means “to withdraw”, which is what I intend to do.
It is the end of a career, but not the end of an era. The Sun has had a long history of writers riding herd on financial scoundrels, from George McBurnie to Der Hoi Yin to Peter O’Neil and, most recently, me. Everybody is replaceable and will be replaced, in one form or another. Our business editor, Derrick Penner, is stepping back to resume his writing career and will be covering this area, among others.
This is truly a beat where you can make a difference. In some cases, I have helped people recover money. In other cases, I have prevented them from losing money. In still other cases, I have prompted police or regulators to take action. In most cases, I have been able to make life more difficult for the perpetrator, thanks largely to the Internet.

As mentioned, I have been able to do this due to my affiliation with a large and credible media outlet, as so well articulated by Dave Piercey of Calgary, who was bilked in a franchise scheme that I wrote about recently.

“I have read the last of your series on Don Antle,” he said in a May 26 email. “I just wanted to say, thanks for shining some light on his business practices. After much frustration with the small claims system, police, and regulators, your approach was a welcome change.”

He continued: “The consolidation and disappearance of media in Canada is often discussed, and sometimes lamented. It’s a topic I hadn’t given any thought to until now. Your coverage of this story has illustrated to me the role that professional journalists have in a well-functioning society. In the broad scheme of things, this story isn’t earth shattering, but it does illustrate the important role of the media. As a result of your interest in this story, I have a new respect for your profession.”...MORE
As an example of what it was all about here's a post from 2012:
Why We Love the Vancouver Business Scene (Frauds, Scams and Flim-flams) 
Last month I mentioned a Canadian writer in connection with WPRT:

The company is based in Vancouver where the Vancouver Sun does a a marvelous job of covering the city's business scene. One writer in particular, David Baines, has impressed me over the years...
A reader just sent me the results of a search he did on what Mr. Baines is up to.
Here is the results page at the Vancouver Sun: 
June 06, 2012
Baines: Lawyer suspended three months despite lengthy disciplinary record
June 05, 2012
Baines: Dentist has second thoughts about promoting Hoopla.comJune 02, 2012
Banned Abbotsford promoter continues to push 'recovery scheme' 
May 29, 2012
Baines: Controversial investment-referral club prepares to sell memberships in B.C. 
May 29, 2012
Two settle in OTC Bulletin Board stock scheme 
 May 25, 2012
Baines: More former clients of banned mutual fund salesman claim they got bad advice
May 24, 2012 
Surrey man banned for bogus gold scheme 
May 22, 2012
Baines: Victoria ‘financial education’ firm has another (questionable) deal for you  It won't be the same. Here's another of our roundups, this time form 2013:
Checking In On the Vancouver Business Scene
...That's it Dec. 5 to Feb. 4.
But, if one were to look at the November 2012 stories, you have the head of criminal investigations for the British Columbia Securities Commission getting fired, the former mutual fund salesman now selling bongs, the defrocked fund manager who, when ask about a Baines story on him responded:
...David's credibility has dropped significantly within the investment community, so I just write it off....
And many, many more
(Why We Love the Vancouver Business Scene [Frauds, Scams and Flim-flams])

We also took a special interest in the whole Planktos saga with the U.N., the mad scientist, the Vatican and a pink sheet stock. And then there was...