Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

AVSN: Living Wisdom Magazine Scam

Introduction

This article shows the minimum income AVSN obtained in its failure to supply pre-sold subscriptions of its official magazine, Living Wisdom, for the period 2010 to 2012 inclusive.

In November 2009 AVSN announced that its magazine would increase from four to six issues per year, to be published bi-monthly:

"Living Wisdom Subscription: Subscription to Living Wisdom will cost $25 / year including GST. This will include 6 bi-monthly online issues of Living Wisdom magazine. Previously, Living Wisdom was published 4 times a year and cost $44 / year to subscribe. Now, you will be paying 1/3 less and getting 2 additional issues. All current Living Wisdom Subscribers will have their subscriptions extended by 2 issues at no cost to yourself."

"Living Wisdom and subscription and AVN membership: To both subscribe to Living Wisdom and join the AVN will now cost $50 / year. If you are already a member / subscriber to our publication, your membership / subscription will be extended by 2 issues at not [sic] cost to yourself."

"Hard copy edition of Living Wisdom: We are making available a short run of hard copy editions of Living Wisdom magazine. This is mainly due to our Professional Members' desire to continue to have a copy of the magazine in their waiting rooms and places of business so the information would be available to their clients and patients. The cost to receive 6 copies of Living Wisdom in hard copy is $75 per year which works out to only $1.50 a copy more than our previous subscription price…"

Source: Dorey, M 2009, 'Who moved my cheese?' [email newsletter], Australian Vaccination Network, November 2009.

Paying 1/3 less for 2 extra issues - sounds like a bargain, right? Not so much when you consider the magazine was changing from a glossy hard copy to an emailed pdf.

As per standard AVN operating procedure, Dorey launches another 'Closing Down' scam in February 2010 (excerpts follow):

[hdg: AVN to close its doors at the end of this month]

"After almost 17 years of running the AVN, it is my bittersweet duty to inform you that within the next 3-4 weeks I will be tendering my resignation as President of this great organisation and moving on to the next stage of my own personal development as mother, wife, activist and researcher…"

"…Without a large injection of capital behind me, I simply cannot continue…"

[hdg: The AVN's Future]
"I am hoping that someone reading this now will feel compelled or called on to take on this position…"

"Alternatively, if a benefactor or series of benefactors come forward to establish a fund that would guarantee the AVN's existence for at least the next 2-3 years, or if donations were to be come in [sic] during the next week that would give us the same financial sustainability, then I would be willing to continue in my role for the foreseeable future."

[hdg: An idea from a member]
"…When I informed her of the current situation with our organisation, she suggested that I ask people to not only give generously now, but to earmark 1% of their income to support the AVN into the future. She said that 1% is something everyone should be able to afford and the subject is so important, so vital to our children's future, that if people were to think about how little it cost them and how much they would be receiving in return, they would be glad to do it. So I am passing this suggestion on at her request."

[hdg: The mechanics of closing down]
"We will be looking to sell our magazine, Living Wisdom, as a going concern. This publication - with its subscription base of over 2,500 across Australia and a small international contingent of subscribers…"

"We will also need to divest ourselves of whatever assets we have in order to pay off any outstanding obligations such as taxes, leases and other supplier invoices."

"We are hopeful that by selling off assets - the magazine, computer equipment, back issues, etc., we will be able to pay off at least the majority of this debt should the AVN have to close its doors."

Source: Dorey, M 2010, 'AVN to close its doors at the end of this month' [email newsletter], Australian Vaccination Network, February 2010.

As of 31 Dec 2009, AVSN had a total liability of $32,876 and total equity of -$8,226, despite it recording a gross income of $175,749. AVSN had been operating in the red since 2003 which is astonishing given its total gross revenue was $1.38 MILLION from 2005 to 2009 inclusive, plus a further $283,258 for years 2003-2004 (Note: 2003-2004 income includes the trading result and not the total sales revenue, which wasn't included in the audited report.)

I'm still unable to work out how a small organisation offering nothing more than a website, an email newsletter and a phone line managed to rack up so many expenses and debt. Do note that AVN annual statements show a positive trading result for the magazine during this period, so we can exclude it as the source of the expenses and debt.

ScreenshotText
image: screenshot of Feb 2010 enews announcing
closing down sale CLOSING DOWN SALE

Last chance for AVN information!
As we announced a couple of days ago, without a serious influx of cash, the AVN will be closing its doors at the end of this month. Once that happens, our information will no longer be available.

To help us raise funds and to also enable you to obtain and spread this vital information, we are having a closing-down sale.

Source: Dorey, M 2010, 'Closing Down Sale' [email newsletter], Australian Vaccination Network, February 2010.

Easy Money

How much money did AVSN pocket in its failure to supply sold goods? Let's take a look.

Income - Magazine Subscriptions

The following table looks at magazines AVSN failed to supply for the years 2010 to 2012 inclusive.
Income is taken from AVSN annual statements lodged with NSW Fair Trading and/or derived from membership figures.

YearIncome ($) -
sold magazines
Magazines -
published
Magazines -
not published
Income ($) -
goods not supplied
2012137,283 1327,962
2012226,733 1113,367
201182,925 1569,104
201038,755 2425,837
TOTAL185,696 513136,270
1 = period 1 May 2012 to 31 Dec 2012 (members only, no subscribers)
2 = period 1 Jan 2012 to 30 Apr 2012 (members and subscribers)

AVSN received at minimum $136,270 from the sale of magazines it failed to supply.

This income is a minimum; it doesn't include income from subscription sales made by third-party distributors, nor does it include individuals who purchased the hard-copy option.

The income figure for 2010 is an absolute minimum as I've based it on the membership figure as stated in AVSN's 2010 annual statement. This membership figure is roughly 1,300 members lower than what AVSN stated its subscription base was in February 2010. As we can't determine the number of subscriptions taken out or renewed in the last quarter of 2009 I've used the lower number.

Income - Advertising Component (professional members)

All professional members were entitled to a 12-month listing in the professional directory published on AVSN's website plus each issue of Living Wisdom.
In addition, the premium professional categories were also entitled to the following value-added items:
CategoryItemValue
Bronze1 month advert (small) on AVSN homepage$250
Silver1 month banner advert on AVSN homepage ($350);
advert in 3 issues of magazine ($450)
$800
Goldas per Silver plus advert for 2 months in AVSN e-newsletter ($500) $1,300

AVSN failed to provide:

The total income AVSN received for professional member advertising it failed to provide is $12,400.

Income - Magazine Advertising Sold to Third-Parties

For the years 2010 to 2012 inclusive AVSN was actively soliciting advertisers for all its publications.
It is not possible to determine if AVSN met its commitments for any advertising it did sell during this period.

False or Misleading Advertising

AVSN consistently advertised and sold subscriptions to its magazine Living Magazine as a bimonthly (six issues per year) publication from late 2009 until January 2013.
Of the 18 issues it was obligated to publish during this period, AVSN failed to deliver thirteen issues.

Magazine Subscriptions

In 2010 AVSN only published two magazines out of six, issue 6 (March) and issue 7 (June). Dorey advised in October 2010:
"As you are probably aware, we are very late in bringing out issue 8. We hope to have this magazine to the printer in the next 3-4 weeks and we do apologise for the delay. Nobody will miss out on their magazines - if you were entitled to 6 copies, you will still get 6 copies - they will just be a bit later then [sic] we had hoped they'd be."

Source: Dorey, M 2010, 'Exciting times ahead!' [e-newsletter], Australian Vaccination Network, 12 October 2010.

The above statement was demonstrably misleading and likely deceptive:

By March 2011 AVSN had only published two magazines in the preceding 15 months, the last issue being nine months earlier in June 2012.
In the comments section of an online article written by Meryl Dorey and published on the Living Now website, a consumer asks about the magazine. Dorey responded on 9 March as follows:

Hi Gabrielle,
Thanks so much for your question.

You can subscribe via our website - www.avn.org.au (click on the shop link and then, subscribe on the left hand menu). You cannot join as a member right now due to the revocation of our charity authority as described in the article, but we would be very grateful if anyone would choose to support us with a subscription plus, it's a great magazine :-)

The magazine comes out bi-monthly and the next issue which is very late should be back from the printer within 3 weeks' time.

Our members have been informed of the issues - the legal matters have been taking up much of our time which has delayed everything. Luckily, they are incredibly supportive and I have not gotten even one complaint from any member about this delay. The only complaints that have been received have been from the organisation, Stop the AVN who, even though they are not subscribers, seem to feel that it is their right to complain about anything and everything just to waste our time. C'est la vie.

All the best, Meryl.

Source: Dorey, M 2011, 'Who'd have thought this would happen in Australia?', Living Now, March 2011, viewed 7 January 2012, <http://www.livingnow.com.au/articles/issues/whod-have-thought-this-would-happen-in-australia>

No mention that as at March 2011 AVSN was five issues behind schedule.
The deceptive statement "within 3 weeks" was Dorey-speak for five months.

Also in March 2011, Meryl Dorey posted a long screed to AVSN's Facebook page, promoting the magazine and encouraging people to subscribe without a single mention that the magazine was five issues behind schedule. [Note: post no longer available.]

Dorey further misled consumers in her comment on the Living Now article by stating she hadn't received a single complaint from members.
In February 2011, Kylie Firns posted the following to AVSN's Facebook page:

"Hi, I have been emailing you with no responses back at this time. I need to know when my subscription is due and when the next Living Wisdom is coming out. Can someone please get back to me! Thanks!"

Source: Firns, K 2011, Australian Vaccination Network, Facebook post, February, viewed February 2011, [post deleted].

Kylie had a very long wait - the next issue wasn't published until August.

On 21 November 2011 a disgruntled subscriber, Tracey Huxtable, posted the following message to AVSN's Facebook page in response to an AVSN post promoting subscriptions to its magazine:

"I subscribed in August and am yet to receive my magazine despite numerous phone calls, voice messages and about 8 emails following up - none of which have had a reply.
Based on my experience I wouldn't purchase this as a gift for anyone. I truly believe in what the AVN is doing, however am very disappointed in the complete lack of response and the fact that I have paid for a magazine subscription and never received it."

Source: Huxtable, T 2011, Australian Vaccination Network, Facebook post, 21 November, viewed 21 November 2011, <https://www.facebook.com/avn.living.wisdom/posts/10150379424826925?comment_id=19709001>

I imagine Tracey would be even more disgruntled when she eventually realised her six-issue subscription only resulted in three magazines and the Facebook post she responded to had failed to mention that in November 2011 the magazines were already eight issues behind schedule.

Just two months later, in AVSN e-newsletter dated 9 January 2012, Meryl Dorey again misleads consumers with the following:

"To date, we have not had one AVN member or subscriber complain about the delays in the magazine production. Indeed, there has been a steady stream of subscribers who have contacted me over the past few months, telling me that they really could not care less about whether or not they get their magazine. They have even suggested changing the AVN membership to an annual fee and if they get magazines, fine. If not, also fine."

Source: Dorey, M 2012, 'Onward and upward - 2012!' [e-newsletter], Australian Vaccination Network, 9 January 2012.

On 8 June 2012 yet another disgruntled consumer is forced to post on AVSN's Facebook page to get Dorey's attention:

"Now if only you, or a representative, would reply to my emails regarding my subscription…"

Source: Murdoch, M 2012, Australian Vaccination Network, Facebook post, posted 8 June, viewed 8 June 2012 [url not available].

AVSN consistently advertised, promoted and sold subscriptions to its magazine, promising six issues per year.

AVSN never mentioned how many magazine issues behind schedule it was.

By January 2013, when AVSN announced the cessation of Living Wisdom, it had failed to publish a total of thirteen issues in just a 3 year period.

Advertising - third-parties

In correspondence to NSW Fair Trading dated 4 June 2012, Dorey stated:
"These are just a few of the activities these people have engaged in. I have filed 3 separate complaints with the police about them and we no longer take advertising in our magazine due to the threats our advertisers have received."

The above statement is demonstrably false.
Issue 10 of Living Wisdom (June, 2012) - the same month Dorey made the above statement - contained five third-party advertisements plus a full-page AVSN advertisement promoting advertising opportunities in all AVSN publications (excerpt follows):

Advertisement [image]Advertisement [text]
image: excerpt from full-page advert, Living Wisdom, issue 10, p.33 [hdg] Want to advertise?

Living Wisdom is proud to offer various
advertising opportunities available in our
magazine, on our website and in
our e-newsletter.

Communicating directly to your target
audience, this opportunity is invaluable.

For all the information relating to
advertising with us, please visit
[link redacted].

Or email us at [redacted]
and we'll send you our media pack
with further details.

Source: AVN 2012, 'Want to advertise?' [advertisement], Living Wisdom, June 2012, p. 33

Payments to Meryl Dorey

It appears that Meryl Dorey has been receiving regular payments from AVSN since at least 2006. Statement from Dorey dated 19 March 2005:
"I would like to get paid for my work. Yes, we are a charity and yes, I am a volunteer. But for my work for the magazine at least, it would be nice to finally get some payment. I know my husband would be happy. We have done without for a lot of years to help the AVN, it would be nice if we were in a position where the AVN could help us out a bit. I was thinking of a payment of $300 a week if we have the funds. I would like to know what the rest of our members think about that."

Source: Dorey, M 2005, Australian Vaccination Network, Yahoo! post, 19 March, viewed 12 August 2010, [post not public]
Source: Dorey, M 2005, 'The AVN wish list', The Inside Edition, vol. 3, no. 1, Autumn 2005, pp. 5-7.

The only AVSN annual statements that list the expense item "Editors Charges" were 2007 and 2008.
Dorey received $15,840 in 2007 (equating to $304/week) and $17,490 in 2008 (equating to $336/week).
It is no surprise that subsequent annual statements failed to itemise the "editors charges" as AVSN was subjected to greater public scrutiny through the media and complaints to government regulators.

It is worth noting the pay rise Dorey gave herself in 2008 was the same year that AVSN only published three out of four magazines (but naturally, took payment for all four). And in typical Dorey fashion the pay rise occurred when the AVN had no spare funds at all, posting a net financial loss in 2008.

On 9 March 2011 Dorey responded to a question posted in the comments section of her article published on Living Now website:

"You have raised a question about whether or not I am paid (reimbursed?) for performing my role with the AVN. The answer is - I am not. Our constitution prohibits committee members from being paid for their duties on the committee. I have been a full-time volunteer for the AVN for over 15 years now and in that time, I have never been paid for this work though I have been reimbursed for expenses I have incurred in fulfilling those duties (such as petrol for travelling to seminars or accommodation if I must be out of town for an AVN event). This is allowed by our constitution and these expenses are approved by our management committee."

"I am paid for my role as editor of Living Wisdom magazine but that is separate to any work that I've done for the AVN and that is also approved by our management committee."

"Despite the fact that I have been publishing this magazine / newsletter since 1994, I only started to be paid in 2006 and when funds have been tight, I have foregone my payments as editor."

Source: Dorey, M 2011, 'Who'd have thought this would happen in Australia?', Living Now, March 2011, viewed 7 January 2012, <http://www.livingnow.com.au/articles/issues/whod-have-thought-this-would-happen-in-australia>

In June 2008 AVSN threated to close due to financial problems, yet Dorey did not forego payment that year; she actually gave herself a pay rise despite editing only 3 out of the 4 magazines due in 2008.

I can find no further mention of payments to Dorey until January 2013 when AVSN accounced the cessation of Living Wisdom magazine via its e-newsletter and advised that "Meryl Dorey is no longer drawing a payment as Editor of Living Wisdom magazine".

The next mention of editor payments was made by Dorey on her website on 13 March 2014. Dorey stated [excerpts]:

"For a few years, I was paid for my role as the Editor of Living Wisdom magazine. That was the only time in the over 20 years I have been involved with this organisation when I was paid. I was not paid for my role on the committee but rather for my role as Editor."

"In actuality, I was earning between $1,250 and $2,400 a month…"

Source: http://nocompulsoryvaccination.com/2014/03/13/the-avn-our-finances-are-an-open-book/

Dorey admits payments started in 2006 and AVSN e-news confirmed she was receiving payments up to the magazine closure in January 2013. So, the "few years" is actually 7 years, with annual remuneration somewhere between $15000 and $28800.

Interesting to note that Dorey had received yet another pay rise, now being paid up to $600/week.

This is an astonishing amount of money to pay an editor who in a three-year period failed to produce even a single year's worth of magazines. I find it difficult to accept these payments were for services rendered as an editor. But we'll never know as AVSN has never divulged how much Dorey was paid after 2008.

Postscript

Complaints were lodged with NSW Fair Trading (the regulator of the AVN) in regard to the magazine scam. NSW Fair Trading advised that as the matter fell under Australian Consumer Law they could not take any action.

As I've said before, if you want to setup a business with the intention of ripping off gullible followers, do give serious consideration to setting up an incorporated association.

Caveat emptor.