1st document re “jfexposed” accusations re John Friend of Anusara Yoga: Pension.

Via elephant journal
on Feb 6, 2012
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Update, via a reader below, regarding the gray area that is using anonymous sources, which I choose only to do if I have independent corroborating sources:

“here’s the guideline NPR uses:
“The grant of anonymity should be a last resort. When NPR journalists use anonymous sources to obtain information necessary for a story, the editor or producer of that story has an obligation to satisfy him/herself that the source is credible and reliable, and there is a substantial journalistic justification for using the source’s information without attribution. This obligation also pertains to situations where individuals ask that their real names be withheld. The editor or producer has a twofold responsibility to (1) make a judgment about whether it is editorially justified to let the person speak anonymously, and (2) satisfy him/herself that this person is who the piece says s/he is. An editor should never be in the position of having to verify these things after a story has aired and a question is raised about it. We should not grant anonymity if a person makes pejorative comments about the character, reputation, or personal qualities of another individual, or derogatory statements about an institution.”

~
Update: we’ve received additional documents. Because the source prefers to remain anonymous, we won’t publish those documents. But suffice to say, everything regarding the pension issue has been straightened out now (see original document below). Previously, things had gotten messed up or confused for a long time. That said, (even according to “Former Employee,” anonymous person who is not a fan of Mr. Friend but who claims not to be behind the jfexposed site), it was a case of ongoing negligence or incompetence, not deliberate greed, theft or corruption.

If I have this wrong, feel free to email me. We will only publish sourced facts, nothing anonymous.

As I mention below, I am not here to litigate the case. That’s not my role or skill. elephant is here to provide an opportunity for fair and honest dialogue, which will hopefully help enable all of us to then move forward.  ~ ed.

~
1st document pertaining to “jfexposed” allegations re John Friend of Anusara Yoga: Pension.

I interviewed John Friend—only recently on the cover of the Sunday New York Times where he was called “the Yoga Mogul”—just this afternoon.

It’s been a looong four days for the yoga community, and particularly John’s once-mighty Anusara Yoga community, or kula.

Over the last few months, several of Anusara’s senior teachers have resigned, citing vague differences. Then, on Friday, an anonymous, internationally-hosted web site was posted accusing John of various affairs, financial corruption, and more.

I’ll have our interview, which asks what I regard as the five tough, pertinent, yet fair questions regarding the anonymous web site’s accusations. This first post addresses the issue of whether John Friend and Anusara Yoga engaged in financial corruption through a pension plan.

That interview will be posted, along with John’s first public statement, as soon as possible.

This is how we, as a mindful community, do this. We don’t react to rumor—we look deeper, and find facts, non-anonymous sources, and explore issues, however painful. We seek to combine transparency and compassion. In the meantime, I have only commented about why we were letting the biggest scoop of the year, from a media perspective, fly by. Now that we’re securing some legal documents, and firsthand answers from John, we’ll begin.

May it be of benefit.

Note: comments, supportive and otherwise, are welcome. Name-calling and such will be deleted. Here’s our official, long-standing “Mean Comments Suck” comment policy. ~ ed.

Letter to JF from Loren Stark Co (.pdf)

I received this document from Dave Kennedy, a colleague of John Friend. This document itself is a letter from Anusara’s Third Party Plan Administrator. If anyone has any questions of a private nature, or doubts about the above, please email me. ~ ed.


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Comments

87 Responses to “1st document re “jfexposed” accusations re John Friend of Anusara Yoga: Pension.”

  1. I agree. The service here is not to John Friend, or to anyone he has allegedly hurt, but to searching for and presenting the truth in the most ethical way possible. Anonymous slander is of no benefit to anyone.

  2. You are doing the right thing–and if you'll notice, most of the people saying otherwise are anonymous and have an ax to grind.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    John's responses to my questions are coming tomorrow, Tuesday, I'm assured, by 3pm. I'm not expecting much in the way of transparency, since I'm sure they have to be lawyered up at this point, given the nature of this situation. But I asked the best, toughest and fairest questions I could and am hoping to be pleasantly surprised by receiving detailed, forthright answers.
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/john-frien

    I will not be adding anything new, since I won't have anything new, until tomorrow at 3.

    Yours,

    Way

  4. TCB says:

    I may have missed this in the very long thread – but why was the pension frozen in the first place?

  5. Former Employee says:

    Maybe John Friend should address that question.

  6. […] can click here to see information from “both […]

  7. SQR says:

    So far, I think Elephant Journal has gone about this in a better way than the blog site (yogadork) that originally posted the allegations- the best way to find a balance between rumors and facts is to use established journalistic criteria, which appears to be happening over here. The amount of anger and vitriol among Anusara critics (and the defensiveness among supporters) flying around this story makes it a bit of a minefield for anyone trying to cover it or comment on it.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Laura Christensen.

  9. yogijulian says:

    help me understand something – if you have a source who reveals their identity to you on legal documents but asked to remain anonymous (ie have their name and address redacted) when you publish the documents, is this outside of the scope of responsible journalism?

  10. SQR says:

    There is more than one set of guidelines for this out in the world, but here's one: http://www.journalism.org/resources/principles

  11. Absolutely! Make me proud to write for elephant.

  12. I think Not says:

    amen

  13. I think Not says:

    yup.

  14. I agree. Jumping on the Bash John Friend bandwagon would have been the safe, easy thing to do. It would have also been the wrong thing to do.

  15. SQR says:

    Not necessarily- this is a bit of a gray area… here's the guideline NPR uses:
    "The grant of anonymity should be a last resort. When NPR journalists use anonymous sources to obtain information necessary for a story, the editor or producer of that story has an obligation to satisfy him/herself that the source is credible and reliable, and there is a substantial journalistic justification for using the source's information without attribution. This obligation also pertains to situations where individuals ask that their real names be withheld. The editor or producer has a twofold responsibility to (1) make a judgment about whether it is editorially justified to let the person speak anonymously, and (2) satisfy him/herself that this person is who the piece says s/he is. An editor should never be in the position of having to verify these things after a story has aired and a question is raised about it. We should not grant anonymity if a person makes pejorative comments about the character, reputation, or personal qualities of another individual, or derogatory statements about an institution."

  16. Rachel says:

    I fully support what you are doing Waylon and know your intentions are coming from a mindful place. From my point of view it seems people are commenting from a fear based and reactive place. Keep on Keepin on Buddy, Much Love.

  17. Jane C says:

    I'm also a lawyer – thought not in this practice area, and I totally agree with the above. The documents on Yoga Dork give a much clearer picture. To publish that one letter as if it were the be-all end-all is nonsense. DOL is an understaffed agency with myriad complaints. Many violators are given the opportunity to rectify without further action, which seems to be what happened here.

    EJ, respectfully – you do seem partisan.

    Anusara asks its practitioners to hone their intuitive skills. My intuition says a charismatic and talented individual has started drinking his own kool-aid, and believes that if its good for his wallet and his penis, that's good enough.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    It's kind of common-sense…even with normal articles we get at elephant, sometimes folks want to be anonymous. We just about always say no. Anonymity allows vitriol to be doled out almost casually, and people to play loose with facts.

    That said, I immediately invited FE (former employee) to invite other FEs to come forward with the same evidence, and said I'd offer those documents then. In this day of photoshop, documents mean very little.

    Here's my similar answer to you on my FB wall: "I immediately offered to share anonymous' documents if he/she could find another employee to corroborate. In this era of photoshop, documents don't mean anything. And I have a moral attitude about sticking my neck out legally *for* folks unwilling to stick their neck out legally."

    All that said, I love your advice and appreciate your question, it's a good one. I love SQR's share, there, thanks for that.

    ~ Waylon

  19. yogijulian says:

    i think perhaps you overstate it. it is understandable why some would want to remain anonymous even if they are telling the truth given the nature of an organization that people depend upon for their livelihood. if there is corruption and a general silence, as carol says after key people have been quietly leaving you can bet there is a lot of pressure on everyone – friend, senior teachers who have left, people in the organization who want to speak out but are scared, waylon, everyone….

    all i am saying is i don't think it is fair to say that unless people are willing to stand up and be counted in public daylight we shouldn't listen to them and consider whether what they are saying adds up.

    if this is a cultish situation in which the predictable vectors of money, sex and drugs are at play in an inner circle around a powerful charismatic leader then the situation is a precarious one for those who have been betrayed and want to tell the truth but have had their whole lives, relationships, livelihood, social status etc become woven into the community itself.

  20. yogijulian says:

    i would be hugely surprised if they came to his defense.

  21. yogijulian says:

    that makes a lot of sense waylon.

  22. kelley says:

    Where is that reported? Didn't find it anywhere on her site or internet.

  23. I agree Julian, in the case of cultish situations or abuse of power that it can be hard for people to feel separate enough as individuals to speak out publicly.

    In general, it seems that the mask of anonymity brings out the worst in people. If someone feels wronged and has an anonymous forum to voice his grievances, the tone is usually much different than someone who is doing so openly. With anonymity in these situations, there is no room to be discerning about possible agendas or ulterior motives. Difficult to say whether things add up when there is no real corroboration.

    It's a tough call. I think caution and truth seeking was the right one.

  24. For those who are interested, this is a link to a blog I just wrote — not specifically about JF but about confusion surrounding any student-teacher relationship. It could be called "How to never get hurt by a guru while still honoring the Guru principle." May it uplift those who read it. May all beings be free.
    http://bayshakti.com/how-should-the-teacher-behav

  25. wow… yeah that's it He sat on the story for DAYS refusing to just break the news…waylon I hope you have your thick skin on this week. You know people will attack = stay strong you rock.

  26. wow. I'm sorry but anonymous sources are not that unheard of in journalism. If someone is afraid to speak out the point is we give the anonymity so we can still get to the truth. Now I'm not saying we should accept the source without due diligence…but if Waylon knew the source and did the research and then told us this person wanted to be protected I would totally trust him and would feel good about the information and protecting the person with the information. Too often the "little guy" doesn't get their story told because of this situation. Now I don't think JF and friends are evil or the mafia, but one's livelihood could be at stake. Let's be a bit gentle on the whistle blower as well. People don't always hide their identity because what they are saying is not true but precisely because it is true.

  27. elephantjournal says:

    I love how I'm getting thumbed down by John Friend haters who seem to have nowhere else to vent their grief. I'm not John Friend, nor in his corner, I'm just trying to provide a fair and responsible forum not based on rumor.

  28. I loved it. I hated it. It is true and wrong. 🙂 NO seriously I get your point and totally agree but as per usual I don't think everyone will get what you are saying… actually I could write a whole response…maybe I will … actually If it's cool I would love to feature some of your blog and link to it…cool if I do a little intro and send to you? email me [email protected]
    Let's talk 🙂

  29. SQR says:

    Well, yer gettin "thumbed up" by me… I've noticed the same thing with something I posted here as well, though. I drove a truck (a long time ago), and some of the posts in the forums over on yogadork remind me of the stuff I used to hear on the CB radio at truckstops. Your comment guidelines make this site more useful, and frankly, a place I'd feel better advertising with

  30. Nancy Nielsen says:

    I would love to know THE t r u t h. AND for heavens sakes, “it’s only money.”

  31. elephantjournal says:

    To be fair, I am happy to publish FE's info and told him/her so provided another employee or two came forward with the same documents. In that case, anonymity would be corroborated.

    For example: I asked point-blank if FE was behind jfexposed, and he/she said no. Until I have corroboration or non-anonymity, I can't responsibly know the truth on such questions or put anything out as fact. And we don't do rumor when it effects people.

    FE I should say has been forthcoming and courteous, and never offered his/her info to elephant. When I saw the site, I could have published it all and ordinarily would have–we love readership, breaking news and scoops–but because I didn't have verification I chose not to do so. Recovering Yogi was offered the information some weeks ago, and also chose not to share it. YD went for it, and that's her decision, and I've said many times I like and respect her writing but disagree ethically with Jennalyn's decision to give credence to anonymous, agenda-backed accusations.

    So we waited and have published and shared information from both sides that we could verify, giving up a ton of traffic, but hopefully contributing somewhat to constructive dialogue and fairness, and now (my interview just went up) some compassionately aggressive questions, answers and more documents.

    ~ Yours in service,

    Waylon

  32. […] who in some cases have children. b) That you had run some sort of corrupt pension scheme, which we detail in some legal context here. c) that you smoked pot and had it shipped around d) It showed graphic photos (with no face, so […]

  33. […] read the legal document below, click here. It was shared on this site two days ago, via Dave Kennedy, who works with John. I’ve since […]

  34. Brian Smith says:

    I had to sue John Friend at the Texas Work Force Commission in 2005/2006 to get my overtime wages. i had $5000 in company expenses on my own credit card. bought on my own dime a $2000 lap top to record audio for JF. That is not including all expenses relocating from San Diego, CA to TX.
    JF treated me very poorly and my employment was only 5 months. I lived at his home, I traveled with him, I worked in the "LAME" Anusara office where not one person did yoga besides JF. I have the full audio (2 cds) of the court case sent to me by the Judge.
    I am not hiding. JF was the most unyogic person I have ever met. a real jerk that deserves everything that is coming to him!

  35. […] The jfexposed website presented a mass of material on John’s activities, including that he had frozen his employees’ pensions, did “sexual therapy” with a specific married woman, was in a Wiccan group, had an affair with another married woman from that group, and had smoked pot—even had it delivered to the Anusara office. […]

  36. Thanks for the article and sharing this post. I’ve not really delved into the idea of trying to make a little extra money doing surveys, but it sounds like something I might try to give a shot.

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