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Archive for March, 2023

How 2023 (When They Tell Us Pandemic is Over) Compares to 1999-2018 Death Rates

tl;dr We are not back to normal, the “new” normal is a lot of death.

Here is the chart (notice the death levels on the right compared to the left, before and ‘after’ pandemic)

The new normal in 2023

Source data: original PDF from this page; it is compared to numbers from 2023 and 2022

Exposing Sirius Corporation as a Corrupt Corporation

Video download link | md5sum
Victims of Open Source Charlatans
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: Following today’s part about the crimes of Sirius ‘Open Source’ another video seemed to be well overdue (those installments used to be daily); the video above explains to relevance to Techrights and how workers feel about being cheated by a company that presents itself as “Open Source” even to some of the highest and most prestigious public institutions in the UK

Former Sirius ‘Open Source’ Staff Shocked to Discover the Company Committed Fraud

Summary: Crimes committed by the company that I left months ago are coming to light; today we share some reactions from other former staff (without naming anybody)

TODAY we take a look at the nature of the crimes of Sirius ‘Open Source’, what pension providers are saying, and what former colleagues say about the company upon realising that it is corrupt (spoiler: some aren’t even surprised).

We shall start with the pension providers, with focus on Standard Life (the other provider has not even responded yet!) as about 6 hours after I complained about it (and made this meme) Standard Life contacted me by E-mail to say: (days late already)

Dear Dr Schestowitz

Thank you for your email.

We are carefully considering the concerns you have raised. I’m sorry if the time this is taking is frustrating for you, but we believe it is appropriate given the situation.

I will be in touch with you again as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

??????????? ??????????

Complaint Consultant

This does not say anything concrete. It has been like this since March 7th and we’re soon in April. Sirius is running out of clients, i.e. out of revenue stream. How long must one wait? When it comes to Standard Life, the interactions over the telephone go back to January. Why does this take so long to progress? What does that tell us about the pensions/financial sector (Standard Life is a giant in this sector)?

About a month ago I said to the company, Sirius: “I spoke to numerous managers at Standard Life for 3 months. They reached the conclusion that myself and colleagues never had any money deposited there — money taken for “Pension” off of our salary, as per the payslips for 5+ years. This suggests pension fraud and an actual crime. I assume, moreover, that [wife] (as Director and spouse) was fully aware of this. In the name of journalistic integrity I must first ask you if this is patently false — a chance for you to comment in your defence. A lack of reply can be interpreted as implicit admission of guilt.”

“To paraphrase what you said in a call back in November, “it doesn’t look good.””

There has been no response since. None. They know they’re guilty. Days later I wrote to say: “You did not respond. I assume you have nothing to say in your defense. My E-mails to [CEO] are bouncing, so I assume he wants nothing to do with the company anymore. A month ago you failed to provide a physical address for the company. Now it is moreover headless (the CEO left). [PA] is still based in the UK and E-mails to her are not bouncing, so I will assume she is best point of contact.”

Still no response. The company is totally unable to defend itself, but will enforcement and prosecution follow? If not, the same people can commit the same crimes again, without any consequences. Are we living in a state of anarchy where businesses and managers can defraud staff and then just refuse to even communicate? Are we living in a state of affairs where pension providers and police can just look the other way, even when presented with hard evidence of the crimes?

“You are choosing not to reply,” I said to them. “It does not improve matters. For neither of you. [PA] was fully aware of what had gone on because: 1) colleagues asked her about this pension (even years ago) and she did not get back with an answer. 2) she was at the company in the years of that pension scheme and she was involved in what seems to be deliberate embezzlement of funds, along with both [wife] and you.”

So at least 3 people in management are legally liable. Two of them are still in England, whereas one is ‘in hiding’ in the US. Hiding in some basement with a rib shirt on.

When will authorities do something on this matter? How many hours on the phone are required for action? How many E-mails? So far we’re talking about 30 E-mails and 6 hours over the telephone. That’s just counting my own role, not colleagues’.

“I’ve already proceeded to legal consultation on this,” I told them. “If I receive no reply by Monday, we (myself and others who are impacted; I spoke to a lot of former staff) shall escalate and potentially file a class action lawsuit, pressing charges along criminal lines (possible extradition after warrant of arrest). The pension provider is also on the case, at the managers’ level. They’re very unhappy about what happened.”

This was a while ago. Notice the ultimatum: “You need to correct what has happened and we’re still open to a settlement/compromise to avoid another escalation (after Monday, 13th of March).”

Days passed since it first became clear that the company had committed a crime. The CEO vanished (left abruptly) and then deleted any connection he ever had with the company. Even a few days after the 13th of March. The company also finally (belatedly) removed us from its pages. There must be a bit of a panic, knowing they engaged in fraud for over 5 years and are finally being investigated for it.

“Our money was embezzled,” I told other victims. “[wife], [husband] and [PA] knew what they were doing. They never paid to Standard Life the money they specified in our payslips (management at Standard Life told me this). We need to sue the company while it still exists to hold them accountable. Some lawyers would agree to do this for a percent of the money awarded rather than per hour spent. Will you join us? I spoke to a lot of past staff.”

Depending on the outcome of the investigations (yes, plural), we’ll proceed sensibly. If the company cannot pay for its crimes, the pension provider/s will.

One other victim noted: “Have you got any details confirming it was embezzled [...] Shouldn’t we be able to make a claim against Standard Life / the IFA for never notifying us money was transferred or wasn’t being paid?”

I still have everything on record (audio) and full names of two managers I spoke to. It’s rather well documented, not just what I made public. I am no expert when it comes to pension-related laws, but the other victim may be right. It may be possible to hold the pension provider accountable too. They never ever contacted us.

So anyway, the pension series might turn out to (at least!) have some educational value; all this time-wasting will turn into “making a point” at a time when people don’t trust financial institutions anyway. It might also become a class action lawsuit, in case stolen money can still be recovered (we’re taking about potentially 50,000 pounds or a lot more; it’s hard to assess until we know all the victims).

Having been in touch with other potential victims, it seems clear they’re rather disturbed by the discovery and very sympathetic towards other colleagues. Been a long time since we last spoke in some cases, but they’re still around and they still recall the Sirius pension. “I left Sirius a few months ago and the CEO left days ago,” I told them. “Turns out the company plundered people’s old pensions (2011), so this likely affects you as an employee.”

Back then we didn’t yet have it confirmed that the company committed crimes, but it seemed clear it was being verified and soon validated. I asked: “Did you have a pension with the company at the time? A bunch of us are grouping, as the company apparently committed a crime.”

For the sake of privacy/confidentiality, I won’t name anybody here. But their responses are telling.

One of them said: “It has indeed been a long time! How are things with you? I’m still working remotely: turns out it’s a thing now :)”

Yes, working from home is definitely a thing now. Some of us still do that.

“I didn’t have a pension with Sirius,” a former colleague told me, as “I was only there [redacted] months or so and never got it arranged – but if they raided your pensions you definitely should chase it up. Good luck with your case!”

My wife and I both left when the company had gone rogue. I will continue to chase the pension’gate’ even if just to show how pension providers respond to such matters. Spending so much time on the telephone over 3 months is indicative of institutional failure far broader than Sirius itself.

“I’m shocked (although not totally surprised) to hear that,” another former colleague told me. “Are you talking about [boss]? I hadn’t realized they’d moved to America…”

They didn’t. He’s hiding there after taking some cash from the Gates slush fund (under an NDA!) while tricking all staff to sign an employment contract they never saw before, joining a shell valued at one pound without being properly informed. This in itself is very likely illegal, as we noted here before. The former colleague told me: “I didn’t have a pension (nor even an employment contract!) so don’t have any skin in this game but keep me posted on how you get on.”

So even back then the company had staff with no “employment contract!”

“Sorry to hear that!” said another former colleague. “I honestly don’t remember. I’m currently traveling, but will check my docs and let you know tomorrow! Thanks for the heads up…”

A lot of workers were so ‘ad hoc’ that they didn’t realise what was going on. Even their alleged “pension” was basically a fraud.

We’ll keep abreast of any updates and publish them as deemed suitable.

NOW: Pensions and Standard Life (Phoenix Group Holdings) Not Progressing Fraud Investigations

Fraud investigations in the era of bankers going rogue

Hey it's still better than sportwashing qatar

Summary: Based on our experiences and findings, one simply cannot rely on pension providers to take fraud seriously (we’ve been working as a group on this); all they want is the money and risk does not seem to bother them, even when there’s an actual crime associated with pension-related activities

THIS site isn’t a personal site (unlike my personal blog and personal site, schestowitz.com), but the issue seems commonplace and it impacts workers in “tech” (in my case, my former employer was an early sponsor of the Free Software Foundation).

I wanted to just post a quick update to say that 2 days ago I contacted two pension providers regarding their ongoing investigations of actual fraud. I wrote to them:

Is there any concrete progress on this yet?

This back-and-forth inquiry with your staff has gone on since January.

We’re fast approaching April and former Sirius staff does not want to be left aside as “April’s fools”.

The company is rapidly losing clients and may soon have key evidence in its shredders. Please progress this ASAP, even if there are not many of us and Sirius is not a large company.

We need action, not merely acknowledgements.

45 hours have passed and not even a reply from them!

One of the pension providers has not yet delivered what it promised it would send. The other has been mostly sitting on it for 3 weeks already. So what’s going on? Is this how Britain’s pension industry deals with fraud?

Sirius, the company, is ‘in hiding’ and it is losing customers (we kept noting escalation would follow for failure to provide a real address; it seems possible they not only squandered many people’s pensions but went even further). How long will it take for pension providers to take action? Will they wait until the company goes bankrupt? It might be too late by then. At a later stage we’ll explain why such delays can implicate the pension providers, making them partly accountable/complicit.

Sirius wasn’t always this rogue. Those pension providers too used to be more trustworthy, even putting their logos on athletes’ uniform to earn some trust (as if football is a badge of integrity). At one point Sirius had its logo on the jerseys of a young people’s football team (photo above), but that was a very long time ago. Nowadays it seems like the CEO of Sirius can barely even afford a shirt. Last time he held a company meeting he was wearing a rib shirt. No kidding.

Death Levels Sharply Above Pre-COVID-19 Levels

Even if the media does not talk about this (or belittles the whole thing)…

ONS deaths 2022 and 2023

ONS deaths 2019

I AM sad about this, but I am not shocked.

10 minutes ago ONS released the latest mortality numbers for England and Wales. This update is a weekly occurrence (typically 10AM ish every Tuesday).

Total deaths week 11 in 2019: 10,567. Total deaths week 11 in 2022: 10,928. Total deaths week 11 in 2023: 12,133. Pandemic is over, folks. Go back your office cage and don’t wear a mask or anything. COVID-19 is both “mild” and “long” now.

The Last of Us is Getting Married

Sister

I spoke to my sister today (that’s her above) one last time before her wedding tomorrow. It’s hard to believe how fast people grow up. She’s now managing a team, doing programming while using Debian 11, just like me. Tomorrow she’ll be officially married to another technical person. Life passes by when you don’t pay attention. We all grow older, but some take advantage of the time they have on this planet. Some waste it away.

This is me aged 16, back in the days I was playing tennis a lot.

Roy Schestowitz aged 16

Police Needs to Intervene in the Sirius ‘Open Source’ Scandal

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ is collapsing, but that does not mean that it can dodge accountability for crimes (e.g. money that it silently stole from its staff since at least 12 years ago)

A SCREENSHOT of the PDF from Standard Life was shared here (with sensible redaction) a few days ago. Things are belatedly progressing.

This post has taken a long time to prepare as we need to separate gossip/speculation from verified facts. Standard Life also claims to be pursuing the facts (since the 7th of March). As per their own update: “Dear Dr Schestowitz, I have attached our acknowledgement to your complaint. [...] If you’ve any questions, or problems accessing your acknowledgement, please email me at [redacted] and I’ll do all I can to help you.”

They’ve basically been looking into how on Earth the company (Sirius) was claiming to be paying into Standard Life accounts that don’t even exist!

The simplest explanation is, Sirius engaged in embezzlement. The management was contacted several times, being kindly offered the opportunity to explain what actually happened. Each and every time the response was schtum. For reasons we detailed here before, litigation seems imminent. Class action lawsuit is also likely, though the company is in hiding. Staff that actively oversaw and participated in the embezzlement is criminally liable, even if leaving the company later. They’ve been made aware of this (fraud, theft, forgery/embezzlement among the possible charges). Failing that, or in addition to that, pension providers can be sued. We’ll explain the legal grounds some other day.

What does this have to do with Techrights? Sirius is describing itself as Britain’s most respected and best established Open Source business.

If this is what the “most respected and best established” boils down to, then there’s serious trouble. Sirius is a major liability and a stain. This isn’t the company I joined more than 12 years ago. “You need to lie to keep your job” or “take one for the team” or “do something unethical/illegal to keep your salary” is the hallmark or symptom of criminal management, which needs to be prosecuted, not served (except served papers). I confronted the management many times before leaving (for over a year!) and nothing improved. They kept paying the salary, but behaviour only worsened over time, so I reached out to a friend.

Suffice to say, you need not be particularly charismatic to persuade workers whom you pay to also do bad things, acting out of fear (obedience for a payment). During a pandemic and financial crises (exacerbated by invasion of Ukraine) it gets even easier for bad people to compel workers to act unethically. This is a recipe for disaster.

Internally, as noted here back in December, I had circulated communications to try to ameliorate things amicably. But regarding my letters, however, they never wrote anything back. The attitude was to simply ignore the issues and to ignore the reporter. At one point I mused that I could joke with the boss, “so how has that secret money from Bill Gates worked out for you, eh?” Does one reckon that if the CEO goes to prison, Bill Gates will go visit him in prison? It’s closer than the facility Jeffrey Epstein was in when Gates visited him. As far as we know, the CEO is in Spokane area/WA somewhere (not too far from Seattle). He is hiding there, possibly not just from workers but also former wives.

Anyway, E-mails to the CEO are now bouncing. It’s a company that’s not functioning, lacks the staff to actually meet SLAs, and sooner or later will receive demands from clients that a refund is issued (not that the company has any money left).

There’s only one manager left in the company, apparently living with his girlfriend or someone else somewhere in the US (we cannot verify all the pertinent details). The company can implode any day now and we might hear just days later that he has been kicked out with a suitcase (he is working double-shifts at the moment, trying to slow down the collapse, which is inevitable anyhow).

The collapse of the company can devastate many people, who “have been in touch about trying to track down [...] pensions from the original Sirius pension scheme,” to quote one former colleague. “I am in the same situation and had previously given up trying to track it down.”

We still wonder how many people are impacted by this — probably a lot. It’s hard to find or track down every single person whom you worked with over a decade ago.

The Standard Life and NOW: Pensions plans/schemes are both registered with a company that has only one employee: the CEO. He moved everything else to two shells, one in the UK (Ltd.) and another in the US (Inc.). Both pension providers investigate this matter now.

Two months ago we requested written assurances from NOW: Pensions that the pensions cannot be scuttled as before. For the time being, Standard Life refuses to even tell what happened (the managers there made a guess/hunch) but it seems like no money ever reached their end. Now that the company is, in effect, ‘in hiding’ (a former CEO is rushing to delete anything that ever connected him to the company) It’ll be hard to sue, but accountability is still possible. The police may soon step in.

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