Because narcissists cannot acknowledge loss, Perry Johnson wants to once again lose a lot of money tossing himself into an election he can never win: now he’s running for US President in 2024.

Johnson, the founder of Perry Johnson Registrars, ran for governor in Michigan a few years back and won 15 minutes of fame due to his purchase of an expensive Super Bowl ad. That ad stretched a lot of truth about Johnson’s professional accomplishments, implying he single-handedly created every job in the US automotive industry, ever.

When your car door closes just right, thank Perry Johnson. When you even have a job in the American auto industry, thank Perry Johnson. American automobiles weren’t always the gold standard. Perry Johnson literally wrote the book, introducing ISO 9000 quality standards to the American automobile industry.

Apparently, Henry Ford never existed in Johnson’s version of US history. It’s also nearly not worth pointing out that it was actually ISO that “literally wrote the book” (called, literally, “ISO 9001”) and introduced it to the automotive industry, not Johnson. The first version of ISO 9001 came out in 1987, and Johnson didn’t write his book until six years later. ISO then went on to create ISO/TS 16949 specifically for the automotive industry in 1999, and Johnson has never written anything about that standard. Given the 16949 standard is, again, aimed at car manufacturers, the fact that Johnson doesn’t seem to know anything about it debunks his claims of being some auto manufacturing guru.

Johnson went on to have his candidacy thrown out after officials in Michigan threw out over 9,000 of his ballot signatures, with nearly 7,000 of those deemed fraudulent. Johnson tried to sue, claiming his rights were violated, but never succeeded.

A Pattern of Shadiness

Such shenanigans are just another normal day for Johnson, who built his ISO 9001 certification empire initially by violating conflict of interest rules which disallow certifiers from certifying their own work. In the beginning, Perry Johnson Registrars (PJR) would provide both ISO 9001 consulting and certification for the same client, allowing Johnson the distinction of having created the world’s first ISO certificate mill. When faced with pressure from accreditation and oversight bodies, Johnson eventually relented and split his company into two: he sold Perry Johnson Registrars, but retained control over a new consulting company, Perry Johnson Inc. (PJI). Eventually, other Perry-branded companies followed, such as Perry Johnson Laboratory Accreditation and Perry Johnson Registrars Food Safety.

Johnson’s unyielding narcissism meant he demanded that his name appears on all the companies, despite not owning some of them. To Johnson, it was more important that his name was on the building, even as that continues — to this day — to make it look like he’s running the world’s largest certificate mill.

The “mill problem” has hurt Perry Johnson Registrars, which has tried — under the leadership of Terry Boboige, who took over after the split — to overcome the reputation of PJR as a hack registrar. To some degree, it has succeeded, too, although some of that success can be attributed to the fact that the rest of the industry has since descended to ethical lows that Johnson could only have fantasized about. Now, the supposedly buttoned-up, stuffy bodies that once forced Johnson to split his companies have since learned to profit from the very same conflicts of interest they once berated him for. These days, the entire ISO certification scheme is now one giant pay-to-play mess. The claims made about PJR — that they “go easy” on clients who use consulting from other PJ companies — pale in comparison to, say, Bureau Veritas’ continued support of companies found guilty of international bribery, or BSI setting potentially fraudulent “nonconformity quotas” for its auditors.

But rather than try this new reality to clear his name, Johnson can’t stop stepping in it. In fact, his entire “empire” was built on avoiding ethics to whatever extent possible. His telemarketing teams relied on prison labor — the only legal form of slavery in the US — and he was sued under one of the US’ first junk-fax laws. It’s also widely understood that in the US market, at least, Perry Johnson Registrars is one of the lowest-paying certification bodies for industry auditors, attracting generally low-quality auditors.

So when Johnson falsely tried to take credit for the US automotive industry, it was no surprise. This is a narcissist who probably believes his own mythology, and is blind to any criticism.

As a result, it makes total sense that Johnson learned nothing from his failed Michigan campaign, and now wants to jump on the Republican Party’s current disarray to run as another Trump. And, predictably, Johnson immediately shoved his foot into those glaring teeth. During a speech at CPAC, the far-right political action committee, Johnson claimed, “I am pro-life, I am pro-Second Amendment, I am pro-freedom and, let’s face it, I am anti-China.”

But… are you, though?

The China Connection

Perry Johnson Registrars has a very significant presence in China. In fact, they have an entire website aimed at that market, written in Mandarin, and using the “.cn” domain name suffix:

Let’s be clear about facts, however. Whois information shows the domain was registered first in 2019, and while PJR did have a presence in China before then, there’s no evidence they did much work in China while Johnson himself was still its owner. The China operation grew largely under Boboige, not Johnson.

Official post on PJR website announcing accreditation by China’s CNCA, which is

But it is not going to matter.

First of all, it’s assumed that the Boboige / Johnson connection remains and that while Boboige runs PJR, he’s so close to Johnson that if Perry calls, Terry jumps. Whether that is true or not would likely come out during a Presidential campaign if journalists started poking.¬† A question to ask, of course, is whether PJR pays Johnson any money for the use of his name, and if so, where does the money come from?

But the real threat comes from the fact that Johnson is running as a MAGA-styled Republican, appealing to voters who rely on conspiracy theories and eschew facts. It’s a safe bet that Johnson’s competitors — who will include Donald Trump himself — are going to claim that his anti-China rhetoric is hypocritical. They are going to say he’s running an entire company in China, and throw his claims of having created the US automotive industry, only to export that expertise to help Chinese car manufacturers.

Making matters worse, PJR is accredited in China by CNCA, which boasts of having been founded by the Chinese Communist Party’s “State Council,” and features Chinese President Ji Xingping proudly on its website:

Then, of course, there’s the problem that all the ISO certification bodies, including PJR, operate under the IAF, which — until¬† 2021 — had CCP member Xiao Jianhua as its Chair. For over a decade, the IAF was used to promote official CCP trade policies. In the US, PJR is accredited by ANAB, which acts as the IAF’s official accounting body, filing the organization’s IRS filings each year. So the ties between PJR and China branch out in multiple directions.

Critics will also point to the fact that PJR is literally accredited to issue automotive industry certifications, such as IATF 16494, in China. Meaning the Johnson name appears on quality certificates for manufacturers competing against the US market Johnson now claims he supports. This is the risk Johnson creates for himself by leaning so heavily into the auto industry.

Then there’s the awkward fact that the PJR websites — including the US version — have a handful of blog entries supporting Chinese trade activities, and aren’t exactly critical of them.

Put together, this means Perry Johnson’s critics will point out that his “empire” relies on the goodwill of both China and officials within the Chinese Communist Party. And those critics won’t be wrong.

(Given Trump’s inclination to punch below the beltline, Johnson may find himself answering new questions about those photos from the 80s and 90s where Johnson appears airbrushed, slathered with makeup. This is red meat for a MAGA party that emphasizes masculinity above all.)

So, again, while Johnson himself may not have led to the growth of the PJ companies in China, which now help export US know-how and credibility to that country, he’s going to have to make a choice: demand his name be stripped from the companies, or face a flood of criticism for being a pro-China industrialist who helps destroy US companies, not create them. It’s impossible, however, that his narcissism would allow that to happen.

Meanwhile, the PJ companies face a challenge they probably never anticipated. In the coming months, Johnson is going to try to out-Trump Trump, no doubt railing against gays, diversity, unions, immigrants, liberals, abortion, and all the other divisive culture-war trademarks of today’s Republican Party. The result will be a massive Johnson-branded shitstorm, affecting everything with his name on it. Companies will have to decide whether having the Perry Johnson name on their certificate will be worth the PR nightmare, especially given how easy it is to switch ISO certification bodies.

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.

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