As reported previously by Oxebridge, the new Chairman of the US Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC 176 (or “US TAG”) has a resume problem. Paul Palmes was elected Chair to replace outgoing Chair Alka Jarvis, who was subject to term limits. According to first-hand witnesses, Jarvis personally asked Palmes to run, and then he submitted a form nominating himself, presumably to give her some cover. He was then elected in a contest that blocked any candidates nominated from the floor, and after the election it was revealed he had been co-writing a book on ISO 9001 with Jarvis all along. This fact was not revealed to the membership prior to the vote. Now both Jarvis and Palmes market their $40 book on the basis of their TAG Chair credentials; below is a screenshot from their author’s blurb on their Amazon listing:
Palmes, meanwhile, stretched his alleged credentials during the nomination process, adding experience that Oxebridge subsequently discovered he didn’t actually have. Overall, he added over 20 years of additional ISO-related experience that was either not confirmed with the sources he mentioned, was exaggerated and had nothing to do with ISO standards at all, or was directly contradicted by the companies he named. In some cases, Palmes claimed so many years’ experience with ISO 9001, he would have had to have been working with the standard before it was even published in 1987. Even the Amazon blurb above is problematic, since there is no record of Palmes ever having been a “Certified Quality Manager,” and for him to be one now is technically impossible: ASQ dropped the CQM credentialing program over a decade ago, and replaced it with the “CMQ/OE” credential. His claim that he is an “active podcaster” is also disputed by the very link he provided, which shows he hasn’t published a podcast in almost a decade.
I spoke to an expert in workplace psychology who told me that serial resume exaggerators typically are not doing it for the obvious reasons — to gain employment over other, more qualified persons — but as either an addiction to self-aggrandizement, or as an emotional tool to protect one from criticism. Since Palmes has been making these claims both before and after his election, it doesn’t seem he’s interested in doing so for employment. When I asked why someone might “double down” even after being caught, the psychologist told me that since the exaggeration has become an addictive defense mechanism for the person, it is naturally where they return to when faced with a conflict. In Palmes’ case, it appears that he simply can’t stop exaggerating his experience, and when confronted, just meets it by exaggerating more. Then, surrounding himself with supportive “enablers” like Alka Jarvis, he gets secondary reward in that the exaggerating is actually working for him.
Likewise, I spoke with HR professionals on the impact of someone claiming over 20 years’ experience they didn’t have, and they confirmed that the number was so high it would certainly “resume padding” if not full-on “resume fraud,” and would be grounds for refusing hire or, if the person was already employed, outright firing. And yet, Palmes has been rewarded with the topmost position in the United States’ quality assurance field, a literal ambassador of our nation’s interests.
We reported on Palmes’ “resume problem” back in November 2015, and the TAG declined to comment. When this was then reported to ANSI, which oversees the US TAG, ANSI elected to do nothing, invoking labyrinthine procedures for processing “appeals.” A formal complaint was filed with the TAG leadership alleging election fraud, but the complaint was glossed over and processed directly by someone named in the complaint, an ASQ administrator who refused to recuse herself despite a direct demand that she do so. When this was then pointed out to ANSI, they again refused to investigate.
Alka Jarvis then promised to investigate election irregularities, but the matter was largely dropped and replaced with a report given to the TAG clamping down on campaigning by members (i.e., going against the leadership-picked nominees), and some fluff about member credentials. The problem of Palmes’ resume was ignored entirely, and has not been spoken about at TAG meetings at all. The question of how Palmes could have been the TAG’s “ethics expert” given such a clear lack of ethical behavior was also not addressed.
For his part, Palmes has refused to comment on the problem, and likewise refused to correct statements he made about his professional experience, nor step down from the position when asked. As indicated, he’s merely doubling-down, and continuing to exaggerate his professional experience. (No reasonable reader would agree that having published a podcast in 2006 gives one the right to say, in 2016, that you’re an “active” podcaster.)
So the United States is left with an official delegation led by someone whose resume and experience is obviously exaggerated, and thus the reputation of the US TAG and ANSI is deeply scarred. Why does this matter?
First of all, the US public and the US government should care. The nation’s official positions on matters pertaining to quality standards are being developed by not only an individual with a deeply flawed moral compass, but by an organizations — ANSI — that not only tolerates such moral misbehavior, but rewards it with material gain. Palmes, using his TAG Chair position, now gives paid speeches and publishes books and articles which put cash in his pocket. He has turned resume padding into a profitable business supported by the country’s official National Standards Body. Worse, ANSI can never say they were ignorant of this problem, since they were officially notified and responded by refusing to investigate. The problem is then literally institutionalized.
But it gets worse. The work done by Palmes for the generic ISO 9001 standard is then picked up and incorporated into industry standards that have a greater impact on the public’s health and safety. For example, both the automotive quality standard IATF 16949 and the aerospace standard AS9100 have adopted the language of ISO 9001 developed by Palmes and his cronies. If the US TAG gets it wrong — and many have argued that they have — it’s not just generic ISO 9001 user organizations that can be impacted, but companies building cars and airplanes and military hardware. Real people using products that carry them at high speeds in dangerous conditions. Likewise, other industries follow suit: surgical equipment, food preparation, information security; all of these stand to adopt language prepared by the US TAG, so getting it right is important.
And thus having properly-vetted experts elected through democratic procedures is important. Instead, ANSI has created a culture that allows cronies with financial ties to rig elections in order to maintain — and improve — their personal wealth. The concepts of “getting it right” to avoid damage to companies or risks to human life don’t even factor into the equation. If you think this is a stretch, remember that it was under ANSI accreditation schemes that the Takata airbag companies received ISO certifications, and nevertheless wound up killing people.
On the international stage, the US has become a joke within the ISO Technical Committee 176. Perhaps that’s a saving grace for now, since it means that Palmes’ ability to have the US positions incorporated into standards is weakened; if he bungles it, it may not matter because the Europeans will just ignore the US input anyway, as they did to some extent under Jarvis. This does mean, however, that any good ideas proposed by TAG members beneath Palmes won’t gain traction with the ISO mothership, since Palmes’ name stands to automatically tarnish anything the US submits, assuming that Palmes would even be open to ideas coming from those beneath him. That latter point is unlikely, as I can attest to first hand from my dealings with Palmes; I would occasionally bring things to Palmes and watch as he ignored them and acted as a buffer so the ideas never got to the leadership. A proposal to integrate elements of the far superior CMMI framework into ISO 9001 was shot down by Palmes, who clearly had no idea what CMMI was.
But the problem is growing. One European TC 176 member told me that the “US are clowns” and that their often huge delegation is looked at as an “invading army of idiots.” At the last plenary, the US sent a huge contingent, almost every single representative of which was a private consultant; no members of the TAG representing ISO end users were present. Another representative raised questions specifically about the work of TAG leader Lorri Hunt, who – they said — appeared to be skewing US position to align with her own personal views. Hunt was called out for having chaired a meeting wherein she stepped in as a last-minute replacement for a sick delegate, and changed the tone of the meeting entirely, resulting in a pushing forward of a Hunt position which had not been discussed previously. The representative said, “Palmes is ineffective at running a simple meeting, so he lets Hunt run the show, and then takes the credit.” Hunt, who has labeled herself the “the top delegate” in her webinar marketing, seems not to be happy allowing Palmes to steal her limelight. Palmes can’t even get his lieutenants in line, leading our international counterparts wondering just who is in charge.
Tip of the Iceberg
The placement of potentially incompetent individuals into positions of leadership is only one problem facing the TAG: in addition, Oxebridge has uncovered evidence of potentially illegal fundraising, plagiarism, organized defamation and “doxxing” of critics, potential violations of the Sherman Act, and patterns of cronyism. Recently, TAG leaders have started falsely claiming — in public, under their own names — that Oxebridge “filed bankruptcy” and that no one should buy consulting services from us, a false claim that further pushes them into FTC antitrust violations. Worse, it now appears that leaders such as Jarvis and Palmes are working alongside certificate mill operator Daryl Guberman, who filed over 40 fraudulent Digital Millennium Copyright Action (DMCA) notices in order to get the Oxebridge website shut down; in those notices, Guberman filed — under penalty of perjury — that Jarvis and Palmes had authorized him to act as their legal representative while threatening Oxebridge with litigation. Originally, we assumed that Guberman was filing these legal papers without the knowledge of either Palmes or Jarvis — a crime in itself — but despite repeated requests, neither TAG leader would denounce the filings, nor declare that Guberman was not their official legal representative. Oxebridge is exploring legal action for the filing of the fraudulent DMCA notices — which comes with potential fines and damages award for each fraudulent filing.
That the United States of America should be crippled with an ineffective, disregarded official delegation to ISO is a national disgrace. That they may be engaged in activities that could create legal problems both civilly and criminally is unacceptable. ANSI should of course take this seriously, but they are too conflicted themselves, dedicated only to selling copies of ISO 9001 and other standards, and thus not likely to take any action which could compromise those sales. Without a full-on US government intervention, the problems will continue.
The US TAG leadership, meanwhile, must be held accountable. For now that means ensuring the public is aware of the problem, and that people like Palmes are openly exposed for their moral lapses, invented experience, serial exaggerations and financial entanglements. It’s not ideal, but exposing the problem is a first step towards correcting it.
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.