ISSA-International stood by doing nothing for over six months
There are few things more dangerous than a mixture of power, arrogance, and incompetence.— Bob Herbert, American Journalist
Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) Members are starting to turn on ISSA-International, its Board of Directors, and its Ethics Committee for its inaction and standing by watching as members were forsaken. The charges?
- Dereliction of duty.
- Ineffective leadership.
- Abandoning their responsibilities.
- Breach of fiduciary responsibility.
- Absence of due care.
- No confidence in the leadership.
The list of charges continues to grow as more victims have come forward to share their stories with vBTruth. The most surprising part of these charges – there is extremely strong evidence to suggest these charges have merit.
Several members have told this publication they will not be renewing their membership after their ISSA membership lapses and will not be participating in the association in any capacity. One member has shared they regretted their vote in the recent June 2023 ISSA-International Board election. If given the opportunity, another member would censure the ISSA-International Board and bring before all ISSA members a “motion of no confidence” to remove members of the ISSA-International Board.
From the multiple victims we have interviewed, ISSA-International was aware of these ethical issues for at least half a year. Multiple credible sources have stated that ISSA-International has known about these ethical issues, or was warned about impending ethical issues for at least a year, if not possibly longer. At least one source has claimed they warned ISSA-International over a year ago of an impending ethics submission related to fraud, corruption, conflicts of interests, and breach of fiduciary responsibility, however, they were unable to provide concrete evidence to support their claim.
One set of documents provided to vBTruth shows that ISSA-International received an incriminating complaint in March 2023 and acknowledged receipt of it, along with the subsequent artifacts supporting the allegation of fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest, and breach of fiduciary responsibility. Several of the same artifacts that were provided to ISSA-International are identical to what was provided in our original article during this investigation.
Multiple victims shared their concerns at the highest levels, including the current ISSA-International President, Shawn P. Murray, and the current ISSA-International Executive Director Marc Thompson. Multiple individuals have alleged they shared concerns as early as March, April or May 2023.
Reviewing all available documents made available to us by one victim’s attorney, multiple complaints were lodged and stalled procedurally because the victim’s name must be disclosed to the perpetrator. Consistently, multiple victims discussed and raised concerns to the appropriate parties, including the current ISSA-International President and the Ethics Committee that they fear physical and defamatory retaliation from the current ISSA-LA President Richard Greenberg. There are repeating response themes from ISSA-International that the victim must disclose their identity and become a target of continued malice, slander, and libel.
As we wrote earlier, Arlene Yetnikoff wrote on LinkedIn that ISSA-International was not taking anonymous complaints that were detailed and factual because “Several fear, with justification, physical and defamatory reprisals for speaking out.” (emphasis added)
Multiple victims have told this publication that they refused to file ethics complaints, escalate or raise the matter because they have justified fears of escalating tensions. Several victims expressed deep frustrations with ISSA-International to enable whistleblowers to come forward anonymously or confidentially. To come forward would mean their identity would be known to the ISSA-LA President, thus escalating tensions. These victims were seeking to de-escalate and resolve these pressing ethical issues. Not escalate.
A Series of Unfortunate Missteps and Poor Leadership?
There appear to be several missteps that have led to the perfect storm where grievances exploding into the public spotlight on November 30, 2023 on LinkedIn.
The first misstep appears to be the lack of a whistleblower policy. Since its 2007 tax filing, ISSA-International reported to the IRS on its Form 990s tax filings that they did not have a whistleblower policy. For almost twenty years, ISSA-International decided not to implement a whistleblower policy. A nonprofit organization is not required to establish a whistleblower policy to maintain its tax-exempt status. However, the IRS regards the implementation of such a policy as a sound governance practice. This measure serves to guarantee that the organization’s assets are utilized following its exempt purposes, promoting transparency and responsible management. Organizations such as OWASP have whistleblower policies that enable employees, members, and volunteers to blow the whistle and remain anonymous. Those policies appear to have worked as Richard Greenberg, David Wettenstein, and Haral Tsitsivas are no longer in a leadership capacity at OWASP-LA and OWASP-OC.
The second misstep appears to be the lack of foresight, failure to grasp the severity of the situation and emotional intelligence. Instead of promptly consolidating numerous complaints into a comprehensive investigation, there seems to be a reluctance to address the issue discreetly and privately. The unwillingness to make a one-time exception, allowing whistleblowers to maintain anonymity or confidentiality to expedite ISSA-International’s resolution of the matter, reflects a failure to grasp the severity of the situation. The ongoing approach risks have continued to escalate the number of casualties each month and threaten to tarnish the brand and reputation of ISSA and its members.
The last major misstep appears to be the lack of wisdom to prepare for this ethical debacle. One individual we interviewed said they warned of an impending ethics complaint. Rather than prepare, the time was squandered away. No whistleblower policy was authored. No revised ethics policy was authored. It appeared that the status quo remained. The time appears to be spent congratulating the ISSA-LA Chapter President for being inducted into the ISSA Hall of Fame and the ISSA-LA Chapter winning “Chapter of the Year” in August 2023.
It does raise a question – why was the ISSA-LA President awarded Hall of Fame and ISSA-LA awarded Chapter of the Year when there were multiple complaints and allegations of misconduct? Especially when multiple ISSA-International leaders have conscious knowledge of ongoing fraud and malfeasance since the first half of 2023.
Complicit, Complacent, or Cowards?
Is ISSA-International Complicit, Complacent, Cowards, or all of the above?
In our opinion, ISSA-International is complicit.
- ISSA-International is knowingly putting individuals in harm’s way by requiring disclosure of their identities to a perpetrator.
- ISSA-International is knowingly letting the number of victims grow, damaging their reputations. Many victims are leaving the Association.
- ISSA-International’s silence and inaction only serve to enable and endorse the actions of a dictator and his cronies in a banana republic. It has escalated to where the ISSA-LA President is presently in the process of stealing the election.
- Two of ISSA-International’s Board Members spoke at PlanetCyberSec on December 6, 2022.
In our opinion, ISSA-International is complacent.
- ISSA-International awarded “Chapter of the Year” despite knowing there are outstanding ethical complaints against chapter leadership, specifically Chapter President and Chapter Vice President
- ISSA-International awarded “Hall of Fame” to a leader who has outstanding ethical complaints and clear conflicts of interest.
- ISSA-International abandoned its fiduciary responsibility to do what is in the best of ISSA and its members.
- ISSA-International has failed to protect the ISSA brand, and its chapters utilizing the ISSA brand, thereby indirectly harming its members.
In our opinion, ISSA-International leaders are cowards. Those who are in the power of authority lack the courage to make hard decisions and act. It was easier to put the burden of responsibility on multiple victims. It was easier to pass the buck.