The home telephone numbers of 11 top executives of the Direct Marketing Association, which has waged a bitter court battle to kill a federal no-call list, are on the new registry, which would make them off-limits to those annoying sales calls.
The Courant found the DMA employees, and top executives from two large telemarketing companies, among the 50 million numbers on the Federal Trade Commission's anti-telemarketing do-not-call list.
The DMA executives, some of whom admit they signed up to protect their own privacy, did so even as their organization waged a legal campaign to prevent federal regulators from blocking telemarketers' calls to millions of other Americans.
Bob Bulmash, who has been fighting telemarketers for years through his website Private-Citizen.com, said he was not surprised to learn of The Courant's findings.
"Here we have an industry that, essentially, sued 50 million Americans in order to protect its own stream of income," Bulmash said. "But when it comes home to them, they don't want the calls either."
Included on the list are two DMA senior vice presidents, three vice presidents and four directors. Two individuals on the do-not-call registry were listed as DMA executives in the company's 2002 annual report but have retired from the organization within the past year.
Jerry Cerasale, the DMA's chief spokesman during the recent court battles, confirmed that his home number is on the FTC's list. But he insisted that he did not register, and he said he does not believe that his wife signed up either.
"Somebody is obviously trying to embarrass me," Cerasale said. "This is one of the reasons we've been against the Internet sign-up. Anybody could put your number on the list. I don't know if the FTC has controls on this."
Hours after Cerasale spoke to The Courant, a different DMA spokesman called the paper with another explanation.
Louis Mastria said some telemarketing industry insiders have put their home numbers on the list as an experiment, so they can judge for themselves whether it makes any "perceptible difference" in the number of sales calls they receive.
Also on the list is the home number of a DMA executive who works closely with the company president.
"I registered there myself personally," she said Tuesday afternoon, "for the same reason that other consumers have. I don't want to be bothered by telemarketing calls." The woman asked that she not be identified because she said she was afraid she would be fired.
Cerasale said the DMA has no policy prohibiting its employees from registering on the list.
The DMA went to federal court on behalf of its 5,000 member organizations last week trying to block new rules that would force telemarketers to make sure a number is not on the registry before dialing with their pitches for new credit cards or cheaper long distance rates.
The DMA's legal arguments won a postponement from judges in Oklahoma and Colorado. But following a storm of bad publicity, and a subsequent act of Congress empowering federal regulators to impose the do-not-call list over those legal objections, the DMA announced that it will ask its members to honor the list.
The list could go into effect as early as today. The Federal Communications Commission has said it will step in to enforce the list, because action by the FTC has been blocked by a federal judge.
Also among those telemarketing industry insiders whose home numbers are in the FTC's no-call database, which began accepting numbers this summer, are Thomas B. Barker, president and CEO of West Corp. A phone call to his home in Omaha, Neb., was not returned Monday evening, but the person who took the message confirmed that it was the Barker residence. Barker also did not return a call to his office Tuesday morning.
Steven G. Rolls, chief financial officer for Convergys in Cincinnati, also did not return a call to his home - made around the dinner hour - requesting comment for this story. Again, the person who took the message confirmed that it was the right number.
Convergys spokesman John Pratt said he sees nothing odd about Rolls being on the do-not-call list, as the company's business has evolved to emphasize taking customer service calls for corporations like American Express. The 50,000 "outbound" sales calls that Convergys makes each day are done out of a sense of obligation to its corporate customers, Pratt said.
"Take DirecTV, for example. If every now and then they ask us to make [sales] calls, we can't tell them no, because they are such a large client," Pratt said.
Pratt, too, has registered for the do-not-call list.
The Courant searched public records, mostly telephone directories, for the home phone numbers of telemarketing industry insiders, then entered the numbers into a page on the FTC's website that allows visitors to verify whether the number has been registered. The FTC does not collect the names of the people who sign up.
Jasvant D. Mahadevia, who retired from the DMA as a senior vice president earlier this year, signed up in July. He said he sees no irony in the move, and will be relieved when the phone stops ringing.
"There are so many calls I don't want," Mahadevia said. "They are disturbing my routine."
Courant Staff Writers Dave Altimari and Eric Rich contributed to this story.
A discussion of this story with Courant Staff Writer Jack Dolan is scheduled to be shown on New England Cable News each half-hour today between 9 a.m. and noon.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times