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Well, the wheels of The Insolvency Service do grind exceeding slow.

Cast your minds back and you may recall, back in December 2006, I wrote an article for a magazine, Writers' Forum, then owned by Writers International and edited by one John Jenkins. I duly invoiced, only to be told that since the issue in question covered Dec 06 and Jan 07, invoices would be settled in February. Chasing in Feb and March got me promises but no money. My sending them notice to pay up or expect Small Claims Court paperwork got me a cheque in April - which promptly bounced, as did its replacement, and the one after that. By this time, no one was answering the Writers International phones or email and I eventually discovered the company had been forced into receivership.

The magazine, Writers' Forum had been sold off as a going concern, without any liability for the existing debts - all perfectly legally. So I was one of a considerable number of people left unpaid, a fair few of whom had experienced the same series of duff cheques - all of which cost the recepient hefty bank charges, you should note. Add those on and I ended up £102 out of pocket. Not a sum to break the bank but still, aggravating.

So, anyway, I decided to see this through to the end, via the administrators and receivers. More out of curiosity than expectation of ever seeing any money.

It has been a long, occasionally tedious and not particularly edifying process. The onus has been on me throughout to find out what's been going on and to make sure my claim is processed. The case has passed through three different offices and I've dealt with (at least) six different people. I've had to submit my information three times and still got a letter telling me I must return Form Such and Such instantly or my claim would be disallowed, when I'd already done just that. So there have been phone calls every few months to keep everything on track - all at my expense.

Several of those were about clarifying errors, after a letter arrived to tell me one Julia mackenna was listed as an unsecured creditor in the information Writers International had supplied to the official receiver. Since I work as a company and had invoiced as such, I was a secured creditor, thanks very much, which gave me a chance of some money, whereas Ms mackenna was almost certainly going to be out of luck. That seems to have been a waste of time as that spurious and illusory claim persisted right through the process. I've just had the letter saying Ms mackenna gets nothing.

Juliet E McKenna, however, has been paid £38.47. So, less the £12 bank charges those bouncing cheques cost me, that's effectively £26. Better than nothing.

John Jenkins in the meantime, has turned into a tutor and assessor for the National Council for the Training of Journalists. According to Google, he's now an external examiner for various university journalism degrees. At last year's Winchester Writers' Conference, he gave a seminar on freelancers selling their work and knowing their rights. Oh, I was sorely tempted to go along and ask pointed questions about pursuing bad debts. But I decided that would be petty.

Nearly as petty as the way he blanked me utterly when we came face to face in a corridor there, hastily walking past and refusing to make eye contact. I learn he did the same to two other people present, who'd also been left out of pocket by Writers International's collapse. Too embarrassed to offer an apology, after making such a hash of running his company? Too arrogant, having cynically strung contributors along until creditors forced his hand? Who can say. You may make up your own minds. I can't help wondering how much of all this is known to those students of journalism now relying on his expertise.

Looking forward, I now know how to deal with The Insolvency Service. Obviously, I shall be taking very great care to avoid ever having to do so in the future.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
3rd Dec, 2008 12:06 (UTC)
Dunno - think maybe it is just petty enough...

or you could add a class for such events on how to chase payment for the freelance writer...
3rd Dec, 2008 17:23 (UTC)
Unless his role was more than editing, it's possible Jenkins was little more aware of the impending crash than the contributors, and may also have ended up out of pocket. Doesn't excuse his rudeness, whatever the story.
4th Dec, 2008 10:22 (UTC)
In general terms, that's entirely fair comment. In this instance, not so much since Jenkins was Managing Director, basically running the whole show.

And I have heard too many other unedifying stories of people's dealings with the company/magazine, which I cannot substantiate so will not be posting, which leave me disinclined to give Mr Jenkins the benefit of any doubt.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )