It’s great the complaint Case 1:23-cv-01051-UNA Document 1 Filed 09/26/23 (+civil cover sheet) is now out in the open, I just received a copy from Bill, there is so much in it. Let’s break it down piece by piece. Remember this is sworn testimony from Bill, if any of it proves false, that’s perjury and Bill faces up to 5 years in prison plus additional fines and probation.
The complaint could be made into a movie, it involves the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the NSA (National Security Agency).
I really wish the things documented in this complaint were rare in our industry. I do consider the litany of actions described in this complaint to be rare for one company. But as the saying goes, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” I think it falls on all of us to hold our industry to higher standards.
Here are some of my early posts describing TCR (The Campaign Registry), Kaleyra, and the messaging monopolies controlling A2P (Application to Person) 10DLC (10-digit long code) SMS:
- Messaging Monopolies, posted 19th September 2023
- Understanding the TCR and Kaleyra Part 2, posted 29th August 2023
- Understanding the TCR and Kaleyra Part 1, posted 28th August 2023
- The Campaign Registry and Foreign Ownership: A Matter of National Security. Posted 24th August 2023.
Before we get into the meat of the complaint, I want to provide a little bit of background on the protagonist, Bill Peters.
Introducing Major William Peters
Bill was the Co-Founder and VP Finance of Inphomatch all the way back in 2000, the first US intercarrier SMS gateway. Once upon a time SMS only worked between customers on the same carrier, SMS wasn’t very popular back then. Inphomatch solved that and was acquired by Mobileway and rebranded Mobile 365, where Bill was VP Finance and Group Controller through to when Mobile 365 was sold to Sybase in Oct 2006 for $425M, Bill continued in Finance though to the sale to SAP.
Bill joined Hook / Buc Mobile in 2010 as VP finance, then Kaleyra bought them in 2018 where he was again VP Finance. In Sep 2019 he co-founded the TCR (The Campaign Registry) within Kaleyra and was the Chief Financial Officer for the TCR as well as VP Finance for Kaleyra. Bill has a 23+ year history in the SMS industry, he is one of the best Finance people in the industry. Before telecoms Bill spent over 11 years with an impressive air force career.
Bill’s good name in our industry has been tarnished by Kaleyra. My motivation with this post is to shine light on this situation to help restore Bill’s reputation, he’s an amazing asset for our industry. To quote Richard Branson, “All you have in life is your reputation.”
September 2022: Major Peters raises concerns about TCR being complicit in election interference.
I’ve pointed out several times there are many issues with the current TCR solution. For example, a DCA (Direct Carrier Access), a text messaging provider having direct connections/agreements with operator(s), can link a specific campaign to a number, and with that information raise complaints of spam for that number, and close down a campaign potentially without the campaign owner’s knowledge.
Here’s a real world example of that happening that was covered up by TCR management, quoting from the complaint.
“In September 2022, Campaign Registry operations personnel discovered election interference aimed at certain Republican campaigns and in particular, the Kari Lake campaign for Arizona Governor. In September of 2022, someone using the handle “Forum83” and the email address Forum83@yahoo.com was able to ultimately convince the companies delivering political messaging to Arizona to stop all Republican messaging for the state for a couple weeks in September of 2022. Forum83 claimed it was all spam and played on the lack of knowledge of support desk personnel. The company that shut down the messaging was based in Chicago, but the support desk person who shut off the messages for Arizona was a foreigner based in Australia. Forum83 also interfered with Republican campaigns in parts of California during October 2022. Mr. Peters learned all of this (and received the emails) from Ricardo Cavero (TCR Head of Operations). Mr. Cavero ended up dealing with Forum83 directly on a phone call, and that is how Mr. Peters discovered Forum83’s identity.”
“When Mr. Peters and others learned what was happening, Mr. Peters asked Mr. Cavero to report what he had learned to Campaign Registry management, specifically to Soren Schafft (TCR CEO), Tor Soevik (TCR COO), Stefan Heller (TCR VP Business Development) and Michael Ford (TCR VP Operations). They told Mr. Cavero to let it go and not do anything.”
“Mr. Peters reported this to the FBI through his attorney in September 2022 and by direct interview in Washington, DC on October 20, 2022.”complaint Case 1:23-cv-01051-UNA Document 1 Filed 09/26/23
The election interference was covered up. This confirms the TCR processes are inadequate for political SMS campaigns. And worse the management of the TCR can not be trusted to report problems when discovered.
This isn’t the only method for election interference. For example, an employee is paid by a lobbyist to doctor Vet scores so Party A’s campaigns only ever achieve half the throughput of Party B’s. Come election day in a district of 100k voters, Party B reaches 40k more people, and of that 5% are influenced, that’s 2%.
According to Pew Research, over the 50 presidential elections that have taken place since 1824, the first election for which statewide popular votes were both determinative and reasonably reliably reported, there have been 187 instances in which a state was decided by less than 2 percentage points
We all should be concerned and demanding urgent action on political campaign management.
Which Carrier is on the Recordings?
Quoting from the complaint:
Mr. Peters was also made aware of discussions between a major carrier of wireless communications in the U.S. and Campaign Registry executives on their weekly calls indicating a plan to influence elections by ensuring that certain organizations did not have the same access to messaging. In particular, during one recorded call, Stefan Heller was discussing election influence with a representative of that carrier who specifically stated that they needed to restrict the “Project Veritas’ of the world.”complaint Case 1:23-cv-01051-UNA Document 1 Filed 09/26/23
Who do you think the carrier is? It can only be one of 3. Write your suggestion in the comments.
Framing by “Dumb and Dumber”
The computer fraud set-up of Bill is so incompetent, it’s surreal. Bill’s access to the IT systems was removed before the breakin. IT confirmed it was an inside job. Bill is a PC guy, never owned a Mac, and they used someone’s old Mac to fake a break-in on ‘Bill’s Mac.’ It’s like a scene from dumb and dumber.
Quoting some of the relevant text in the compliant:
“October 4 at 4:00 PM: Mr. Peters received notice via email that he was being placed on administrative leave (not terminated) and then all network access was abruptly cut off. Soren Schafft contacted Mr. Peters within a few minutes to coordinate picking up all company items in his possession.
October 5, 10:00 AM: Soren Schafft drove to Mr. Peters’ house and picked up his computer, files, and all company property including keys and access cards.
October 5, Afternoon: Mr. Peters spent over 2 hours working with Eric Simmons (IT) to change passwords and “password reset” information, including backup emails and mobile numbers for receiving SMS for all company related accounts.
By COB (5-6 PM) on October 5: Mr. Peters no longer had access to company accounts or any ability to do a password reset on any of them.
According to Eric Simmons, only he and Soren Schafft had the new password information, and Eric did not share the information with anyone else.
A Macintosh computer named “Bill’s Mac” accessed the company’s network without authorization on multiple occasions from Oct 6 to Oct 26, 2022. The computer logged into the network account for Bill Peters (firstname.lastname@example.org) successfully on Oct 6, 2022 on the first try and without requiring a password reset.
As of Oct 6, Mr. Peters was not terminated and was only on Administrative leave. This was a premeditated attempt to create an issue whereby they could fabricate a “due cause” termination.”complaint Case 1:23-cv-01051-UNA Document 1 Filed 09/26/23
What must Tata Communications be thinking?
Note the evidence in this complaint was provided to Tata Communications on July 2023, after they announced the acquisition of Kaleyra. The complaint lays bare what has been going on in Kaleyra and TCR since the IPO.
Remember my post “Understanding TCR and Kaleyra Part 2” where I stated, “I feel like a horrifically surreal The Twilight Zone episode has been described to me”? You can now read firsthand that Twilight Zone episode in the complaint Case 1:23-cv-01051-UNA Document 1 Filed 09/26/23.
Urgent action is required, the whole 10DLC A2P ecosystem needs a drains-up review to:
- protect election integrity;
- help the US catch-up with other developed nations in ending SMS spam;
- deliver a level playing field for all business communications over A2P 10DLC; and
- reverse the stifling of programmable communications / telecoms innovation with excessive charges and byzantine processes.