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I recently sent the following email:

"Mr. Bahar Gidwani,

Your Bridge Winners article "Big Ideas" gave much hope for transparency, but in the meantime there have been disquieting allegations made. The first such was in a Jan. 21 Bridge Winners article "Conflict of Interest”. The allegations made there were not addressed by the ACBL, but Steve Weinstein posted "Jay (Whipple) had committed to going into the well back in December. He is scheduled for March 1. I am sure he will be happy to answer any and all questions."

Well, that article has come and gone. Allegations were made in that article at https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/in-the-well-jay-whipple/?cj=620423#c620423. They are too long to include in toto, but Jay Whipple's reply is not too long, he said:

"If you feel these allegations are true the correct procedure is to send these concerns directly to the Audit Chairman. Casting such aspersion to the general public could be considered libelous."

It seems likely Nicolas Hammond has a business interest but that doesn't make his allegations any less disturbing. Any one of these allegations could be serious if true, more than one even worse. At best, there is the appearance of impropriety, the appearance of poor business practice, at worst not the appearance, rather the actuality.

There was some discussion that these matters are of inconsequential value. It seems to me the fact that (at least) one other entity is interested strongly suggests that there is indeed some perceived value (direct or indirect).

I think I am not alone in wanting the ACBL to look upon this as an opportunity to demonstrate transparency as a policy rather than just a slogan, a catch phrase. Of course, the devil is in the details. How the ACBL can appropriately respond to its membership is above my pay grade and better left to the professionals.

By the way, I intend to share this email with Bridge Winners readers. If you choose to respond directly to me and do not wish me to share any or all of your response, please so advise me.

Thank You,

Michael Kopera (ACBL No)

PS: I tried, but was unable to find any information about the “Audit Chairman” or for that matter any Audit Committee (and its members), hence the email to you."

The article continues on the following pages (which include the allegations for the reader's convenience)...

I’ve copied the allegations from the emailed link on the following 8 pages, 1 page per allegation. I will create a comment for each allegation in the hope that comments about specific allegations will be placed in the appropriate discussion (realizing that hope is unlikely to be fulfilled).

Why am I posting this? It is in the hope that other members are likewise concerned, that they are willing to express that as well. I addressed the email to ceo@acbl.org and Bahar.gidwani@acbl.org. I believe Bridge Winners private messages could be addressed to user “Bahar Gidwani”.

Are these allegations true or false, meaningful or meaningless? I don’t know, but I sure would like to. If there is nothing nefarious, let’s clear it up. If there is something nefarious, let’s clean it up. Now…not later, not much later, not never.

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 1:

You are the sole owner of a for-profit Florida based corporation called Bridge Finesse, LLC. Bridge Finesse offers an umbrella of products including Fast Results, The Common Game, Rank up, REACH. Bridge Finesse LLC is currently operated on the fremium model, similarly to Facebook.

You famously have no contract between your company and ACBL however, your Bridge Finesse LLC has access to the ACBL Member Database in order to be able to offer Rank-Up Helper. You have access to all the youth members, but have no stated privacy policy on Bridge Finesse LLC site on how you handle any of their personal information (PII). No other company is allowed access to the ACBL database without a signed agreement with ACBL.

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 2:

In August of last year, the ACBL stopped all companies from providing software services to Tournaments until they had been certified by ACBL. My company was one of them. The edict came from ACBL HQ. As of today, ACBL still has not defined what the certification program or process is, how it will work, or what a software vendor will need to do to complete certification. I have not been allowed to market any service to ACBL Tournaments since August.

There is, however, one company has been allowed to continue to market its services to tournaments without certification - Bridge Finesse LLC.

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 3:

At the last NABC in San Diego, several companies, including mine, were invited to showcase technical solutions. Bridgescore+ did a KO and a Swiss. Did everything that was asked of it. I was told that it would be used again in Philadelphia as everything worked great. I have just been informed that we are not allowed to showcase anything in Philadelphia. This is your first NABC as President and your first NABC is banning technology showcases. There is one exception - Bridge Finesse LLC will still be allowed to have its products and services used at the NABC. Bridge Finesse LLC's products have not undergone certification because there is still no certification process.

Your first NABC is banning all other technology vendors, except those that are run by your company. (this sentence moved by me for consolidation)

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 4:

Your company has been awarded at least three no-bid contracts by ACBL over the last 3+ years. Other vendors only hear about them after they are awarded. The result is ACBL now has over a million links on its web site promoting your company. Some of these contracts were software that ACBL should have developed in-house IMHO.

ACBL now has over 1,200,000 links on its web site to your private company. It was more, but I complained last year. As a result, over 400,000 links to your private company were removed. Followed by a letter from the ACBL outside lawyers. Clearly if there was nothing inappropriate, these links would not have been removed. It seems a nerve was hit. (This paragraph moved here by me)

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 5:

You have voted on funding (or not) for Technology items for ACBL. At the same time, you could then use the information about what would, or would not, be developed to offer your own solutions. Other vendors are not made aware of what specific items are, or are not, being developed by ACBL.

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 6:

As the Chair of the ACBL Technology Committee, you have had access to internal proprietary ACBL software. Some of this software was transferred to Bridge Finesse LLC, and used to speed up the prototyping some of your offerings.

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 7:

The February REACH program was only allowed at clubs that ran The Common Game. There was no notice that this was run by a for-profit company owned by the President of ACBL. In fact, ACBL went to great lengths to hide this information. But, players who wanted to participate in REACH could only do so if they registered with your company. Clubs who wanted to participate had to sign up with The Common Game and register with your company. The marketing benefit for your company was huge - ACBL ran banner ads, full page articles etc. - all directing players and clubs to your private company. It was probably unclear to the majority of players/clubs that signed up that they were signing up with a for-profit company in Florida that provided no information on what they will do in the future with that data. There was no notice, that subsequent to the REACH, that Bridge Finesse would delete all the data it had collected.

I asked ACBL if I could also run a REACH program. I have all the technology. After all, ACBL would "welcome more new products". I was told that the ACBL Board only authorized this program to be run by Bridge Finesse and that other companies are not allowed. In other words, it is an exclusive deal. Another no bid contract.

In your first two months of Presidency, REACH has been heavily promoted and sent a lot more data to your company. It is an exclusive agreement, no other vendors need apply. There are no details of how much you have paid ACBL for this agreement. Member data and the aggregation of member data is incredibly valuable - as you know - so it surprising why ACBL has links on its web site taking them off that site and to your for-profit company.

Nicolas Hammond Allegation 8:

I think it is great that you are willing to develop software. But you cannot own a for-profit private company, and be the ACBL President at the same time, and pretend that the decisions that are being made are for the benefits of ACBL members, and not for the benefit of your company.

I think you should resign and compete with your products on the same level playing field as everyone else.

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