What could possibly be more generous than selling your house and giving away half of the money you make to help the poor?

family-photo.jpgThat’s exactly what the Salwen family (photo left) decided to do, so their 6,000 square foot home near downtown Atlanta is on the block.

The Salwens have been featured on CNN and the Today Show, for their seemingly selfless generosity.

This philanthropic family of four has a history of charitable works, which includes supporting organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and community food banks.

But the charity the Salwens have chosen as the recipient for what may become their biggest gift, might be just a bit suspect.

The Salwens have announced from their Web site, “Through Hannah’s Lunchbox, we are selling our house in Atlanta, moving to one half the size (and price) and investing the difference in the ‘Hunger Project,’

CultNews has reported about the Hunger Project (HP) before.

HP is the brainchild of former encyclopedia and used car salesman turned “human potential” guru Werner Erhard, previously known as “Jack” Rosenberg.

Erhard concocted “Erhard Seminar Training,” commonly called “est.”

During its heyday in the 1970s celebrities like singer John Denver took est training to “get it,” a narcissistic epiphany that was part Scientology mixed in with a dose of of German philosopher Heidegger.

Est sold its series of seminars, beginning with an introductory weekend known as “The Forum.”

Critics called it cult-like “brainwashing.

After a series of public embarrassments in the early 1990s, Erhard went into seclusion.

The guru’s brother and sister then took over the privately held company, which is now known as “Landmark Education.

jh98.jpgOne of Erhard’s early and ardent loyalists was Joan Holmes, the president of HP (photo right).

Holmes was an Erhard staffer and once proclaimed, “Est training altered everything for me” (“A Look at est in Education” December 1975).

In a 1980 memo Holmes explained how est and HP were tied together, “Est graduates represent the state of transformation in the world, the space of having the world work for everyone. Four years ago the graduates took on HP and the end of starvation on our planet…”

The history of HP and est are inextricably intertwined.

Est supporter and past HP board chairman Martin “Marty” Leaf wrote in the HP newsletter Quantum Leap in 1978, “True satisfaction comes from the transformation of self realized by maintaining the integrity of Werner Erhard’s abstractions and generating principles.”

In fact, it was Werner Erhard who wrote the “principles and abstractions” for what is called HP’s “Source Document.”

Erhard stated, “The Hunger Project is not about solutions. It’s not about fixing up the problem. It’s not anybody’s good idea. The Hunger Project is about creating a context — creating the end of hunger as an idea whose time has come. As a function of The Hunger Project, we will learn what we need to know to make an idea’s time come; then we will know how to make the world work” (The Hunger Project, “It’s Our Planet — It’s Our Hunger Project” May 1978 San Francisco, CA).

But Dr. David Hoekema, academic and author of an article about HP published by Christian Century in 1978, criticized the organization’s rhetoric as “empty talk” filled with “estian terminology.”

Before trading spaces maybe the Salwens should consider such criticism.

HP currently runs on an annual budget of more than $13 million (see Charity Navigator).

Holmes receives a substantial salary of $251,453.

But despite her comfortable compensation, that Holmes might never have attained without her mentor Werner Erhard, the HP president has at times not readily acknowledged the organization’s history.

jcweb2.jpgHowever, HP Vice President John Coonrod (photo left) has openly admitted HP’s est ties in writing.

“The Hunger Project has never denied that Werner Erhard was one of the founders of The Hunger Project…Mr. Erhard encouraged participants in his programs to support The Hunger Project” (Coonrod letter to Carol Giambalvo February 5, 2003).

Coonrod and his wife Carol’s combined annual compensation as HP employees is over $200,000.

Coonrod says, “Mr. Erhard left our board in 1990 and has had no subsequent participation with The Hunger Project.”

But despite Erhard’s official absence, his acolytes appear intent upon keeping his philosophy alive through HP programs.

HP prattles about presenting “a new paradigm – a paradigm consistent with the end of hunger. The key elements of that new paradigm are…self-reliance [and an]…enabling environment.”

That is, “empowering people to end their own hunger.”

HP explains, “The work of ending hunger is therefore not feeding people. It is the work of creating an enabling environment in which people have the opportunity and empowerment they need to build lives of self-reliance…”

“Conventional approaches are based on a framework of thinking that is inconsistent with what actually must be done to achieve the end of hunger on a sustainable basis,” HP concludes.

“The Hunger Project believes that the strategies and actions required to end hunger must emanate from a new set of principles. These principles are derived from an authentic confrontation with the commitment to ending hunger, and from a deeper examination of what it means to be human.””Authentic,” “new pardigm,” “empowerment” and an “accurate framework of thinking”?

Sounds like “estian terminology” and/or “empty talk.”

arthousehlb.jpgMeanwhile the Salwen family isn’t about empty rhetoric, they are selling their home (photo right).

Perhaps the Salwens are Erhard enthusiasts, but if they’re not, maybe they should reconsider to whom they will hand over half the proceeds the sale of their house.

Giving away home equity to an organization that promotes a philosophy for a “framework of thinking,” isn’t quite the same as supporting a food bank that feeds people, or a charity like Habitat for Humanity that builds homes.

Landmark Education experienced another humiliating legal defeat concerning its efforts to censor critics on the Internet.

As previously reported by CultNews the private for-profit seminar-selling company some have called a “cult,” has been on what appears like a crusade lately, to suppress a French documentary from being seen on the Internet.

Host of French videoThe would-be forbidden video is titled “Voyage to the Land of the Gurus,” and it may well be the pièce de résistance, when it comes to critically analyzing Landmark.

The French documentary team managed to get inside the “Forum,” Landmark’s introductory weekend seminar, with the use of hidden cameras. The resulting reportage effectively peels away the company’s veneer of imposed secrecy, to demonstrate objectively how the so-called “self-help” seminar, resembles systematic abuse and “brainwashing.”

The televised program made Landmark look so bad; that the company practically fled France after it was seen nationally in 2004.

One Netizen decided to let everyone see just what a good a job the French had done, so the person now known only as “John Doe,” posted the video complete with English subtitles on YouTube and later at Google.

Harry RosenbergApparently, Landmark President Harry Rosenberg and his General Counsel Art Schreiber quickly sprung into action, managing to purge the film from servers, with bogus claims regarding the company’s copyright.

Such a frivolous claim would be like an author or screenwriter saying that to quote his or her work for the purpose of a review is a “copyright violation.”

A preposterous claim, which would never stand up in court.

Nevertheless Landmark attempted to manipulate the Digital Millenium Act for the purpose of exercising subpoena power thereby forcing Google to reveal the identity of the anonymous Netizen.

Shades of Scientology?

It seems that Landmark hoped to follow in the infamous legal footsteps of an even bigger purported “cult,” by using frivolous litigation to harass and hopefully suppress its Internet critics.

Enter the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet free speech advocate, which effectively thwarted and humiliated Landmark, ultimately protecting John Doe’s right to privacy.

The net result of all of Landmark’s bullying is a hollow settlement, which prohibits “John Doe” from posting the video again in exchange for dropping all litigation.

Fait accompli?

Hardly.

It seems that Landmark and its General Counsel Art Schreiber just don’t “get it.”

Once the genie is out of the bottle you can’t put it back again.

That is, the would-be forbidden video has been downloaded, uploaded and spread across the Internet like a virus.

In fact, it can now be seen once again on Google. Another Netizen has since posted it there.

Inside LandmarkTo see it on Googleclick here — (since deleted see follow-up below).

Foolish attorney Art Schreiber only added another humiliating legal defeat to his growing list of lost litigation, while Netizens gained another landmark victory for free speech on the Internet.

And news reports about Landmark’s Internet censorship crusade has spread around the globe, picked up even by the worldwide wire service Reuters.

The only genuine copyright claim that could be made legitimately would have to come from the producers of “Pieces a Conviction,” which is the originating program that actually made the documentary. And reliable sources have told CultNews that the French don’t seem to care.

Se la vie.

Follow-up: Once again Landmark has apparently persuaded Google to delete the “forbidden video” from its site. However, the video can still be seen through an Australian anti-cult Web site, click here. Landmark’s efforts to silence free speech defeated again.

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Werner Erhard 1970sLandmark Education, a for-profit privately owned company that sells “human potential” seminars originally concocted by “Werner Erhard” now run by his brother Harry, has created something of an Internet news buzz over what some are beginning to call a “forbidden video.”

As CultNews reported back in September a video was posted at YouTube that for the first time gave the public an inside look at what Landmark calls “The Forum,” its introductory four-day mass marathon training experience.

Harry Rosenberg, Landmark PresidentCritics for years, going all the way back to the Forum’s last incarnation under the name est (Erhard Seminars Training), have compared its version of “education” to “brainwashing” or “coercive persuasion.”

But until the French news report surfaced on-line complete with hidden camera footage from inside an ongoing Forum, no one knew exactly how coercive Landmark’s persuasion might be.

The French video demonstrates firsthand how Landmark breaks down participants through a combination of emotional battering and a commitment to confinement within an environment the company controls.

forbidden French videoAfter this news report aired nationally in France two years ago, Landmark packed up and left the country, closing down its once lucrative branch in Paris.

When Art Schreiber, Landmark’s long-time “General Counsel,” learned about the video being accessible on-line he took immediate offensive action to have it pulled.

First, it was removed from YouTube, then Google, then Daily Motion, and then the Internet Archive.

The French video can now only be seen either by downloading it through Torrents or visiting a page within the Web site “Cult Awareness and Information Centre” (CAIC) based in Australia.

Confessing at the ForumThe Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI), sponsor of CultNews, has also archived a copy of the program transcript. 

For those that don’t know much about Landmark Education and its history of harassing its critics, the company’s tactics are eerily similar to a more familiar Netizen nemesis, the Church of Scientology.

Like Scientology, Landmark apparently employs legal threats directed at those who dare to question the ethics and efficacy of its training and/or somehow pierce its secrecy. This can be seen through a procession of threatening letters, which if unheeded, may lead to the filing of a frivolous lawsuit.

Landmark’s hope, much like Scientology’s own litigation strategy, appears to be that it can wear down and/or neutralize its critics through legal fees and costs.

Using litigation like a weapon against its perceived enemies Landmark has successfully cowed critics, by what some have characterized as an abuse of the judicial system.

To better understand the company’s long history of legal threats and litigation click here.

So what’s happening now between Landmark Education and Internet service providers like Google fits easily within the company’s historic use of legal threats and litigation.

CultNews would like to offer readers a glimpse into Art Schreiber’s “bag of tricks.”

In October a website that republished the September CultNews report about the French video received a nasty email from Landmark’s lead lawyer.

Schreiber stated, “I am writing you on behalf of Landmark Education…I come to you with an important request to delete the October 4, 2006 posting of the commentary from…Cultnews.com, titled…’Why Landmark Education Left France.'”

Schreiber continued, France TV 3 referred to in this commentary seriously misrepresented our company and the report contained many wholly inaccurate and biased statements, as well as some extremely serious accusations that were totally and absolutely unfounded [sic]. TV 3 operated unprofessionally, using tactics including the use of illegally obtained materials, and in serious violation of the privacy of the other participants in the course [sic],” Schreiber claimed.

He then went on, “When this program was broadcast in France, Landmark Education’s attorney in France sent a detailed letter to TV 3 that illustrated the gross inaccuracies and libelous representations in their program [sic].”

However, CultNews could not find any report about litigation filed against anyone connected to the French television news report.

Schreiber then claims, “Immediately upon receipt of this letter, and having had the gross inaccuracies and libelous representations exposed [sic], TV 3 removed the transcript of the documentary from its own website and cancelled all future broadcasts.”

However, no public apology was ever cited or copied by Art Schreiber. And CultNews has found nothing to substantiate these claims.

The republished September CultNews article was not taken down per Schreiber’s request.

And the original report remains on-line at CultNews.

It is interesting to note that at no time in the letter does Schreiber invoke a copyright claim. What he is upset about is the critical content within the broadcast report.

This type of tactic is apparently standard Schreiber.

That is, make threats to publishers and/or Internet providers and hope that no one will “call his bluff.”

Schreiber has never contacted CultNews directly with a complaint alleging that anything within the CultNews article about the French video was either a misrepresentation or inaccurate.

Why not?

More about Schreiber’s history with CultNews later.

Landmark is getting quite a buzz over its most recent Internet censorship crusade, which was picked up internationally through an article in Reuters. Part of its strategy of legal harassment seems to be focused on finding out who originally posted the “forbidden video.”

Schreiber used a ridiculous copyright claim in an effort to compel Google to expose the identity of the user.

'Digital Millenium Act' protection?Landmark’s lawyer claims that the French news report somehow violated the company’s intellectual property rights by filming the Forum and thus showing excerpts of a seminar weekend.

Schreiber used provisions within the “Digital Millenium Copyright Act” (1998) to go after Google,  hoping the Internet giant.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called Schreiber’s bluff.

Whatever use there was of Landmark’s material it was “clearly for purposes of criticism and commentary, i.e., a non-infringing fair use,” stated EFF in its response.

This is not the first time Landmark has tried to force a service provider or Internet host to give up the identity of an anonymous user that has posted critical information about the company.

Landmark attempted to do the same in a lawsuit it filed against RI, the sponsor of CultNews.

But in the end Schreiber chose to dismiss Landmark’s lawsuit with prejudice rather than go forward in discovery. This was done when the company realized, after repeated efforts to seal court records in the litigation, that everything discovered by attorneys representing RI would become permanent public record.

It would have been impossible for RI to successfully thwart Landmark without the generous legal help provided pro bono by one of New Jersey’s most prestigious law firms Lowenstein Sandler.

Now EFF is following in the footsteps of the New Jersey attorneys Peter Skolnik and Michael Norwick, who effectively forced Landmark to either “put up or shut up.”

That is, Landmark was forced legally to either demonstrate the validity of its defamation claims, which meant ultimately releasing any internal documents regarding complaints, personal injuries, past litigation and/or legal threats, or shut down the lawsuit.

Landmark and its counsel Schreiber decided to “cut and run.”

Of course Schreiber attempted to spin his legal defeat into a strategic retreat,  somehow due to a recent court ruling about the limits of vicarious liability for the hosts of message boards.

However, the RI message board was actually only a small part of Landmark’s overall lawsuit, which included many other claims.

Throughout the litigation Landmark’s lawyers repeatedly attempted to pierce without any success, the protection provided by RI to anonymous critics of its programs.

In Landmark’s latest effort against Google it is once again attempting to pierce the anonymity of a critic posting on the Internet.

Landmark hopes it can thus intimidate critics and/or potential critics on the Internet.

Ultimately, what Landmark wants, is to censor the Internet as it sees fit.

Landmark’s effort to purge the “forbidden video,” has now extended to Australia and even threatened a relatively obscure website operator in Europe, simply because he provided a link to the Australian site where the French video can still be seen.

EFF recently stated, “Landmark’s Australian lawyers entered the picture with a cease and desist letter of their own, sent to CAIC’s ISP Studio Solutions, and still asserting the same tired copyright claim. While Australian copyright law is different that the US, it doesn’t give you a copyright on someone else’s video.”

'copyrighted work'?“Large portions of its copyrighted work”?

Anyone interested should watch the video.

What is being referred to as “large portions” is actually little more than brief snippets of an abusive Forum leader castigating a participant and encouraging public confessions.

Hardly a “copyrighted work.”

Whatever words were spoken that might have once been written by Landmark’s revered source Werner Erhard, they would fall well within what is legally considered “fair use” as EFF has pointed out.

The relevant case, which set a legal precedent recently, is yet again another effort to censor the Internet by a group that has been called a “cult.”

This time the seminar selling for-profit privately owned company is NXIVM.

Just like Landmark, NXIVM claimed that its “copyright” was somehow violated when two doctors wrote critical reports about its programs, which were later published and available on-line through the RI database.

However, NXIVM’s request for an “emergency injunction” to remove the material due to copyright was rejected. First, by a federal judge in Albany, New York and later that decision was upheld by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

NXIVM attempted to have its injunction request heard before the United States Supreme Court, but was rebuffed, which effectively allowed the Second Circuit ruling to stand.

Essentially, what the high court concluded was that like a theater or book review, a report or analysis of a company program may likewise quote from copyrighted material for the purpose of criticism.

RI was represented pro bono by Albany attorney Thomas F. Gleason and RI Advisory Board member and Boston attorney Douglas Brooks.

The brief presented to the Supreme Court was prepared with help from the Washington watchdog group Public Citizen.

Despite legal threats by companies bent upon censorship like Landmark and NXIVM the Internet seems to have turned a corner in the courts. And this would not have been possible without pro bono help provided by attorneys dedicated to freedom of expression and the First Amendment.

Organizations such as Public Citizen, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and the  Electronic Frontier Foundation have provided much needed help to keep the Internet free and functioning as the “information highway” it was intended to be.

In another important legal case the Berkman Center helped the former members of a purported “cult” called the “Gentle Wind Project” (GWP) defend themselves against a harassment suit filed to silence them.

In the end not only did GWP decide to drop its lawsuit, but as a result of the litigation the Attorney General of Maine took a closer look at the supposed “nonprofit charity” and ultimately shut it down for making false claims, abusing charitable funds and illegal practices.

Former GWP members and defendants in the lawsuit, Judy Garvey and Jim Bergin, not only walked away in triumph, but also logged another legal victory for freedom of speech on the Internet.

RI also became a defendant in the GWP lawsuit, essentially for posting a link to the Garvey/Bergin site. Once again, pro bono help was provided by Douglas Brooks and also by attorney William Leete of Portland, Maine.

Ironically, companies like Landmark, NXIVM and GWP expect and depend upon a free marketplace of ideas to sell their ideas and/or wares.

But it seems when it comes to the concept of an “information highway,” these folks apparently feel it should be one-way street.

Werner Erhard 1970sLandmark Education, the mass marathon training company founded by 1970s self-styled seminar guru Werner Erhard (a.k.a. “Jack” Rosenberg), has apparently permanently left France and shut down its branch there.

But why?

Can it be that this for-profit privately owned company, which is currently run by Erhard’s brother Harry and his sister Joan and boasts 52 offices in 21 countries and combined global revenue of more than $70 million dollars in 2004, doesn’t think Paris is profitable?

Inside the Paris ForumPerhaps the reasoning behind the departure from Paris by the controversial company formerly known as “est” (Erhard Seminars Training), was a scathing expose’ aired on France’s Channel 3 TV.

Up until recently only the French viewing audience understood just how damaging this television program might be.

However, thanks to “You Tube” the complete program about Landmark can now be seen with English subtitles (click on the links provided within this article to see each segment).

What the French investigative report accomplished was a candid view of Landmark training.

The crew of channel 3 effectively penetrated the shroud of secrecy that surrounds Landmark’s introductory seminar called the Forum, by using hidden cameras.

This provided firsthand proof to the French about what goes on within the three days of training sessions.

Alain RothIn the first segment the audience is introduced to Alain Roth, Landmark’s former French director, who leads the seminar.

Roth subjects one woman to “public humiliation” before hundreds of participants and calls her an “asshole.” After being berated by the Landmark leader for about an hour she breaks down in tears while he insults and mocks her.

Forum leader abusiveIn this segment the audience is also introduced to some of Landmark’s jargon, comprised of thought-terminating cliches such as “racket” and “inauthentic.” Terms Roth routinely uses to dismiss anyone that asks him questions that he doesn’t really want to answer.

In the second segment a lawyer and “brainwashing expert” explains that Landmark “breaks a person” and he labels its methods “totalitarian.”

Sophie McLeanOn balance an interview is included with Landmark’s designated spokesperson, Sophie McLean, flown in from New York.

Ms. McLean attempts to dismiss the description that her company is a “cult” or “cult-like” and that its business is somehow based upon “brainwashing.”

McLean specifically cites a report that Landmark paid a French psychiatrist Jean-Marie Abigrall to prepare.

However, despite being paid more than 45,000 Euro Dr. Abigrall is less than positive about Landmark. He laments that Landmark’s leaders lack meaningful training and calls that “shocking.” He then refuses to take a position as to whether the company is a cult or not.

During segment three unhappy Landmark customers refer to it as a “sect,” which is the word most commonly used by Europeans to describe what Americans would call a “cult.”

One woman says she was treated “like a puppet.”

Channel 3 then interviews Jean-Pierre Brard the Deputy Mayor of Montreuil who once served as vice-president of the French Assembly committee designated to investigate and identify “sects.”

Brard says McLean is “lying” and explains that Landmark meets the criteria of a “sect” because it features a “guru who destabilizes people to enslave them” and “relinquish critical thought.”

Brard then goes on to describe Landmark as a “network of money” focused primarily on making profits.

In segment four one former student describes the long grueling hours of training, within a tightly controlled environment, which allows participants little time for critical thinking or “perspective.”

Landmark’s method of “education” is labeled “emotional abuse.”

Then an expert sociologist discusses the “structured” and “organized” seminar format that engenders “total power” for the leader. He also concludes, “the goal is to destabilize the individual.”

The “brainwashing expert” adds that Landmark participants are systematically regressed to a “child-like state,” that affords the guru/leader a “stranglehold.”

The fifth segment reveals that much of what outsiders might perceive as spontaneous about Landmark and its students is in fact carefully rehearsed. The so-called “graduation” event at the end of a Forum is actually a “well-oiled ritual” devised for “seduction” or recruitment.

A former seven-year member of Scientology compares her “sect” to what is shown about Landmark. She observes that the two organizations have a very similar approach.

Roth is called a “manipulator” who uses a contrived vocabulary “incomprehensible” to those outside of Landmark.

In the final sixth segment Landmark’s “volunteers” are filmed doing everything from working the phones to scrubbing the bathroom floor for free.

Channel 3 also captures firsthand how the company’s volunteers repeatedly call, some say harass, past participants to take more courses.

Hidden camera caputures inside lookNever before has what’s wrong with Landmark been so precisely captured firsthand on film.

At the end of the program it’s not hard to understand why the company gave up on France.

One French Landmark supporter interviewed by Channel 3 cries as she is confronted with the footage recording the bad behavior of her mentor Alain Roth. She then attempts to deny that anything is wrong, but even this diehard believer apparently ultimately finds the film footage undeniably disturbing.

No doubt Landmark Education will find the sharing of this revealing television program through “You Tube” disturbing as well.

It is difficult if not impossible to refute the stark evidence provided of Landmark’s inner workings when it’s captured by cameras.

During the 1970s Werner Erhard relied upon the secrecy that surrounded his seminar business to protect its practices, but now with the Internet and hidden cameras it is much harder to control information.

Erhard is now 70, certainly a wealthy man, who reportedly lives in the Cayman Islands with his long-time girlfriend.

But lately it seems he is concerned about his “legacy.”

A documentary titled “Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard” has been making the rounds at film festivals, which is focused on Erhard’s supposed contribution to the so-called “human potential movement.”

The documentary was done with Erhard’s full cooperation and produced by his former lawyer.

Don’t expect to see any of the French footage in what might be easily labled a “puff piece,” which paints the aging guru as positively as possible.

You can also see the 2003 French documentary “Inside Landmark Forum,” by downloading it here.

Postscript: Since this article was posted all the video clips have been removed. There is no longer any Internet access to the French television program about Landmark Education. All that remains at You Tube is a clip promoting the “documentary” titled “Transformation” about the so-called “legacy” of Werner Erhard. At You Tube it says “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.” At the Internet Archive, which formally featured the complete 2003 French documentary it states, “The item is not available due to issues with the item’s content.” Who do you suppose had “issues” with the content of this material and pressured the servers to suspend access? It seems that when some people can’t defeat the facts they resort to censorship.

Update: The video can be viewed and/or downloaded from Google Video.

Another update: Google has removed the documentary. But streaming video is now available through another site called “Daily Motion” click here. If you would rather download the documentary it’s available through Torrents click here.

Another update: “Daily Motion” also pulled the video, but now it may be viewed through the “Cult Awareness and Information Centre in Australia.” 

After an eleven day manhunt and with the authorities hot on his trail and closing in, fugitive and former Landmark Education leader Darren Mack surrendered at a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico reports The Reno Gazette.

Mack in custodyMack was wanted for the brutal murder of his wife Charla in Reno, Nevada.

Mrs. Mack, like her estranged husband, was very active and deeply involved in Landmark, a controversial self-improvement seminar-selling company headquartered in San Francisco.

Darren Mack was a multi-millionaire from a rich family that made its money in the pawn broker business.

Mack is also wanted for the sniper shooting of the family court judge that awarded his wife substantial alimony payments and child support.

Friday the former fugitive was flown from Mexico to Dallas where he was booked. Later Mack was taken back to Nevada where he was met at the airport by an armored SWAT van carrying five officers armed with assault rifles.

Once a rich man worth more than $10 million dollars Mack seems marked for either a long stay in prison or perhaps a death sentence.

Cultnews previously reported that at least one of Mack’s Landmark cronies posted a message to him on the Internet at his Myspace site.

That message said, “Darren, I know you from Landmark Education¦I just wanted to remind you about what you used to teach others – about integrity and completion of the past and affinity. Remember? You know you’re driving yourself crazy with all the things you’re telling yourself. You also know the only way through this is through it. I know you have the ability to get this complete…”

It seems the “only way through this” for Mack will be the courts and a prison term to “complete.”

Whatever “breakthroughs” he may have once sought through Landmark training to benefit his marriage, it ended in murder.

And despite his former stature and influence within Landmark, it appears doubtful that Darren Mack will ever be touted as one of the company’s “success stories” again. 

Note: Later in August Art Schreiber, General Counsel for Landmark Education, contacted CultNews to make a distinction regarding the status of Darren Mack and his history with the company. Schreiber said, “Mr. Mack did lead one of our many programs for several years but ceased being a Landmark leader in November, 2002…” 

Not content with making money from adults paying for its controversial large group awareness training (LGAT) the controversial company called “Landmark Education” targets minor children.

Werner Erhard, 1970sKids as young as eight were recently enrolled at a cost of “$700 a child” in Australia to go through Landmark’s “intensive three-day workshop” reported The Sunday Times.

40 elementary school children were signed up this month in Perth for the supposedly “life-changing” LGAT based upon the teachings of a former used car salesman “Jack” Rosenberg, who later changed his name to Werner Erhard.

Erhard had no educational or counseling credentials to guide him, but rather his personal experience dabbling in fringe self-improvement groups like Scientology.

He created a company during the 1970s called “est” (Erhard Seminar Training) that presented an initial introductory program called The Forum.

Est was reportedly sold in 1992 and was subsequently renamed “Landmark Education.” Erhard’s brother Harry Rosenberg and his sister now run the private for-profit company.

Landmark turned Erhard’s concocted philosophy into LGAT gold, making millions of dollars every month in fees. The company has never been bigger or more successful since its inception.

Landmark has a formula to make even more money.

First it recruits parents to take its courses and then the company gets them to enroll their kids.

This can potentially cause conflict, if parents are divorced and share joint custody.

A Perth policeman refused to let his ex-wife send their daughter to the LGAT.

A $avior?“It struck me as a money-making enterprise and I really thought that the three-day seminar could be quite stressful and draining,” he said. The officer also questioned why anyone would put an 8-year-old through something so “stressful or draining” referring to Landmark’s methods as “pressure-cooker teaching.”

But kids have become lucrative for Landmark, which runs programs in the US for children 8-12 and teens too.

Effectively Landmark has turned families into “cash cows” and has successfully milked almost 2,000 kids in Australia alone.

Landmark’s programs are controversial and some have called them “brainwashing.”

The company has a long history of bad press and it garnered some more this month “down under.”

Australian adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg warned parents “to be wary” of the workshop and called it an “utter waste of money.”

“If a child has a major psychological problem they should go to a fully qualified, government-accredited professional,” he said.

It is unclear what educational requirements Landmark requires or expects from its seminar leaders, who are typically neither mental health professionals, nor licensed or accountable to any government regulatory or accrediting body.

The psychologist was also concerned about “overloading children on the weekend” and he said, “sticking a kid in there for three days is pretty awful.”

Greg isn’t the only doctor worried about LGATs like Landmark.

Clinical psychologist Philip Cushman studied LGATs in the 1990s and published a paper after researching what he called “mass marathon training.”

Cushman saw serious problems for adults, let alone children.

In his paper titled “The Politics of Transformation: Recruitment – Indoctrination Processes in a Mass Marathon Psychology Organization” Cushman says that such “training is usually based on the belief that it is a universal truth that all human beings will have problems in life until they develop deep cathartic psychological insight, experience completely their every feeling, and live only in the present moment.”

Cushman goes on to explain that “according to this ideology all defenses are bad and must be destroyed. They shape their group exercises in order to uncover and intensify the participants’ underlying conflicts and deficits. Everyone must be exposed to these exercises; there are no exceptions. When all defenses are destroyed, they claim there is literally no limit to what each individual can accomplish.”

What the psychologist describes is reflected in Landmark Education’s repetitious vocabulary filled with buzz words like “breakthrough,” “integrity,” “transformation” and “completion” that become a kind of “loaded language” for its graduates.

Landmark’s spokesperson told the press in Perth that the LGAT enabled children to “gain clarity” and “examine their lives in a way, which leaves them empowered,” which gives them “a new freedom in life…[for] powerfully facing…risks and challenges…”

Cushman pointed out more than a dozen serious problems that frequently pop up wit LGAT groups like Landmark.

  1. They lack adequate participant-selection criteria.
  2. They lack reliable norms, supervision, and adequate training for leaders.
  3. They lack clearly defined responsibility.
  4. They sometimes foster pseudoauthenticity and pseudoreality.
  5. They sometimes foster inappropriate patterns of relationships.
  6. They sometimes ignore the necessity and utility of ego defenses.
  7. They sometimes teach the covert value of total exposure instead of valuing personal differences.
  8. They sometimes foster impulsive personality styles and behavioral strategies.
  9. They sometimes devalue critical thinking in favor of “experiencing” without self-analysis or reflection.
  10. They sometimes ignore stated goals, misrepresent their actual techniques, and obfuscate their real agenda.
  11. They sometimes focus too much on structural self-awareness techniques and misplace the goal of democratic education; as a result participants may learn more about themselves and less about group process.
  12. They pay inadequate attention to decisions regarding time limitations. This may lead to increased pressure on some participants to unconsciously “fabricate” a cure.
  13. They fail to adequately consider the “psychonoxious” or deleterious effects of group participation (or] adverse countertransference reactions.

Cushman warns specifically “as a result, participants and leaders may unconsciously distort their feelings and responses when reporting to researchers about the group or recruiting for future groups. This might result in a deceptive ‘oversell’ that could undermine informed consent and lead to unrealistic regressive expectations in new recruits, the specific type of problems that have been found to lead to psychological casualties.”

Landmark’s long history of personal injury lawsuits goes back to its old “est” days.

Many participants claimed they were hurt by Landmark and some sued.

In fact, Landmark is so concerned about legal liability that it now requires participants to sign a waiver, whereby they cannot take the company to court before a jury, but instead must submit to “binding arbitration.”

Essentially, this acts as “poison pill” to fend off litigation.

Does this sound like something that an 8 to 12-year-old child or teen should be involved in?

Landmark is good at persuading people that its courses are positive and that they somehow produce benefits.

In polling gathered through surveys often sponsored and/or paid for by the company, a high percentage of its graduates are convinced that they benefited in some way from attending the LGAT.

However, these are subjective responses about how participants feel, not objective results that have been scientifically measured.

Should parents and the general public be wary?

Is there something potentially unsafe about an LGAT like Landmark?

According to Cushman’s research LGATs can become “dangerous” when they demonstrates the following criteria:

  1. Leaders [have] rigid, unbending beliefs about what participants should experience and believe, how they should behave in the group and when they should change.
  2. Leaders [have] no sense of differential diagnosis and assessment skills, valued cathartic emotional breakthroughs as the ultimate therapeutic experience, and sadistically pressed to create or force a breakthrough in every participant.
  3. Leaders [have] an evangelical system of belief that was the one single pathway to salvation.
  4. Leaders [are] true believers and sealed their doctrine off from discomforting data or disquieting results and tended to discount a poor result by, “blaming the victim.”

Landmark’s own training manuals for its Forum Supervisors states, “a Landmark Forum Supervisor’ needs to be an s.o.b. for impeccability. You need to give up a concern for being liked…Be a destroyer…” and “Don’t ever let people move or stand up or talk before you have declared the start of the break.  Don’t ever let stuff like that go by.  Ever, ever, ever.”

Landmark’s own warnings and disclaimers in its application for the Landmark Forum states, “…people will from time to time cry or experience headaches, tiredness, nausea, confusion, disappointment, feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and hopelessness.  Some participants may find the Program physically, mentally, and emotionally stressful.”

In an article titled “Drive-thru Deliverance” a Forum leader reportedly told participants “Anything you want in life is possible that you invent as a possibility and enroll others in your having gotten.”

Those attending the Forum in Phoenix asked “why the rules [were] so rigid”?

They were told that “transformation” required following rules, and they soon learned that those that broke the rules might be humiliated and labeled as “uncoachable.”

Werner Erhard the seminar guru that concocted this LGAT claimed that he received a revelation while driving on a California freeway in 1971, he realized that he knew nothing. And the instant he realized that he knew nothing, he then realized he knew everything, and everything was good.

Landmark teaches a philosophy that becomes a belief system for its adherents, and some seem to consider it their “salvation.”

A man sought by authorities for the murder of his wife and questioning concerning a sniper attack on a Reno family court judge was deeply involved for many years in Landmark Education, a controversial large group awareness training (LGAT) program.

Darren MackDarren Roy Mack, 45, reportedly “traveled extensively to lead the courses” for Landmark. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that until 2002, Mack and his estranged wife worked for the privately owned for-profit company.

The LGAT Mack attended called the “Forum” was first concocted essentially by est founder Werner Erhard (a.k.a. “Jack” Rosenberg).

Amidst a flurry of bad press and legal problems Erhard reportedly sold out in 1992 and the company then became “Landmark Education,” which is run by Erhard’s brother Harry Rosenberg.

Four minutes after Reno Judge Chuck Weller was shot in a sniper attack, Darren Mack called his cousin and said, “If anything happens to me, don’t forget your promise — put out to the press the word on Judge Weller…The rest of the world has to know just how oppressive he is.”

Before that Mack reportedly engaged in an Internet campaign to discredit the judge. The respected jurist was presiding over Mack’s bitter divorce.

Paranoid delusions?

Darren Mack sounds like a madman, but his cousin told the press that he was “the kindest, gentlest, nonviolent person you would ever want to meet.” That same relative also told the San Francisco Chronicle that Mack could be responsible for his wife’s death.

Charla Mack, 39, was brutally stabbed to death and an arrest warrant has been issued her husband with murder.

What could have possibly changed this once successful and “nonviolent” person into a suspected sniper and wanted killer?

Charla Mack’s mother said the couple both were devoted to Landmark Education, which “was a big part of their lives.” Ms. Mack was a five-year staffer for the company and in 2002 was sent to launch its LGAT program in the Philippines.

“I know these two…It doesn’t make sense to me — it’s not who I know them to be,” said the alleged murderer’s mother-in-law.

One of Mack’s Landmark friends named “Gidget” wanted this statement posted on his Myspace site.

Charla Mack, 4th from right front row“Darren, I know you from Landmark Education…I just wanted to remind you about what you used to teach others – about integrity and completion of the past and affinity. Remember? You know you’re driving yourself crazy with all the things you’re telling yourself. You also know the only way through this is through it. I know you have the ability to get this complete – as hard as it’s going to be for you. You can do it. Turn yourself in and start the process of getting it complete. Get in communication, Darren.”

This “loaded language” filled with Landmark jargon like “communication,” “completion” and “integrity,” begs a question; how could someone as advanced in Landmark’s curriculum for self-improvement, end up “driving [himself] crazy”?

After all, according to Landmark its LGAT provides “major positive results,” and graduates claim they experience “permanent shifts in the quality of their relationships.”

What happened to Landmark veteran Darren Mack and the relationship he had with his wife Charla?

Landmark also touts that its courses will make a “profound lasting difference in the way [people] live their lives.

Mack’s life has profoundly changed, but it can’t possibly be the “shift” he wanted.

Instead, after years of Landmark training Darren Mack’s life is a disaster.

Critics of Landmark have called its leaders “mindbreakers” and described its seminar as an “extraordinary scene of humiliation and control” where its said that the course and its leaders must “break them and remake them.”

But what if some people are broken, and never quite come back together again?

In 2002 Dr. Donna Marie Anderson was charged with stabbing her 13-year-old son to death in California. Described as a “bright, accomplished and highly motivated woman” the 48-year-old obstetrician participated in “multiple sessions” of Landmark’s training reported the Pioneer Press.

Much like Darren Mack’s mother-in-law the doctor’s friends described her as “very nice” and a “perfectly normal-appearing individual.” Anderson’s sister-in-law said the woman that murdered her son “was not the woman we knew.”

At the time Landmark spokesman Mark Kamin said, “We have a requirement that people must be emotionally stable at that time to participate in our programs.”

Landmark claimed that Anderson was asked not to participate anymore when she seemed unstable.

Kamin explained that Landmark participants must pass a screening process devised by a board of psychiatrists, including a series of questions aimed at assessing mental stability before they are allowed to participate in its programs.

Kamin’s concerns are understandable given the history of est, Landmark’s predecessor.

In 1977 doctors warned about possible serious psychiatric disturbances suffered by those that participate in the est program. These psychiatrists alerted their professional colleagues about the possibility that such LGATs might have devastating effects on some people.

The psychiatrists may have been prophetic. A year before Dr. Anderson murdered her son Landmark participant Jason Weed shot and killed an Oklahoma mailman Robert Jenkins. His surviving family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Landmark Education.

In that lawsuit plaintiffs stated that the murderer Weed attended “Landmark’s classes” and that “Landmark knew, because of their prior experiences, that [his] type of disorder¦was a likely and foreseeable result of attendance of their classes.”

The plaintiff’s attorneys then specifically cite a supposed “screening process and tests” used by Landmark “to eliminate person[s] who were likely to develop mental disorders as a result of their seminars.”

Apparently, the “screening process” either wasn’t done or failed to prevent Weed from attending Landmark’s LGAT.

This is also not the first time that a Landmark leader like Darren Mack has been sought by law enforcement for heinous and violent crimes.

In 1995 David Grill, the executive director of Landmark’s offices in Dallas, sexually assaulted a Landmark volunteer. In the lawsuit subsequently filed against Landmark the plaintiff stated that the company “should have been aware, of Grill’s propensity to commit criminal sexual assaults with students from a time preceding his assignment as executive director.”

Grill was convicted and sent to prison for his crimes. Landmark later settled with the plaintiff for an undisclosed, but substantial sum.

Werner Erhard 1970sLandmark now seems anxious to erase any record or memory of the Macks.

Charla Mack can be seen standing front row in a photo of Manila Forum graduates, but her name has been removed.

It seems like Landmark wants everyone to forget about the Macks and what happened to them.

Landmark may also hope that hope David Grill, Dr. Donna Marie Anderson, Jason Weed and their victims will also be forgotten.

Perhaps this is because according to Werner Erhard’s philosophy there are no “victims.”

Erhard preached that we create our own reality and therefore are responsible for whatever happens to us.

This realization is what est and Landmark devotees claim as a sort of epiphany at the end of the LGAT, that’s when they say you “get it.”

So perhaps within Werner’s world there may be no mourning for the victims of Darren Mack, Donna Anderson, David Grill or Jason Weed.

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Cayman Net News “inaccurately claimed that Landmark’s founder lives in the Cayman Islands mischaracterized Landmark Education and its program The Landmark Forum, ” says Art Schreiber, General Counsel for the private for-profit company Landmark Education.

1970s photo of EST founder ErhardHowever, Schreiber has a tendency to carefully parse his language in a way that often seems deliberately misleading.

In the same statement Schreiber insists that “Landmark Education was not formerly known as EST (Erhard Seminars Training).”

EST was founded by Werner Erhard, also known as Jack Rosenberg a former used car salesman without meaningful academic or professional credentials, and was sold in 1992. Eventually the newly formed company came to be called “Landmark Education” and has been run ever Erhard’s brother Harry Rosenberg ever since.

And a licensing agreement provided payments to Erhard for his “technology” eventually paid by Landmark.

Schreiber himself is an old crony of Werner Erhard’s, an association that dates back to the days of EST.

Apparently, Mr. Schreiber has conveniently chosen to forget and omit this history so he can say that “Landmark’s founder” does not live in Georgetown as reported by New York Magazine in 2001.

However, this seems just a bit disingenuous, which seems to have become a particular penchant of Landmark’s General Counsel.

In fact, despite Schreiber’s effort to obscure it, Landmark has a deeply troubled history of bad press and persistent complaints. And the company has frequently been accused of “brainwashing” its program participants and its staff not so flatteringly referred to as “mindbreakers.”

Clinical psychologists and experts in the type of mass marathon training sold by companies like Landmark have noted the structural problems that appear to be inherent within such seminars. These problems have at times been linked to what can be seen as psychological casualties.

Landmark Education has also been sued for personal injuries repeatedly and in one lawsuit for wrongful death.

Art Schreiber as Landmark’s lawyer has often threatened media outlets and individuals with litigation in an apparent effort to silence his employer’s critics.

CultNews was targeted by just such a campaign of that eventually led to a lawsuit filed against this Web site.

But in a humiliating turn of events Landmark eventually dismissed its own lawsuit, rather than submit to open discovery.

Peter SkolnikThe following is an excerpt from an introduction to an archive about Landmark’s litigation. This introduction was written by noted attorneys Peter Skolnik and Michael Norwick of Lowenstein Sandler, a prestigious New Jersey law firm that defeated Landmark, and sent its lawyers scurrying from a New Jersey federal court.

“Landmark, like Erhard before it, has repeatedly used litigation and threats of litigation as an improper tool to silence its vocal public critics.  This type of lawsuit — typically accusing the defendant of defamation and related torts — is known in various American jurisdictions as a SLAPP suit: i.e., a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation; a lawsuit brought not for its merits, but for the specific purpose of silencing a vocal critic, often one who is unlikely to have the financial resources to defend himself. Given Landmark’s history of filing such lawsuits, it came as no surprise that Ross’s website would enter Landmark’s litigation cross hairs.  The democratizing effect of the internet has endowed this website, practically a one-man operation, with the same publishing power and reach as Landmark, a multi-million dollar for-profit corporation.  The popular search engine, Google, which ranks web sites by popularity and not financial means, lists www.culteducation.com as #2 on the search term “Landmark Education,” right behind Landmark’s own website.  Thus, persons seeking information about Landmark’s programs have easy access to both the information provided on Landmark’s website, as well as the contra point-of-view about Landmark often expressed here.”

“As was reported here nearly a year-and-a-half ago, Landmark and its related companies sued Ross on June 25, 2004, based upon allegedly disparaging statements made about Landmark on www.culteducation.com, www.cultnews.com, and www.culteducation.com.  In its Complaint, Landmark charged that allegedly false and disparaging comments made on Ross’s website and statements made by Ross to the media constituted, among other things, product disparagement, tortious interference, consumer fraud and unfair competition.  Although much of the material complained about by Landmark consisted of visitor comments, personal stories and bulletin board messages written by users of the website, Landmark’s complaint made the baseless accusation that these statements were actually authored by Rick Ross under false pseudonyms. Cited among comments about Landmark attributed to Ross were that:

    “commentaries accuse Landmark of hypnotizing’ and brainwashing’ participants, attempting cult recruitment’ and mind control’ and of constituting cultish-ness.’”  (Complaint ¶ 18)   

    “Landmark’s program make a deliberate assault on your mind;’ . . . Landmark’s programs are downright dangerous’ and destructive,’ Landmark’s programs are designed to make participants vulnerable to suggestion;’ Landmark’s programs have cult attributes;’ and Landmark’s programs are a form of subtle brainwashing.’” (Complaint ¶ 22) 

    “Defendants made false charges that Landmark participants endured days of bullying’ and humiliation.’”  (Complaint ¶ 18 (c)). 

    “Participants are subject to total “control . . . from the moment [they] are in that room.”’”  Complaint ¶ 22 (2) and “Landmark representative exhibited a reluctance to allow toilet breaks.’”  (Complaint ¶ 18 (j)). 

These are among the same allegations and opinions about Landmark that its critics have published for years, and for which Landmark has repeatedly sued or threatened to sue.  Indeed, Landmark itself has been sued a number of times for personal injuries alleged to have arisen out of its programs.”

The pivotal point in this frivolous lawsuit occurred when a federal judge “refused to stipulate to a protective order that would have kept Landmark’s internal documents confidential and hidden from public view.  Although Landmark took preliminary steps to have its training manuals and other documents kept confidential, (see letter) Landmark came to understand that the law has recently begun looking far less favorably on orders protecting the disclosure of evidence produced in litigation, and that if motion practice for discovery ensued, Landmark would likely be required to disclose publicly documents that it recognized would not only damage its case, but would further establish that its complaint was, from the outset, brought in bad faith.”  

Lowenstein and Sandler “learned from papers filed in Landmark’s litigation against Self Magazine that Landmark’s own training manuals directly contradict the allegations made in Landmark’s complaint against Ross, and entirely support the comments on Ross’s website that Landmark claimed were disparaging. For example, in their Complaint against Ross, Landmark alleges that: 

“Defendants made false charges that Landmark participants endured days of bullying’ and humiliation.’”  Complaint ¶ 18 (c).

But Landmark’s own training manuals for its Forum Supervisors state:  

“a Landmark Forum Supervisor’ needs to be an s.o.b. for impeccability.  you need to give up a concern for being liked. . . . Be a destroyer. . . .  ” and “Don’t ever let people move or stand up or talk before you have declared the start of the break.  Don’t ever let stuff like that go by.  Ever, ever, ever.”   Furthermore, in Landmark’s Complaint, it attributes to Ross comments such as: Furthermore, in Landmark’s Complaint, it attributes to Ross comments such as: “the Landmark Forum is a very stressful process that is not for everyone;’” (Complaint ¶ 41(a)); 

Furthermore, in Landmark’s Complaint, it attributes to Ross comments such as: “the Landmark Forum is a very stressful process that is not for everyone;’” (Complaint ¶ 41(a)); Yet, Landmark’s own warnings and disclaimers in its application for the Landmark Forum state: 

. . . people will from time to time cry or experience headaches, tiredness, nausea, confusion, disappointment, feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and hopelessness.  Some participants may find the Program physically, mentally, and emotionally stressful.”  

See, e.g, Application Form produced in a Texas lawsuit against Landmark in 1997, Neff v. Landmark Education Corp. Continued discovery in this case might have forced Landmark publicly to disclose the information and related documents that led Landmark to require participants in its programs to sign and acknowledge these disclaimers.  Much of what we uncovered about Landmark’s internal documents directly contradicting the allegations.'”Continued discovery in this case might have forced Landmark publicly to disclose the information and related documents that led Landmark to require participants in its programs to sign and acknowledge these disclaimers.  Much of what we uncovered about Landmark’s internal documents directly contradicting the allegations.'”Did Landmark Education and Art Schreiber attempt to intimidate and/or bully Cayman Net News?

Continued discovery in this case might have forced Landmark publicly to disclose the information and related documents that led Landmark to require participants in its programs to sign and acknowledge these disclaimers.  Much of what we uncovered about Landmark’s internal documents directly contradicting the allegations.'”Did Landmark Education and Art Schreiber attempt to intimidate and/or bully This has been the familiar pattern before. That is, when the private for-profit company and its lead lawyer don’t like something said and/or anticipate a critical article may be published, they have been known to essentially bully reporters and/or their publishers.  

CultNews will not be bullied by either Schreiber or his employer Landmark and the Ross Institute database will continue to provide meaningful information about the company and its practices.

Michael NorwickThankfully there are law firms like Lowenstein Sandler and lawyers such as Skolnik and Norwick that care deeply about the First Amendment and are willing to provide pro bono legal assistance to protect it.

CultNews and the Ross Institute have been sued five times by groups or individuals that apparently hoped to silence and/or purge this Web site of critical information.

First, in Arizona by the so-called “Church of Immortal Consciousness.”

Later, by Judy Hammond and her “Pure Bride Ministries.”

And also by the “Gentle Wind Project” of Maine.

Four of those five lawsuits were dismissed without ever going to trial. A fifth, filed by a group similar to Landmark called NXIVM has recently been moved from federal court in New York to New Jersey.

Lowenstein Sandler is now local counsel in that case, along with long-time pro bono lawyers Douglas Brooks of Boston and Thomas Gleason of Albany, New York.

Groups called “cults” or “cult-like” have frequently sued critics historically and succeeded in silencing some, such as the former Cult Awareness Network, which was put closed down and then taken over by Scientology lawyers.

CutNews makes this promise, to keep reporting the facts despite threats from such groups and would-be bullies like Art Schreiber.

A new database section devoted exclusively to Landmark Education’s litigation efforts is up and running. This includes Landmark’s humiliating defeat by lawyers representing CultNews and its sponsor the Ross Institute of New Jersey.

The new subsection contains interesting material obtained through various court files that sheds considerable light upon the legal wrangling, inner workings and business dealings of the controversial for-profit company that sells seminar training courses.

Peter L. SkolnikThe mass maarathon training that Landmark promotes and markets to individuals and companies alike has been described as “cultish,” “cult-like” and compared to both “brainwashing” and “hypnosis.”

Landmark, which has a history of bad press, complaints and lawsuits filed against it by past participants claiming serious personal injuries linked to its programs, has historically sued its critics in an apparent effort to silence them.

This strategy relied upon defendants either unable or unwilling to pay substantial legal fees and costs. This type of litigation is often simply called a “harassment lawsuit.”

However, Landmark was thwarted in its effort to harass the Ross Institute through the kind assistance of pro bono legal counsel and so it instead suffered a humiliating public defeat.

Now everyone can read how that defeat was accomplished and take a guided tour through Landmark’s litigation written by the very attorneys that caused the company for the first time to file for the dismissal of its own lawsuit.

Peter L. Skolnik and Michael A. Norwick of the prestigious New Jersey law firm Lowenstein Sandler have written an excellent overview making it easy for the reader to follow the often twisted path of Landmark’s litigation, see the filings complete with attached exhibits.

Landmark, formerly known as EST, was initially concocted by Jack Rosenberg a former car and encyclopedia salesman, who later changed his name to “Werner Erhard.”

Erhard reportedly sold control of his company to a group of employees more in 1991, but it has been run by his brother Harry Rosenberg and legally represented by Erhard crony Art Schreiber ever since. Some have speculated that Erhard never really completely relinquished control of the company and still remains a power behind-the-scenes.

The papers formalizing the sale of EST are now accessible on-line through the Internet in the new subsection, complete with payment records. Erhard, who is now an old man, lives reclusively with his girlfriend in the Cayman Islands at Georgetown.

Confidential manual excerpts reflect the seemingly sinister side of Landmark’s inner workings. Its training manual states, “a Landmark Forum Supervisor’ needs to be an s.o.b. for impeccability. You need to give up a concern for being liked. . . . Be a destroyer. . . . ” and “Don’t ever let people move or stand up or talk before you have declared the start of the break. Don’t ever let stuff like that go by. Ever, ever, ever.”

Landmark’s various apparent harassment lawsuits are detailed within the new subsection. This includes documents and related exhibits from Landmark’s litigation against Erhard biographer Steven Pressman, Elle Magazine, Self Magazine, Now Magazine, the Cult Awareness Network and its director Cynthia Kisser, psychologist and author Margaret Singer, cult deprogrammer Kevin Garvey and author Janja Lalich.

Also included is material from lawsuits filed against Landmark Education, notably Been V. Weed regarding a wrongful death claim and the Neff case, which involved a woman beaten and raped by David Grill when he was the Executive Director of Landmark Education in Dallas, Texas.

Michael A. NorwickOther lawsuits filed against Landmark that are also noted reflect a repeated of personal injury claims. Landmark appeared to address this by insisting potential participants in its programs sign away their right to a trial by jury if an injury occurred and instead submit to binding arbitration. 

All of this material has now been carefully organized into a virtual electronic library, which provides those interested with a historical inventory regarding Landmark’s legal history.

Hopefully, anyone legally threatened by Landmark in the future will use this resource for any needed research or due dilligence.

CultNews hopes that this information may reduce the unreasonable fear some journalists and critics may have regarding reporting about and/or criticizing Landmark Education and its course curriculum.

It should be apparent to anyone reviewing this material that Landmark has lost lawsuits repeatedly. And that any future lawsuit, which fits within this historical pattern of frivolous filings, should be viewed within that context by those concerned such as potential targets, concerned lawyers and the courts.

Perhaps as a result of its most recent defeat and the subsequent public revelations, Landmark’s operators will reconsider filing frivolous lawsuits in the future. If not because this type of activity lacks integrity and is an abuse of the legal system, then because with so much historical information readily available, those harassed may subsequently successfully seek costs, fees and sanctions.

Perhaps Lowenstein Sandler and its able attorneys Peter Skolnik and Michael Norwick have educated Landmark and caused the company to reconsider running what can be seen as a legal “racket.” And just maybe Landmark will learn a lesson from its recent defeat and take responsibility for its actions. Now that would really be a “breakthrough,” wouldn’t it?

President Bush used for publicity ploy by seminar-selling group?President George W. Bush presented a Volunteer Service Award to a graduate of the controversial mass marathon training group called Landmark Education (LE).

25-year-old Erin Green picked up her award personally from President Bush in Chicago. Green does volunteer work through the Boys and Girls Club. And she said this was “inspired” by a LE “leadership course.”

Landmark Education, which is a for-profit privately, owned company is in the business of selling such courses, essentially concocted by a 1970s seminar guru and former used car salesman, named Werner Erhard. Werner Erhard

LE uses volunteers for much of its own in-house work-for-free labor force and Ms. Green’s volunteer work for the Boys and Girls Club is part of a long-running and ongoing public relations campaign.

Paying customers of LE, in what can be seen as a ploy for free advertising to promote its sales, are encouraged or “inspired” to go out and volunteer within their respective communities garnering attention and giving credit to Landmark.

“In Landmark Education programs, I realized that one person really can make a difference,” Green gushed in a prepared press release that reads more like an infomercial.

While the LE-linked volunteers do good work for no pay, the company that is the impetus behind that work is likely to make some money through increased sales from the free publicity.

Typically stories about such volunteers and their LE “homework assignments” are written up in local newspapers, but this time Green getting an award from the President of the United States was like hitting the PR jackpot.

It’s doubtful President Bush knew that LE is reportedly known for “mind games” and “Soul Training,” culminating in something of a “Drive-thru Deliverance.”

Instead, he probably was told “Landmark Education is committed to the fundamental principle that people have the possibility of success, fulfillment, and greatness,” as a spokesperson stated within its news release.

However, Self Magazine wasn’t quite so glowing, but rather once relegated the company to the category of “white collar cults where personal growth’ means brainwashing.”

Ms. Green has successfully done her homework for Landmark, while President Bush may have unwittingly just been worked.