Since putting this post online, I've received dozens of questions about whether there's a class action lawsuit against Tate. To my knowledge, the answer currently is no. I don't think that's the best option, anyway, because given all the complaints by authors and staff of non-payment, I'm guessing that Tate has few resources to tap for reparations.
Instead, I'd strongly encourage authors to file complaints with the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office and with the FBI. Individual complaints don't usually spur action, but a volume of them may, especially if they are received over a short period of time. The Oklahoma AG has already received 155 complaints about Tate.
File a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office
Contact the FBI field office in Oklahoma City
Readers of this blog may be familiar with Tate Publishing & Enterprises--an Oklahoma-based publisher that describes itself as "a Christian-based, family-owned, mainline publishing organization with a mission to discover and market unknown authors."
Tate takes pains to depict itself as a selective traditional publisher that accepts "only a single-digit percentage of authors who submitted manuscripts for publication" (a claim that's a little hard to credit from a publisher that, if Amazon is to be believed, pumped out 3,000 titles in 2015). In fact, authors must pay nearly $4,000 to publish with Tate, with even more due if they choose to buy any of Tate's array of extras, such as "personalized author websites" and video book trailers. Tate also incentivizes author book-buying, by promising to refund the original fee once 2,500 books are sold and allowing author purchases to count toward the total--though only if made in bulk quantities of 300 or more.
There is no mention of any of this on Tate's website or in its videos. Tate doesn't disclose its fees until authors either submit a manuscript or request more info. For that reason, as well as the very large volume of complaints we've received about the company (many of them from writers who approached Tate in the belief that it was a traditional publisher), Tate is included on Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Publishers List. (For this and other comments we made, Tate claimed in a 2008 blog post to be suing us, but no lawsuit was ever filed.)
You don't have to take my word about the complaints, by the way. In 2015, Tate was the second most complained-about company to the Oklahoma attorney general. Many more complaints--not just about Tate Publishing, but about its vanity recording subsidiary, Tate Music Group--can be found online, including at the Better Business Bureau--where, despite 102 complaints over the past 3 years and what the BBB acknowledges as "a significant pattern of complaints", Tate has an "A" rating. (How do you get an "A" rating from the BBB despite more than 100 customers complaining about your service? Sign up to become a BBB accredited business and make sure you respond to everything.) (UPDATE: Sometime between me putting this post online and June 24, the BBB suspended Tate's accreditation and removed its rating.)
Tate got some unflattering news coverage in 2012, when CEO Ryan Tate fired 25 production workers in retaliation for an anonymous email about rumored layoffs at the company (the rumors were sparked by Tate's decision to outsource some of its work to the Philippines). Ryan Tate's nearly 20-minute rant, recorded secretly by an employee, went viral after it was leaked online. (You can listen to it--if you dare--here. You can also marvel at Tate's Employment Agreement, here.)
Now Tate may be in bigger trouble. Xerox Corporation, which leases some of the equipment Tate uses for its 24-hour-a-day printing facility, has filed a $1.7 million lawsuit against Tate Publishing and Ryan Tate, alleging defaults on re-structured lease and service agreements and on a promissory note executed to address previous debt, and seeking re-possession of $450,000 in leased equipment as well as a money judgment of $463,786.90 against Ryan Tate personally, as Guarantor on the promissory note. The full petition can be seen here.
The suit has spurred some local media attention, and Ryan Tate isn't taking it lying down. To The Journal Record (sorry--paywall) he characterized the lawsuit as intimidation. "[Xerox is] just positioning and posturing, trying to force us to sign some different long-term contracts we’re not interested in." To KFOR.com he downplayed the impact of the suit, describing Xerox as "really a small part of our manufacturing process.” To the Mustang News, he claimed that "We are in the process of filing our counter suits and Xerox is trying to force us to use their equipment for our shop on a long-term basis as well as they have failed to deliver on some major contractual elements in regards to service, maintenance, and equipment purchases." (Worth noting: according to this glowing 2011 "case study" on Tate's partnership with Xerox, Tate has been working with Xerox since at least 2007, and its production facility is set up with "all Xerox digital equipment.")
That's not the only lawsuit Tate is fielding at the moment. One of its authors, Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks, has filed suit for breach of contract, deceptive trade and marketing practices, fraud, and several other causes of action, alleging that she paid over $12,000 for a book that was published full of errors (twice) and never marketed. She's asking for her money back, as well as attorneys' fees and damages. Her amended complaint, which includes pages from her book showing the mistakes, can be seen here.
Summonses in both suits were issued on the same day, May 27. Tate has 20 days to respond. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 7/1/16: More trouble for Tate. Local news station KFOR reports that staff have been laid off from Tate's printing plant, and author complaints of non-payment are surfacing (Writer Beware has received similar complaints).
UPDATE 11/15/16: Per the most recent updates to the court docket, plaintiff Xerox has successfully re-possessed its equipment, but retained a cause of action for lease amounts still due. It has also discovered additional debts that weren't included in the original complaint. Accordingly, it has filed an Amended Petition raising the total money amount it's seeking from Tate to $1.89 million.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Labor has launched an investigation into Tate--an investigation that has spurred allegations of tampering from some Tate employees, who claim that Ryan Tate "coached" them on what to say.
UPDATE 11/30/16: Nobody knows the troubles Tate's seen...oh, wait, everyone does. News Channel KFOR reports that three new lawsuits have popped up this month: one by a musician suing over copyright laws (a customer of Tate Music Group, which also runs on a vanity model); one by memorabilia manufacturer Jostens, which claims that Tate owes it more than $13,000; and one by the property company that leases Tate its print shop (vacant now that Xerox has re-possessed its equipment), which claims that Tate owes nearly $20,000 in rent.
UPDATE 12/22/16: I'm getting a flood of emails and comments not just from Tate authors, but from Tate staffers in the Philippines (you can see some of the comments below). Here's what I'm hearing.
- Apparently Tate's Philippine workforce once numbered close to 1,000, but massive dismissals have seriously reduced this. The consensus seems to be that around 80% of staff have lost their jobs since October.
- Unpaid or part-paid salaries and bonuses; apparently corporate headquarters in the USA hasn't been wiring enough money to cover payroll.
- Staff complaints filed with the local Labor Department, citing salary disputes and dismissals without the required 30-day notice.
- Production halts and slowdowns have put books in limbo, since there's no longer sufficient staff to work on them.
- Resignation of high-level corporate staff in the US.
- Silence on these issues from corporate headquarters.
The Philippine staffers I've heard from are convinced that Tate can't survive much longer. Several have told me that they suspect that the Tates are shifting assets to a new company called Lux Creative Concepts LLC, which was registered in February 2016 by Ryan Tate's wife, Christy Kelley-Tate.
UPDATE 1/10/17: From the comments on this post, today--I stress that this is unconfirmed. [UPDATE:: at least one Tate author has received an email from Tate's marketing department confirming the closure]
"Tate Publishing has officially shut down their business in the Philippines today. Their main office in Cebu has been locked up by the Department of Labor and the owner of the building due to non-payment of the rent."
UPDATE 1/11/17: And another:
"I'm an ex-employee of Tate, and we were just at the Cebu office yesterday. Today is the the last day that the office is open, mainly for HR to furnish ex-employees with certificates of employment and other documents. The Department of Labor has officially ceased all operations and is taking stock of the company's physical assets.
We have been informed that, as of this writing, there is no official directive or announcement from the Tates that the company is closing or declaring bankruptcy."
UPDATE 1/12/17: More on the Philippines debacle from an Oklahoma-based blog that has published a lot of articles about Tate's shenanigans. A former Tate staffer in Tate's now-closed Cebu offices describes partial payment of salaries, non-payment of government-mandated bonuses, and other problems dating back months.
I've received many similar emails from Cebu staffers, one of whom shared with me the Department of Labor notice resulting from a compliance visit to Tate's Cebu offices on January 9. Findings:
UPDATE 1/14/17: Some Tate authors report receiving an email signed by Tate's Director of Production, Tim Kelley, claiming that Ryan Tate hasn't paid employees and "your book will never be finished." This email was reportedly followed, within a couple of days, by another email claiming that the first email was the result of "identity theft" and its allegations aren't true.
Meanwhile, Tate authors are receiving this, also--apparently--from Tim Kelley:
Things are fine, folks, just fine. Never mind the mass layoffs of employees. Never mind the lack of payment and non-communication. It's all just a transition.
I'd love to hear from Tate authors who sign up for the portal. Have you received any results from your "new support ticket"?
UPDATE 1/16/17: There's now a forum for Tate authors to share experiences and support: Tate Publishing Help.
UPDATE 1/18/17: The Xerox lawsuit goes to court on Friday.
"Meanwhile, it was unclear Tuesday who is representing Tate Publishing in the case. The firm's attorney when the lawsuit initially was filed was Richard L. Hasley, of Oklahoma City. But in September, an order was granted allowing Hasley to withdraw from the case, as he was retiring.
Hasley was replaced by George H. Ramey and William D. Tharp, of Ramey & Tharp in Yukon.
On Dec. 1, Ramey & Tharp submitted an application to withdraw from the case as Tate Publishing's representatives, as well, saying the Mustang publisher had failed to meet its financial obligations with the law firm."
And...uh oh. This is what you get at 12:53pm on January 18 when you click on Tate's website URL:
YET ANOTHER UPDATE, 1/18/17: I've now heard from several Tate authors and former US staffers that Tate closed down today. Two people have told me that it is considering a bankruptcy filing.
Remember how I mentioned suspicions that Tate was shifting assets to a new company called Lux Creative Concepts, LLC, registered last February in Oklahoma by Ryan Tate's wife, Christy Kelley-Tate? Well, get a load of this.
As many Tate authors know, Tate's Marketing Director is Terry Cordingley. Here's a screenshot, taken today, of the Mr. Cordingley's Blogger profile; it identifies him as Tate's Associate Director of Marketing, a position he says he's held since 2006:
And here's a cut-and-paste, also taken today, of Mr. Cordingley's LinkedIn profile, which identifies him as the Director of Marketing for Lux Creative, a position he also says he's held since 2006:
Draw your own conclusions.
UPDATE 1/19/17: This was just posted to the Facebook page of The Lost Ogle, a blog that covers Oklahoma matters and has devoted a good number of posts to Tate:
I suspect most Tate authors will find that last paragraph bitterly ironic.Tate Publishing ClosesBy Traci Chapman
What looked like a fork in the road turned out to be the end of it for Mustang’s Tate Publishing this week, as it closed its doors for the last time.
The news came Wednesday, just days after Tate co-founders Dr. Richard Tate and Rita Tate announced a consolidation of the company’s operations – the shutdown of its Philippines office and layoff of 50 employees there and a new focus on the company’s home base in Oklahoma.
Tate’s Mustang office employed about 30 people as of Monday, Rita Tate said then....
One of Tate family members’ primary concerns during the planned restructuring, and then as they faced the closure of their company, remained the company’s approximately 35,000 authors, they said. Work to help those authors make other arrangements was already underway and would continue as Tate worked with its attorneys to complete the closure process.
ANOTHER UPDATE, 1/19/17: Tate's website now claims that it's "experiencing a transition period." There are links to click; if you do, you're taken to a release form requiring you to release Tate from legal liability and from providing "any refund or monetary compensation whatever." For authors whose books have already been published, there's the option of paying (!!!) a $50 "processing fee" to get final book-ready files.
UPDATES 1/21/17: Terry Cordingley has deleted his Blogger profile and changed his LinkedIn profile. "I previously worked for Lux Creative Concepts as the Director of Marketing, assisting authors with marketing, promotion and publicity for their books. Prior to joining Lux, previously operating as Tate Publishing LLC..." (my bolding)
The bolded wording is interesting, because I've learned, via a former Tate employee, that Tate was issuing Lux Creative Concepts contracts simultaneously with Tate contracts during the final year of its existence. According to the employee, the Lux contracts cost a few hundred dollars more than the standard Tate contracts, and were for authors who wanted more media "extras".
I've also learned, via an article published yesterday in Oklahoma paper The Journal Record, that yet another lawsuit has been filed against Tate: this one by Lightning Source, to which Tate routed its printing business in June of last year (the complaint can be seen here).
Lightning Source, which alleges that Tate failed to pay for services rendered, is seeking $1.8 million: $722,000 (which it paid to Tate "for the exclusive rights to print and distribute at least five million, five hundred thousand (5,500,000) non-returned units of titles") plus an equal amount in damages, plus late charges. The lawsuit also names Ryan Tate, who signed a Personal Guaranty agreement by which he "absolutely and unconditionally guaranteed the full payment of all amounts due from Tate Publishing to Lightning Source".
The timeline here is...interesting. Tate signed the agreement with Lightning Source on June 28 of last year--after Xerox, from which it had been leasing printing equipment, filed suit against it for non-payment and threatened to re-possess its printing equipment. Tate was probably desperate for a cash infusion at that point; it's hard not to suspect that it knew, when it signed the Lightning Source agreement, that it wouldn't be able to pay. Also... $722,000 is a sizeable chunk of change. What happened to it?
As with the Xerox lawsuit (which is in court today), it's not clear who will be representing Tate, since both its previous lawyers resigned due to lack of payment.