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IFA Takes No Action for Now against Conner

Franchise Marketing Systems marketing franchising services at the International Franchise Association Conference 2016
Franchise Marketing Systems at IFA's 2016 Convention

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – For franchising consultant Christopher Conner and the International Franchise Association it was business as usual at the International Franchise Association's 2016 Convention last week, despite the states of California and Maryland ordering Conner to cease and desist from selling franchises.

Why was Conner named in the state actions with his client when he was franchise consultant?

Conner and his high-profile franchising development firm, Franchise Marketing Systems, recognized by the IFA as a "Premier Supplier," was hit with desist orders by both Maryland's Attorney General's Office, Securities Division, and California's Department of Business Oversight, the regulatory arm of enforcement on numerous franchising violations. Following their investigations, the two state commissioners say that Conner and his client RedRhino Inc. illegally offered franchises to state residents, provided unsubstantiated earnings claims in disclosure documents, and violated registration and disclosure provisions of state franchise laws. While the California action has been settled, resulting in Conner and his client paying the required penalties, the Maryland Securities action is still pending.

The Maryland commissioner explained in its desist order that Conner, as a franchise consultant and franchise broker, sells franchises for his client RedRhino for a commission, and he identifies himself as "franchise director" of the franchise company. The California commissioner also named Conner in its action, as he and his firm were retained by RedRhino in marketing and selling franchises in exchange for a monthly fee of 10 to 20 percent of any franchise fee collected by the company from RedRhino's franchise sales.

IFA declines to act against Conner for the moment

Blue MauMau contacted the International Franchise Association regarding Conner and his firm, Franchise Marketing Systems, which exhibited at its convention last week. The conference had 3,500 attendees, according to the IFA. The association publicly states that through its various programs it "protects, enhances and promotes franchising." It even recently posted on professional networking site "LinkedIn" that "IFA members operate under the highest standards…"  

Are the standards of the trade group high enough for it to suspend or even terminate a wayward member who has received some of the toughest penalties from state franchising regulators that can be dished out?

Not yet. But the IFA reassures that it can.

Robert Cresanti, chief executive of the IFA, responded to Blue MauMau: "Any individual, firm, partnership or company engaged in providing products or services to members of the IFA is eligible to be a Supplier Forum member. Eligible Supplier Forum members must have a satisfactory financial condition, conduct business in a manner that reflects favorably upon franchising; have satisfactory business and personal references; and agree to subscribe to the Supplier Forum Code of Ethics. According the bylaws of IFA and the IFA Supplier Forum, IFA reserves the right to suspend or terminate a member at any time. While we are aware of the situation regarding this firm, no action has been taken at this point.  We reserve the right to act accordingly based on the outcome of the legal action."

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About Janet Sparks

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Janet Sparks is the former publisher of the Continental Franchise Review, an industry newsletter that covered the franchise community for over 30 years. She has also been a columnist for a leading franchise magazine for the past 13 years. Today she is an independent journalist who engages in investigative reporting, tackling complex issues that impact the franchise industry.

Janet can be reached at or at 303-799-7398.