$12,000 FOR 3 WEEKS OF CLASSES? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!
Are you seriously thinking about spending maybe $12,000 ($10,000 tuition + travel + expenses) to take the three-week course given this summer by Swiss Finance Academy? $12,000? Three weeks? $4,000 per week? Do you really think it’s worth that much?
If you do, PLEASE READ THIS COMPLETELY BECAUSE IT HAS A LOT OF INFORMATION YOU SHOULD CONSIDER. I know this is long and detailed, but prove to me you are quailified to attend this academy by reading every word and following the links to government websites. If you are too lazy to do that, then how the hell do you think you can keep up with your studies at this school?
Or have your parents read it. I bet they will have the time and will want to know before helping you pay for this.
Also I will teach you --for free-- how to look up information about U.S. trademarks, ficticious name statements, corporations and the people behind them, the owners of websites, and other useful Internet research skills. That alone will be worth your trouble.
SANJAY GUPTA, AND WHY I CALL HIM "KUMAR".
This is the story of a man named Sanjay Kumar Gupta who for years has listed his address on government forms in the U.S. as various locations in Boston, MA. I will call him “Kumar” to distinguish him from the famous television doctor -- and soon to be Surgeon General -- who has the same first and last name.
Did you know that according to all U.S. public records, Kumar is the personal owner of the “Swiss Finance Academy” business in the U.S. and that the U.S. part appears to be where the business of the academy is run? That he said he was a citizen of India at the time he established the school and in recent records says he changed his citizenship to Canada? (Not that there is anything wrong with people from India or Canada, but my point is: what the hell does this have to do with Switzerland? Why did he choose the name "SWISS Finance Academy"?)
HOW TO LOOKUP U.S. TRADEMARK FILINGS, AND WHY I CARE.
A lot of this story involves applications for trademarks that Kumar has submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I’ll get serious in a second, but I think it’s hilarious that Kumar claims he has been using the word “donkey” in business since the year 2000 and he is currently trying to get a U.S. trademark on the word “donkey” itself. Not a trademark on some business name with the word “donkey” in it; not some particular artistic logo involving a picture of a donkey; but he is trying to trademark just the word “donkey”! Don’t believe me? Let’s look it up.
We are going to be doing a bunch of U.S. trademark lookups below so please follow along. Start at:
In the right-hand column, click on the link “Search”. On the next page, click on the link “New User Form Search (Basic).”
When you get to the search form, leave the buttons alone, but go to the section called “Field:”, click on the phrase “Combined Word Mark” to drop down a choice box, and choose “Owner Name and Address” to set up the type of search. Now that we are set to do a name/address search, in the box “Search Term”, type in the following:
sanjay gupta boston
and press the Submit Query button. This will find all the U.S. trademark records for our Sanjay Gupta and leave out the TV doctor and other people with the same name. Look down the list and click on the word “DONKEY” to see what I’m talking about. You can click on the blue “TARR Status” button near the top to see more details. Note that this is only an application; he has not yet received a trademark for the word "donkey" and who knows if he ever will.
Now go back to the list of U.S. trademarks Kumar owns and click on “SWISS FINANCE ACADEMY”. Note that he filed this application on February 1, 2006, that he said he is an individual whose citizenship is India, and that he lists his name as “Gupta, Sanjay DBA Swiss Finance Academy INDIVIDUAL”, which means to me he is claiming he personally, as an individual, does business under the name “Swiss Finance Academy”. (Click on the blue “TARR Status” button to get more details and verify what I’m saying that the word “India” next to his name means the country of citizenship.)
Were you expecting a Swiss company to own the trademark “Swiss Finance Academy” in the U.S.? Kind of makes sense, but nope, Kumar of India has it. Were you expecting a big corporation, even if not Swiss, to own the U.S. trademark? Or at least some kind of corporation? Nope, just Kumar.
Now click on the blue “ASSIGN Status” button near the top to verify what I was saying that he claims he changed his citizenship to Canada in 2007. You will see that he assigned the trademark to himself with the new citizenship, and note that he never assigned the trademark to anyone else; he still appears to hold it personally.
Go back to the list and look around at his other trademarks if you want, especially these:
Make it Happen
Investment Banking Bible
Entrepreneurial Investing Institute
Swiss Finance Executive
What’s so special about these? On the trademark applications he again listed his name as “Gupta, Sanjay DBA Swiss Finance Academy INDIVIDUAL”. You will see below why I keep stressing this point: just remember that on the application for “Swiss Finance Academy” and these four others, he repeats that he, Kumar, as an individual, Does Business As “Swiss Finance Academy.”
There is also a trademark for "Swiss Finance Academy" registered in Switzerland to a corporation of which Kumar is an officer. The Swiss government records are all in German and I don't understand them well enough to comment or talk about this any more. But in the real world, what is the significance of this Swiss corporation? What part of the academy is actually run from Switzerland? Apparently not a hell of a lot because their website at
shows two addresses, one in Boston and one in Verbier, Switzerland. But wait: it says “… send any correspondence and materials … to our Boston address only. There may be significant delays if materials are sent to the wrong office … For all mailing purposes, please use our Boston address.” And the phone number listed for Switzerland is the 1-800 number of the Boston office!
If this suggests to you that "SWISS Finance Academy" is mainly an American company which just occasionally rents some space in Switzerland to run several weeks of classes, then why do you want to go there so much?
HOW TO FIND WHO OWNS A WEBSITE NAME, AND WHY I CARE.
Speaking of their website, let's do a “whois” search to learn who registered the domain name “swissfinanceacademy.org”. If you don’t know how to do this, go to:
Type in the name swissfinanceacademy.org (leave off the www!) and press the Submit button. Go down to the multiple lines that say “Registrant”. Who is the Registrant Name? Kumar personally! Apparantly he filled out the registration forms saying he owns the website, not some corporation. Now look up pretty much any other website owned by any corporation and the Registrant will be the corporation. Therefore to me, when he registers this domain in his personal name, I think he is being serious and he is saying he owns it personally, just like all the trademarks.
And why is he using an organization “Private Registration US” to hide the rest of his information? Do a whois search on pretty much any other website and you will find the true name, address, and phone number of the real owner, whether it is a person or a corporation. Why do you hide all this, Kumar?
HOW TO LOOK UP FICTICIOUS NAME STATEMENTS, AND WHY I CARE.
Since the academy's website indicates that the business is mainly run out of Boston, let’s see what government papers they filed with the city of Boston. Cities generally require that any person or corporation that does business under a different name must register that name in a central database so anyone who has a problem with that business can look up the real person or corporation behind the name. The form is called a “Fictitious Name Statement” or a "Does Business As" or “DBA statement"; Boston calls them DBA. Most cities have an office of the "City Clerk" that stores these records and puts them online. For the City of Boston go here:
Leave everything blank except the Name: field, type in swiss finance academy and click “search”. Who is the owner? Again we find our buddy Kumar personally; not a company, not a corporation, certainly not anything to do with Switzerland. He filed this DBA form on Oct. 27 2005 and it is good for four years. If anything changed within that time, he was obligated by law to amend this statement, but he hasn’t. So again he is claiming that he runs the Swiss Finance Academy personally and you can see the Business Address that he lists.
I sent someone out to look at that address and take pictures. It's an apartment building(!) and the building directory shows people's names for #3 and the other apartments. I suspect Kumar once lived in #3 and later moved because the names on the apartment directory at this time aren't him or anyone I ever heard of.
The bottom line for me is that I wouldn't personally spend $12,000 to attend a school whose DBA Statement says it's run by some guy out of an apartment!
DOES THE SWISS FINANCE ACADEMY NEED A LICENSE TO RUN A SCHOOL?
If you go to ANY school that needs to be licensed or accredited, but is not, then a degree or certificate of completion you get from that school may not be worth the paper it's printed on. Does Swiss Finance Academy need to be licensed either in Massachusetts or Switzerland? If so, is it properly licensed?
I don't know anything about Switzerland so I will leave that as homework for you. I strongly suggest that before going to any school in any foreign country, you ask the school and the foreign government a lot of questions about this and make sure you understand the situation. I'm serious that you shouldn't just take the school's word for it, but ask the appropriate government authorities as well!
I have done some research about Massachusetts, but don't have a final answer. I will tell you what I know, and your homework is to do more research and again make sure you understand the situation because it's your money.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (a pretentious name for “State”) requires that certain types of private business and trade schools that charge students more than $250 in tuition must be licensed, and the commonwealth has a lot of detailed laws and regulations and requirements for how to get the license. The penalty for running an unlicensed school is jail time up to six months. To see the Massachusetts requirements, start here:
and scroll way down to "CHAPTER 75D PRIVATE BUSINESS SCHOOLS". Click on that to get a detailed table of contents and read the sections "Private business school defined" and "Necessity for license".
Go back to the list of Massachusetts laws and scroll really far down to "CHAPTER 93. REGULATION OF TRADE AND CERTAIN ENTERPRISES." Click on that and in the detailed table of contents, read sections 21A and 21B concerning "Private trade schools".
Also read these two pages from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education:
So does the Swiss Finance Academy need to be licensed in Massachusetts? Let me break this down into three questions, and remember that I don't have all the answers.
1. Does the curriculum of the academy fit the definitions of either "Private Business School" or "Private Trade School"? If not, then skip the following paragraphs. But if you think it might fit these definitions, then continue on.
2. Is Swiss Finance Academy a "school maintained" in Massachusetts even if rents space in Switzerland for the classes? The licensing laws talk about "school maintained or classes conducted". Because of the word "or", the concept of "maintaining" a school seems to be a separate activity from conducting classes, i.e. it might be possible to "maintain" a school in Massachusetts even though the classes are given elsewhere. So would a school whose business is run out of Boston, advertised out of Boston, applications accepted in Boston, etc., be “maintained” in Massachusetts even though the classes are conducted elsewhere?
3. Does Swiss Finance Academy hold classes in Massachusetts? I can help you with this one. They have before and apparently plan to again. Let’s go back in time to 2005, and let me teach you about another web service for looking up company information: the “Wayback Machine” at:
This service archives many web sites and lets you see what they looked like at various months in the past. So go to that site, find the button “Take Me Back”, and in the field right above it, type in www.swissfinanceacademy.org and press the "Take Me Back" button.
BE SURE YOU USE THE "TAKE ME BACK" BUTTON. The "Search" form at the top-left is a little different.
You should now have a list year by year of every date that the Wayback Machine archived the Swiss Finance Academy website. Click on April 6, 2005, as an example. Much of the page will not come in correctly; you will get a bunch of red X’s. But enough comes in to look around, so click on the link: “APPLY ONLINE: SUMMER PROGRAMS”. Note that there was a month-long set of classes scheduled in Boston for that summer.
Go back to the Wayback Machine and choose date December 2, 2005. Note that the school again scheduled classes in Boston from December 2005 through part of January, 2006.
As for the future, look at this press release that Swiss Finance Academy issued in August, 2008. (You can find the same press release on many other websites also.) They announced classes to be held in Boston during the summer of 2009:
DOES KUMAR USE GOOD JUDGMENT IN HIS OWN BUSINESS AFFAIRS?
It is my understanding that Kumar is not only the owner, but he is also the primary teacher of Swiss Finance Academy classes. If he is supposed to be so great at business, then how come he doesn’t run the U.S. business of the academy through a corporation to protect his personal assets? (Or if he does do that, how come he fills out all government forms showing himself personally as the owner? Government forms matter, Kumar, and saying you are the owner might prevent you from later claiming that the corporation was the owner!)
Lawyers will recommend that individuals who run a business such as a school should incorporate. And in fact Kumar has a Massachusetts corporation called “Intellect Art Multimedia” of which he is the president, treasurer, secretary, and director. (I’ll show you how to look that up later.) Interesting type of corporation that is so obviously all just him, yet if he handled his affairs properly and he carefully and strictly ran the academy through that corporation and listed the corporation properly in all government records, it could protect his personal assets.
Here is an example of why this is important: suppose the school is somehow negligent and causes a student to have an accident at one of Kumar’s classes and get so injured that they become a paraplegic. A young bright college-age student seriously injured like that could very well win a lawsuit for $30 million or more for a lifetime of pain and suffering and emotional distress and medical care and lost income. What if the accident caused serious injuries to multiple students at once, and each one wins a lawsuit for $30 million?
The lawyers for the injured students would look at the DBA Statement filed in Boston to determine who is responsible for an activity held by this thing called "Swiss Finance Academy". That's exactly what the DBA Statements are for! So they would sue Kumar and not the corporation because that's what he told the Boston City Clerk!
If they win that court judgment from Kumar personally, he may have insurance that would cover part of it, but he may not have anywhere near $30 million in coverage per injury, so he would have to pay the rest out of his own pocket. On the other hand if a corporation runs the school, if all public records say that, all corporate laws and regulations are followed to the letter, and the corporation has some reasonable amount of insurance, then only the assets of the corporation (which needn’t be much) would be at risk, and Kumar’s own house if he has one, his personal bank accounts, etc. would be totally separate and protected.
I wouldn’t spend $12,000 of my money to learn business from someone who makes the mistake of either running a school personally without the protection of a corporation, or using a corporation -- but ignoring it in all public filings so the potential protection of the corporation might be lost.
HOW TO LOOK UP INFORMATION ABOUT CORPORATIONS, AND WHY I CARE.
Records about corporations are generally filed with the Secretary of State's office in each state, and this office generally has a website where you can search for information about corporations in the state.
Let’s look up all the information about "Intellect Art Multimedia, Inc." on the website of the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. Go to:
Click the button “Search by Entity Name”, type in: intellect art multimedia , and press the Search button at the bottom. The search results page will show that corporation, so click on its name and you should have some basic info about the corporation. Note that Kumar’s name is the only person who shows up, and especially note what is supposed to be HIS address:
1770 MASSACHUSETTS AVE., UNIT 179 CAMBRIDGE, MA 02140 USA
We are going to be talking a lot about THAT address. For now, note that the column header above his address says “no PO Box”.
Also note the separate address listed as the "location of its principal office". I sent someone out to take pictures of this and it is, yet again, an apartment building. Unit 3 is listed on the apartment directory as "S. Gupta". Again, I would not personally give $10,000 in tuition to a corporation that appears to be run out of some guy's apartment! It might be perfectly legal to do that, but I prefer spending big money with more substantial companies.
Now go down near the bottom of the corporate listing where there is a list of “types of filings” and click “ALL FILINGS” to highlight that line, then press the “View Filings” button.
After several seconds, you should see a list of seven papers that Kumar’s corporation has filed with the Commonwealth Secretary, all but the bottom one filed by Kumar personally. For each paper there are two links. The one on the left gives some general info about the filing; but it’s the ones on the RIGHT that we want because those show the PDF files with the full details that he submitted.
If you are interested in business, you should follow along here because you will learn a lot about corporations, even if you don’t care about Kumar.
Look at every PDF file, and note all the places where the “1770 Massachusetts Ave. Unit 179” address shows up. Kumar often lists that as his personal address (the form says “no PO Box”). But on some of the filings that address is used as the “Registered Office Address”, the “street address of the principal office of the corporation (post office boxes are not acceptable)”, the street address where the records of the corporation are kept (post office boxes are not acceptable), and the “street address of the corporation registered office”.
You know where I am going with this, don’t you: that address is what the Post Office calls a “Private Mail Box” or "PMB", NOT A REAL STREET ADDRESS! It’s a UPS Store, formerly Mail Boxes Etc.! See here:
In case you think maybe that building also has offices, no, I called and asked and you can ask too. They told me that Unit 179 is a mail box or forwarding service, not any type of office that Kumar or his corporate records could possibly be in.
The corporation laws in Massachusetts require a street address, and lying on corporate forms is punishable by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than three years, or both. I called the office which keeps corporate files and spoke to two people: they confirmed that the forms need a REAL street address where the corporation ACTUALLY does it's business and ACTUALLY stores its records. They said they would not accept corporate records for filing if they could tell that a mail box address had been used. But if the address appeared legitimate and they had no way of knowing that it was just a mailbox, then the filing could sneak through.
One more thing about that address: note that Kumar says “Unit 179”. This violates U.S. Post Office anti-fraud regulations which require that any mail sent to a Private Mail Box, or “PMB”, must be addressed as such so as not to fool people into thinking this is the real address of the business. See section 2.3 of the Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual at:
“Mail sent to an addressee at a commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA) must be addressed to their private mailbox ("PMB" or "#") number at the CMRA mailing address.”
It is my understanding that the postal service will refuse to deliver mail to a PMB that is addressed to “UNIT 179” instead of “PMB 179” or “#179” so the address Kumar uses might not even work to deliver a letter, let alone work as a place to physically find him and his business.
KUMAR GOES TO COURT, AND I AM FLABERGASTED!
We have seen that in the Boston DBA Statement and the trademark applications and the domain name registration, Kumar lists HIMSELF PERSONALLY as the one Doing Business As Swiss Finance Academy. It’s interesting that when he finds it convenient, he drags out the name of the corporation in order to SUE HIS STUDENTS who criticized the school by posting negative reviews of it on the Internet.
Do you want to go to a school that is so intolerant of criticism that it sues its students instead of taking the criticisms to heart and correcting the problems?
Yes, Intellect Art Multimedia, Inc. (rather than Kumar personally) is currently suing up to six former Swiss Finance Academy students for defamation! I will show examples of what they sue about below, but first I want to talk about a technical detail of the lawsuit. This lawsuit is of a type called “verified” which means that Kumar had to raise his right hand and take an oath under penalty of perjury saying that everything in this part of the lawsuit was true to his own knowledge.
I was shocked and flabergasted when I read his affidavit because it starts out:
“Sanjay Gupta, being duly sworn, deposes and states: I am the President of Intellect Art Multimedia, Inc. d/b/a Swiss Finance Academy, the Plaintiff in this action.”
***???? FROM ALL THE PUBLIC RECORDS YOU HAVE SEEN, WHO IS THE DBA FOR SWISS FINANCE ACADEMY? Kumar personally, right? So what do you think of this affidavit? Among the many reasons I would not give $10,000 to this guy, add a new one: when he files something with the court under oath, he totally contradicts everything he said everywhere else. I think there's a name for that....
Here’s an example of what the lawsuit says is defamation:
Paragraph 41(g) of the court complaint alleges that the students said on a forum: “even there [sic] phone number is fake”.
The lawsuit takes this phrase out of context; the actual Internet posting said:
“Even there phone number is fake... call it... it will direct you to some calling center which is who knows where and then they will forward your number to them to call you back.”
Go back and look at
and look at this footnote about their phone number:
“This is a messaging service which will note down your questions, pass them to Swiss Finance and the School will return your call.”
So doesn’t the website say exactly the same thing as the students’ posting, just in slightly different words? So tell me again Kumar, why are you suing these students for defamation for making that statement? Why did you raise your right hand and swear that the students were wrong about that statement and were defaming your school, when you say the same damn thing yourself?
Another portion of the lawsuit says that they are trying to track down the student(s) who made this Internet posting and add them to the suit:
I have never attended Swiss Finance Academy so I have no idea whether that posting is true, but it seems calm and collected and intelligent, doesn’t it? I am linking to it strictly to show you another example of what they sue about. If you attended Kumar’s academy and were disappointed, WOULDN'T YOU FEEL YOU HAD THE RIGHT TO SAY THIS WITHOUT BEING SUED?
DOES THE ACADEMY PROVIDE THE PROFESSORS THEY PROMISE?
Another point about their website. Last year it made this statement that I can’t find on there any more: “Our faculty on average have over 10 years of investment banking experience in the executive capacity.” I was skeptical when I read that because it doesn’t just say one or two of their faculty have that experience, but that this is the AVERAGE so that if some have less, others have more. If this was a true statement last year, shouldn’t they have been proud of that? If I am right that they removed it, was it because I asked questions (see below)?
I was also skeptical about another statement which was on there last year: “While our key faculty members have done billion dollar deals on Wall Street and in the City of London, ....” This is still on the website and I am personally still skeptical. It says “faculty members” plural: more than one. I find it hard to believe that Kumar was able to find such people as “key faculty members” which implies to me that they do many hours of teaching, perhaps of entire classes or at least entire segments of classes. But I don’t really know and these claims about the faculty members could be true.
So I wrote a letter to the school on July 31, 2008 asking them to justify those statements; i.e. to give me a list of all of their faculty members who had more than 10 years of such experience and had done billion dollar deals on Wall Street and London. They never answered. Hmmmmmmmm. I reminded their lawyer on September 8, 2008 that I was expecting an answer. They still didn't answer. Double hmmmmmmmm.
So I don't know the answers about their faculty, but before spending $12,000 to go to this school, you should demand that they answer those questions IN DETAIL, and especially ask if such faculty people will actually be teaching YOUR class, and if so, how many hours of YOUR class will they be teaching? Make sure they are not just names he throws around who show up for an hour here and there.
So let me ask you again: do you really want to spend $12,000 to take a three-week course in rented space in Switzerland, run by this particular guy, and maybe run by this particular corporation? Do you really want to risk being sued if you are disappointed and dare to post something on the Internet saying that?