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Michael Fraser aka The Arbitrator & The Big Bank

On Saturday there were not many mainstream publications that didn’t run a story about the Commonwealth Bank and “Operation Lantern” – the banks name for the surveillance mission they outsourced to security firm G4S to keep tabs on Brisbane resident Michael Fraser also known by the moniker The Arbitrator whilst he was in town, attending to some meetings, which also included attending a fundraising dinner for a number of (then) coalition MP’s both current and past.

Michael Fraser, and his organisation (The Arbitrator) is more a new movement than startup, but one thing is for sure, it is a movement that is only going to continue to grow.

The concept is simple, he has a goal to hold big corporations to be accountable for their actions, and he does this by finding his way to the key person within the organisation and opening up a discussion with them about helping his clients, who are the companies clients that literally at the stage where they have no where else to turn.

The Commonwealth bank have stated that Mr Fraser was consistently harassing a particular member of staff, and that was the reason behind having him followed during the time he was in Sydney.

A quick look at the Arbitrator blog reveals that staff member is Brendan French, General Manager of Group Customer Relations. Who according to The Arbitrator is responsible for a number activities that have affected hundreds of customers Fraser represents especially in the area of low-doc loans.

The interesting thing about The Arbitrators model is his transparency, he is very social media savvy and basically shares everything across multiple platforms from what he had for breakfast to when he gets off the phone from trying to contact a company or having just had a conversation with a senior member of a company. He has left a massive digital and social footprint of his “harassment” – which to be honest is not all that harassing.

I remember the first time I met Michael Fraser at lunch in Pyrmont earlier this year, the only thing I knew about him was that he was a “Lord” – seriously. He is a titled land owner in Europe.

During the lunch, being me, I of course asked him a lot of questions, he was just at the early stages of pursuing the Commonwealth Bank and it was interesting to hear about his approach and why he was doing it. To be honest I thought he was crazy – in that thought provoking, change maker kind of way, very similar to the way I think of someone like Russell Brand.

Transparency, Honesty and Accountability are what his movement is all about. I feel the lobbyist title being applied in the media at the moment, implies that he is destined to be a pain to any company he engages with on behalf of customers.

A quick read through his blog though, will clearly show this is not the case, in fact according to the blog he has recently engaged with Telstra and has done nothing but praise Terry Paroz the General Manager of Customer Care for working with him in such an open and honest way to help customers rectify their concerns and issues.

The business model of the Arbitrator is an interesting one, in my opinion it is still being figured out. Fraser does not charge clients to represent them, nor does he charge the corporates, the business relies on donations to survive, and this also keeps any conflict of interest out of the midst.

I see the model developing into a similar one that is employed by organisations such as wikileaks, except rather than just exposing corruption, Fraser’s approach is to help the accused rectify it and make it right.

It is an interesting concept and very much in line with the values and thoughts simmering beneath a frustrated Generation Y who demand an honest world free of secrets. Whilst Russell Brand has clearly positioned himself as the global spokesperson for this matter when it comes to global politics, Fraser and many others like him are beginning to gain traction at a hyper local level around the world.

Is this the beginning of a social-capitalist revolution? Perhaps.


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