World Stamps

By Charles Snee

FIP rejects Trepel's call to investigate judging

January 31, 2014 08:10 AM

The International Federation of Philately (FIP) has rejected the request of auctioneer Scott Trepel to investigate FIP judging practices.

Trepel is president of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York City.

On Nov. 25, 2013, Trepel sent a formal request to FIP board member Peter McCann, asking that the FIP board of directors “engage the services of impartial, qualified outside legal counsel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the FIP’s judging practices.”

Trepel’s request followed immediately on the heels of the decision of the Brasiliana 2013 jury not to award the grand prix international medal to William H. “Bill” Gross’ exhibit of the United States first issues of 1847, which received 98 points out of a possible 100.

Brasiliana 2013, held Nov. 19-25 in Rio de Janeiro, was an international stamp show under FIP patronage.

In his request to McCann, Trepel asserted that the decision of the Brasiliana jury “was influenced by factors which conflict with FIP regulations...”

As Linn’s reported Dec. 23, Trepel vehemently protested the Brasiliana jury’s decision and called for a severing of ties between the New York 2016 international stamp exhibition and the FIP.

Trepel also lobbied for a change in FIP leadership.

In a letter dated Jan. 15, Andreas G. Keller, an attorney in Zurich, Switzerland, responded to Trepel’s call for an investigation.

Keller stated in the letter that the FIP board asked him to provide a reply to Trepel, based on Trepel’s Nov. 25 correspondence with McCann.

“The FIP Board does not believe that the decision was influenced ‘by factors which conflict with FIP regulations,’” Keller wrote. “Therefore at this time the FIP Board sees no reason to start an investigation by an outside legal counsel.”

Keller described Trepel’s allegations as “very general.”

“In order to start an investigation,” he continued, “the allegations must be precise and possible elements of proof must be mentioned.”

Keller also explained that any “amendments or changes” to “FIP Statutes and the General Regulations of the FIP for Exhibitions [GREX]” are the responsibility of the FIP members, not the FIP board.

“It is a matter for the members (American Philatelic Society in your case) if they choose to propose any alterations to the Statutes and the GREX. If the APS so elects to make any such proposal, the members of FIP, not the FIP board, will determine what the rules and regulations will be after debate at a [FIP] Congress,” Keller concluded.

Trepel replied to Keller in a letter dated Jan. 23.

Trepel pointedly contested Keller’s request that he “offer elements of proof” to support his assertions.

“The purpose of an investigation by outside counsel is to determine whether or not any evidence of impropriety exists,” Trepel replied. “You certainly cannot expect me to have access to jurors’ notes, internal communications and testimony related to the events in Brazil.

“The decision [of the Brasiliana jury] itself is evidence of a corrupted process, and the hearsay about how that decision was reached is the smoke that points to a fire.”

Trepel asserted that there “is a very strong sentiment in the philatelic community that something is wrong. I have no official role to play in this matter, and I had hoped my protest would motivate the FIP Board to do something more than simply deny there is a problem.”

Concluding his letter, Trepel recommended that Keller and the FIP board read historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism: “The history of anti-corruption efforts during the Roosevelt administration offers some valuable lessons for the FIP Board.”

Linn’s asked Trepel if he intends to ask the APS, in its capacity as a FIP member, to seek changes in FIP judging practices.

“The APS is important, and I want it to back the reform process. To the extent I have any influence, yes, I want the APS to use its organizational power to bring about changes.”

Trepel told Linn’s that he is not alone in his desire to bring reform to the FIP.

“There are many who feel as I do, that change is necessary, and we will do whatever it takes,” he said.