Company Fends Off Lawsuits, Customer Complaints

As election season approaches, a former Inc. 500 company with ties to prominent politicians is fending off renewed allegations of deceptive marketing tactics and a workplace sexual-harassment lawsuit.

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International Profit Associates, a Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based consulting firm for small and midsize companies, has been the subject of 470 complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau over the past three years, and is currently being investigated by the Illinois attorney general.

Federal authorities are also pursuing a sexual harassment suit brought by 113 former female employees against the company.

The allegations — many of which were chronicled by Inc. as far back as June 2000 — resurfaced over the weekend in a New York Times article claiming that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., had received more than $150,000 in campaign contributions from IPA founder John Burgess and other company executives.

In the past, IPA has paid more than $200,000 in speaking fees to former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, according to the Times piece, and has used these affiliations to promote its reputation.

IPA spokesperson Jennifer Cumbee declined to comment on either the allegations or the campaign contributions. "He said we're not saying anything about that," Cumbee said, referring to Burgess, a disbarred New York lawyer.

Clinton's campaign office has said it is now reviewing IPA's contributions.

In recent years, other public figures have returned contributions after learning of the company's legal troubles, including Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, and Andrew Cuomo, a candidate for New York attorney general.

Some of the company's former small-business clients claim they faced high-pressure sales tactics from IPA agents and, after signing on, received advice with little or no value.

Two years ago, IPA shut down a Web site run by a former employee who posted links to unflattering news and reports about the company, claiming trademark and libel law violations in federal court.

IPA ranked No. 8 in 1996 and No. 9 in 1997 in the Inc. 500 list of the nation's fastest growing companies.

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