Negotiating with Ash Sahi
April 25th, 2021
In 2014, I negotiated with Ash Sahi, then CEO of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). It was one-on-one, no lawyers present. Afterward, I reported how things went to my legal counsel.
The “meeting was a disappointment,” I wrote, it was “only an hour and a half long.”
In the world of negotiations, that’s lightning fast.
“As you know, I was playing down expectations of a deal but, in honesty, I was really hoping for a breakthrough”. We didn’t get a breakthrough. “Instead, it was one of the more surreal meetings in my history.”
The RestoreCSA site was launched in May, 2013 to news coverage and growing readership. We’d started getting whistleblowers from inside CSA, claiming widescale fraud and criminal activity. We had met with CSA engineers, heard their stories, collected their evidence, and we’d published articles exposing much of what we’d learned. It was getting hot for CSA.
So, in July of 2014, we were contacted by CSA’s Office of the CEO to request an off-the-record meeting to explore resolutions to the dispute.
As you know, we kept the contents of this meeting privileged but, as we reported last year, the CSA recently waived privilege. We can now report this meeting in detail.
Here’s what happened.
The meeting took place in the middle of the afternoon at the Palliser Hotel in Calgary, in the Oak Room. It’s a posh place. Imagine wood walls, old portraits, gold trim everywhere -a bit garish, slightly stark, would’ve been talk of the town in the 1970s. The tablecloths where shock-white, the carpeting dark blue, and a dead silence about the place. There might’ve been two other tables occupied, but that’s it.
Ash Sahi seems to suffer a Napoleon complex. He’s quite short and he acts it. His mannerisms and behaviour, how he carries himself, seems tailored to offset his stature. He gets up close to you, deliberately pulls his head back as he speaks so his eyes are looking downward at you, no matter that you’re taller than he is. I looked at his shoes. I couldn’t tell if they were elevators but the heel was, you know, ample.
He quickly got down to business, making us a generous offer to resolve the litigation. The problem of course, was that a civil servant’s understanding of “generous” is different from normal people.
“There was an offer,” I told my counsel. “It consisted of…. 1) acknowledgement [of] CSA ownership of electrical law [and] 2) 10% of gross revenue [paid in] quarterly payments [and] 3) audits at CSA discretion by CSA staff, [and all this on a] ten-year term”.
Ok, first note that this meeting took place prior to Manson’s Law, the Ruling on private ownership of legislation. That is, we couldn’t legally accept Sahi’s first demand because we couldn’t “acknowledge” what was at the time contrary to law.
Then, note the protection payments. They wanted 10% of gross revenue from a publishing company. Look folks, publishing isn’t a thick margin enterprise. They were demanding that PS Knight hand over our profits, leaving us with all the risk and exposure with no hope of doing better than breaking even.
Then the big one, the ten-year term. Sahi wanted to define the agreement such that it expired at year ten, then any renewal would be negotiated between the parties. But remember that under this proposal, we’d have already “acknowledged” that CSA privately owned the law. In this, if in ten years’ time CSA just didn’t want us around, they could deny us access to laws that we’d have already admitted we had no independent right to. Sahi wanted us to sign a suicide note.
I politely replied that his wish list wasn’t realistic, which was a nice way of saying “pound sand.”
Next, Sahi started attacking the RestoreCSA site. He got a bit animated with this, claiming that none of what we’d reported was true, we’d just made up the whistleblowers, and he demanded that we pull the whole thing down as part of any deal. I replied that I had confidence in the whistleblowers because I’d seen their data, I’d received data directly, and I’d met some of his staff who’d confirmed the data.
Sahi didn’t move for a moment -just a second I suppose, but he’d been flat footed, it was noticeable. He hadn’t known that I’d been talking with his own people.
“Bullshit,” he said.
“No, not at all,” I replied.
“Nobody gives a shit about your stupid blog,” he said, “it’s irrelevant, nobody’s reading it.”
“Alright,” I replied, “that simplifies the resolution. If nobody’s reading it, then it’s not a threat, we can just take the blog off the discussion table.”
“That’s bullshit!” he said. “I want it down, now.”
Well, we went back and forth on it but RestoreCSA wasn’t going anywhere so long as CSA wasn’t backing down.
The fact is that civil servants are used to having absolute power. Backing down on anything is a new experience. Sahi was having trouble adjusting to this.
We went back to talk of resolution. As I reported afterward;
“I countered with the idea of ‘unimpeded business operations’ on ECS electrical guidebooks, a mutual dropping of swords.”
But no, that wasn’t a desirable option for CSA. The whole point of hitting me was to harm me, if the civil service couldn’t have some harm come from all of this, then the whole effort had been wasted.
Sahi advised me that my counter-offer was “bullshit.”
In my report to my legal counsel, “Sahi wasn’t negotiating, he was talking at me.” [emphasis in original]
“He was resentful and quite angry, the anger being only just concealed. Rude, arrogant, constantly interrupting me, such that really he did almost all of the talking. Loud, nearly to the point of making a scene, though this was likely an attempt at intimidation […] lots of swearing -everything was ‘bullshit,’ probably got that 40 or 50 [times] thrown at me in the hour and a half.”
I tried to point out that the civil service had, by that point, caused PS Knight a lot of financial damage and it wasn’t reasonable that we absorb all of that damage while simultaneously signing an agreement that would make us much weaker for future negotiations. That is, CSA wanted us weakened, wanted us to accept our weakened position, then wanted us to pay CSA for their time and trouble in making us weaker.
My concerns were “bullshit,” apparently.
Then I brought up my father, Peter Knight. He was at that time eighty-six years old. He was obviously not running the business anymore. He owned no interest in the company. He’d been retired for two years prior to CSA’s litigations. Peter Knight had no business being a defendant in CSA’s lawsuits.
I pointed this out. I further pointed out that the civil service had already committed to removing my father from the claim but, as he knew, they’d broken their commitment to do so.
My father was by then highly susceptible to transient ischemic attacks (they’re like small strokes), brought on mainly by stress. With every such attack, my father’s health lost ground. He was being diminished, in memory, in logical progression, in decisiveness, with every transient ischemic attack. I needed his stressload reduced, I had emphatic reason to want him off the claim.
I pointed this out too, and noted that CSA was still harassing my father, trying to compel him into Court testimony. We had secured doctors letters warning that it was high-risk to compel his testimony, we had lawyers’ entreaties that whatever my father knew that was relevant had already been written down and that his fading memory made any further impositions upon him irresponsible. The CSA had ignored all of that and were pressing hard.
As I conveyed these things to Sahi, he sat in his chair grinning at me. He had his right arm draped over the back of the chair beside him. It might’ve looked casual, except the chair had a high back and Sahi is a short guy, so his arm was craned up over his right shoulder to affect this move. That, and he was slouching, trying to look casual. It didn’t look as suave as he wanted. He was trying hard to dominate.
Then he uttered a line that I’ll not forget. When I pleaded that he release my father on humanitarian grounds, even as “a good-faith gesture,” he replied that; “We’re going to keep hurting your father until you give us what we want.”
I was stunned by that, and my expression must’ve betrayed it, for then Sahi laughed at me.
So the civil service was deliberately harming an elderly man in order to extort money from his son. Right, well what can I say?
If you’ve ever wondered folks, laughing in my face as I tried to save my father -that’s what civil servants are like.
You may appreciate now, perhaps more than had been clear in previous articles, why I so savaged that man and his crooked little civil service outfit.
I’ll confess that I made a point of mocking his stature in at least one article on this site (see here). Every reference was height related. It wasn’t subtle really, but the pointedness of it was likely lost on most readers (though you might get a kick out of reading it now!). Only Sahi and his civil service cretins were sure to have gotten the joke.
Anyway, it was pretty clear that Ash Sahi didn’t have much experience negotiating. In fairness, at that point neither did I, but I knew I had to fight and was ready for it. Sahi, in contrast, was used to everything landing on a platter in front of him, he was weak in negotiation but he didn’t know it. So he got himself in a few corners, needlessly and a bit comically.
I got Sahi to admit that CSA is a civil service Agency, for instance. I ran through the evidence for it and Sahi plainly agreed that yes, CSA was part of Government. That’s where CSA gets its power, he said. Of course, I pounced.
Once he saw his mistake he tried backing out of it. “Who knows, in the mists of time, what CSA’s status might have been,” he said. “Well no,” I said, “we know exactly what it’s status was; it has a Federal Charter.” “Who knows how that’s changed,” he countered. “Well, we know how it’s changed, because there’s only been two changes; once in 1919 and again in 1944, and neither change affected CSA’s legal status.” Pause, then; “that’s bullshit.”
Three times I got Sahi to admit that CSA was part of Government before he frustratedly retracted it when confronted on his admission.
Sahi was trying to claim one thing in one instance, then reverse for another instance, based on the convenience to CSA. I was trying to hold him to one consistent position on CSA’s legal status. He wasn’t used to that, and as he’d made no preparation he got himself into a few corners.
Likely, you can also appreciate now why I so often took umbrage at CSA’s public claims to be a private not-for-profit; their CEO had already admitted to me -repeatedly- that he knew the evidences, accepted them and agreed that CSA is part of the civil service.
What most impressed me, apart from his awful statements about my father, was that he’d made no preparation to be there. It was as though he either thought my role in life was to deliver whatever Sahi wanted, so persuasion wasn’t necessary, or he wasn’t expecting success and was just running the clock.
I wrote to my counsel; “My impression was that Sahi was forced into this meeting, either by CSA’s Board or by Industry Canada, he was putting in time rather than actually engaging in discussion.”
Seeing that his offer went nowhere and mine didn’t get the civil service what they wanted, and as Sahi was by now quite frustrated at being outmaneuvered by someone he considered inferior, Sahi chose to go for gusto.
He threatened to “explode the issue,” causing me and my father even more damage. As I reported to my counsel; “if I didn’t agree to his terms, he would start ‘waves of lawsuits’ [and] expressed his intention to cause my legal bills to reach $1MM.”
Ain’t that nice?
Then he said he’d try to muddy my reputation, to “throw mud at me,” just like he said I’d done to CSA on the website. I replied that if I’d done something wrong it was fair game. To which he replied; “the mud doesn’t have to exist for me to throw it.”
In other words, he was threatening to defame me with false charges. That’s ironic, isn’t it?
Well, I wasn’t moving as he wanted, so Sahi doubled down.
He would “now contact all of [your] clients to advise them that [PS Knight products] are illegal products.”
And that’s exactly what the civil service did. Remember their letters to our distributors, to our vendors, and to their colleagues in the provincial civil services? Remember their public news releases?
I knew this was coming because Sahi had told me. I knew the charges were baseless, not just because I knew our business and the laws we work under, but because the civil service had specifically promised to put false charges against us in court and in public.
Thanks to CSA’s waiving privilege, now I can disclose all this. You suppose they regret waiving privilege?
Sahi also promised to “expand litigation to go after all 45 years of lost royalties,” a threat ludicrous on its face, and “will take action to shut down the blog,” a threat they acted upon in the US with shutdown orders and in Canada and Switzerland with appeals to internet registries.
Among the unexpected disclosures (again, Sahi isn’t awfully good at negotiating), the CSA had spent “about $300k on this litigation” to 2014. That’s roughly $120k / year from, at that point, only one litigation. Since then, CSA has launched six more litigations, with multiple Motions within, over a period of nine years.
Folks, the civil service has spent millions trying to bury this one family business.
“It also came out,” I told my lawyer, “that [Sahi] was the one who decided to launch the lawsuit against us, which is probably why he’s got Board pressure.” Actually, Sahi admitted that it was “probably a mistake” to take me on. But, you know, faint praise. “It emerged that the Board is very concerned and that CSA employees are exerting significant pressure on CSA leadership. [...] I read this as a growing loss of confidence in leadership from both ends; governance and employees, and Sahi feels trapped in the middle.”
And as we know, Sahi didn’t last the year. By December 2014 Ash Sahi had been fired by the Board for, according to sources, his performance specifically on the PS Knight file.
There’s a lot that we couldn’t talk about because of privilege, a lot that we’re now free to disclose.
One more thought, just in closing.
We received some pictures from a source a couple of years ago, taken at a staff alumni party at one of Sahi’s former employers. Apparently these alumni get together periodically for networking and, well, because they like each other. Ash Sahi attended one of these and was photographed meeting former colleagues. In every picture, Sahi is smiling ear-to-ear no matter who he’s talking to. But in every picture, Sahi is the only one smiling. People see through him.
He’s a quintessential civil servant; charmingly insincere. Sahi will do anything for Sahi.