Investors who claim they were swindled by an entrepreneur selling precious metals as an investment vehicle told The Daily Beast they trusted him in part because of his ties to two major media companies: Forbes and Rolling Stone.
Tyler Gallagher, 39, is the owner and founder of Regal Assets, a precious metals dealer that helps clients invest their retirement accounts in physical gold and silver. As The Daily Beast reported, authorities are investigating whether Gallagher—who has not been heard from since October—stole millions of dollars from his clients by failing to deliver the metals they’d purchased.
Many clients told The Daily Beast they trusted Gallagher because of the image he presented online: a reputable, vetted businessman and published expert in finance. Regal Assets’ website boasted of its mentions in HuffPost, MarketWatch, and SmartMoney and bragged in press releases about its inclusion on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S.
But Gallagher seemed proudest of his memberships on the Forbes Finance Council and Rolling Stone Culture Council, which he boasted about in social media posts and podcast interviews. His LinkedIn lists his “full time” participation on the Rolling Stone council first, even above his role as CEO of Regal Assets; the logo at the top of his page is the magazine’s familiar “RS,” encircled in red. The header on both his Linkedin and Facebook pages are a navy blue banner declaring him a “2022 Official Member of the Forbes Finance Council.”
Nancy O’Hara, who invested nearly $500,000 with the company and says she lost half of it, told The Daily Beast these memberships gave Gallagher a gloss of respectability.
“He showed up as a contributor to Forbes,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, they’re making sure this guy is legit.”
Dozens of articles on Forbes and Rolling Stone
Gallagher’s promotion of the councils may have been over the top, but it was expressly endorsed by the companies. Language on the Rolling Stone Culture Council website encourages members to “proudly share your membership” using exclusive RS-branded web badges, decals, and press release templates. “You can prominently display the member badge at your physical location and on your website, newsletters, publications, and digital signatures to highlight your affiliation with the community,” the website states.
The Forbes council even issued a formal comment for publication when Gallagher was added to the group. A Regal Assets press release about his membership claims Gallagher was “vetted and selected by a review committee based on the depth and diversity of his experience in the alternative assets industry.” Scott Gerber, the founder of Forbes Councils, was quoted as saying he was “honored to welcome Tyler into the community.”
“Our mission with Forbes Councils is to bring together proven leaders from every industry, creating a curated, social capital-driven network that helps every member grow professionally and make an even greater impact on the business world,” Gerber said.
Both councils advertise themselves as exclusive, vetted, “invitation-only” communities for business professionals at the top of their fields. The Rolling Stone council requires members to be founders, executives, or regional-level leaders of companies that have $500,000 in annual revenue or have obtained at least $1 million in total institutional funding; the Forbes Finance Council requires members to be executives at a business with at least $1 million in revenue or financing.
As a benefit of membership, both companies promise access to exclusive online events, networking opportunities, and the chance to publish on their respective sites. Gallagher took full advantage of the latter, publishing 26 articles on Forbes and four articles on Rolling Stone. (Gallagher also co-hosted four panels for other RS council members, including “Taking a Business Risk? Nine Signs You’re About to Make a Big Mistake.”) Gallagher’s byline and author pages on each site identify him as a member of their respective councils. After The Daily Beast reached out for comment, Forbes edited Gallagher’s byline to list him as a former member of the council.
What the councils don’t advertise widely is that they are “fee-based” organizations, meaning members must pay for the privilege of attending their events and publishing on their sites. Membership in the Rolling Stone Council starts at $1,700 a year and Forbes Council memberships cost $2,650 per year, representatives told The Daily Beast. (Applying for the Inc. 500 list also requires a $345 to apply, according to the magazine’s website.)
Both the Rolling Stone Culture Council and Forbes Councils were co-founded by Gerber, and are operated by his company, Community.co, which describes itself as a “global leader for professional communities of influence.” Both councils are listed on the Community.co website as part of its “portfolio of professional membership communities,” alongside similar councils for Newsweek and Fast Company. Gerber previously said his company was founded to help media companies “expand upon the value proposition of the communities they serve.” In an article for AdWeek, Gerber said digital communities can “create new real estate for media companies to engage, amplify and monetize.”
Anna Ruth Williams, an online marketing and PR expert who has previously written about the Forbes Councils, told The Daily Beast these groups “purport to be ‘invitation-only’ and ‘exclusive,’ but in reality, anyone with a little cash and a keyboard can qualify.”
Dale Jones, a spokesperson for Forbes Councils, said vetting procedures for new members are “thorough and rigorous,” and include a full-time voting team, adverse media reviews, background checks, and third-party data providers. Content produced by Forbes council members goes through a “rigorous” three-to-five-week editing and fact-checking process with their “extensive, experienced” staff, he added.
A RS council spokesperson said the team reviews applicants using AI tools and background checks and conducts “continual quality assurance monitoring of our membership.”
We adhere to our membership criteria and conduct continual quality assurance monitoring of our membership,” the spokesperson said. “We serve qualified, successful business leaders and aim to help them advance their businesses and careers.”
Paying for ‘Legitimacy’
Williams said Gallagher appeared to have used the councils and sponsored content in order to create a false, more reputable version of himself online, noting that people often use this kind of pay-to-play media when they don’t have the validity to get earned media for themselves.
“If he was really an expert … I would think that an actual journalist at Forbes on the finance beat would want to interview him,” she said. “But he didn’t have that cachet.”
“He was creating legitimacy, but paying for it at every step,” she said.
Montina Young Fraiser, a marketing strategist from Atlanta, said she was previously a member of a Forbes council before she decided it did not offer her enough value. Paying for membership in these organizations is primarily helpful for people who want to associate themselves with a reputable brand and siphon some of the legitimacy that comes with it, she said.
“People just see ‘Forbes,” she said. “And what happens is you do gain some credibility, because once you join your council you are among peers in the industry… Now you have authority, you have some brand awareness.”
“We know that if we get on TV, if we get in a magazine—even if you pay—people are going to believe it,” she added.
‘A bad apple from time to time’
The Rolling Stone council said it removed Gallagher as a member as soon as it learned of issues with his behavior. Jones said Gallagher was removed from the Finance Council in May 2022 as part of “ongoing QA efforts,” though he declined to specify why.
“Unfortunately, as is the case in any community or professional organization, there will be a bad apple from time to time that does not live up to our values or member conduct standards,” Jones said. “In those occurrences, we take quick action to remove those individuals.”
Gallagher also participated in another paid media operation for Authority Magazine, a popular Medium publication that has interviewed Ava DuVernay and Jane Goodall. Gallagher published more than 50 articles for the online magazine, largely consisting of interviews with other entrepreneurs.
Yitzi Weiner, founder and editor-in-chief of Authority, confirmed that Gallagher was part of the publication’s “Thought Leader Incubator,” in which participants are connected with impressive figures to interview, coached through the writing process, and then published on the Medium site. The site assures members that their high-profile subjects “will then post and tweet your interview to hundreds of thousands of their followers,” and that publication of these articles “will accelerate the path toward branding you as a trusted authority in your field.”
Weiner said Gallagher joined the program in 2000 and paid $1,000 a month for the privilege of being connected with interview subjects and publishing on the site. He said Gallagher emailed him last July to say that his business was being restructured and he would no longer be able to write for them. Weiner said he thought Gallagher was simply going through a rough patch with his business and was shocked to hear the allegations against the entrepreneur. He removed Gallagher’s byline from all of his articles after The Daily Beast reached out for comment.
“I thought I knew Tyler, I thought I knew him well,” he said. “I’m hoping my judgment wasn’t so skewed.”
He said that the magazine Googles participants before accepting them to the program to make sure they are experts in their fields and did not have any obvious red flags. Charlie Jarvice, the start-up founder who allegedly scammed J.P. Morgan, also wrote for Authority, and Weiner was forced to put a note next to her articles detailing her fraud.
He said he had been thinking about how to step up the vetting process, but added that he thought pay-to-publish media was similar to paying a publicist to get earned media.
“It’s part of the same story, sadly,” he said. “People who are con artists are using the media to gain legitimacy.”
But Williams said publications that take paid content have a special responsibility to vet their contributors.
“There’s clearly a procedural gap if Forbes’ and Rolling Stone’s ‘invitation and members-only’ councils, which are for ‘influential leaders’ and ‘top CEOs’ allow a scam artist to publish on their platforms,” she said.
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