About Us

A century of trusted product solutions.

Merchants Information Solutions


Delivering world-class identity theft and background screening services.

Since 1912, Merchants has provided credit reporting services throughout the state of Arizona. Merchants is a member-owned corporation governed by a board of directors. In late 2006, Merchants became the parent company of Personnel Profiles Employment Screening, American Tescor, and ID Advocates. These three acquisitions have made Merchants the largest employment screening provider in Arizona.

Our Values


We’re devoted to and operate on four core values that we believe shape our company’s culture.

Integrity

When helping customers, our community, employees and members, integrity is the foundation of our company.

Success

Success of our company directly affects our customer experience with applied industry knowledge.

Teamwork

We believe teamwork empowers and gives ownership to employees that translates into better customer service.

Determination

As industry experts, we’re driven and focused to bring the most robust product solutions to the market.

Fact Sheet


Corporate History

  • Incorporated in Phoenix, Arizona as Merchant's and Manufacturer's Exchange on February 15, 1912 - the day after Arizona became a state. The company originally functioned as a board of trade and better business bureau.
  • Offered consumer credit-reporting services in the early 1920s.
  • Became a non-stock, member-owned corporation in 1928.
  • Unofficially changed name to The Credit Bureau of Phoenix in 1946. The change became official in 1958.
  • Began acquiring and automating other Arizona credit-reporting agencies in 1971.
  • Changed name to Credit Data of Arizona in 1973. Over the next decade, our company opened new offices and automated credit-reporting agencies in Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso.
  • Changed name to Credit Data Southwest in 1985.
  • Changed name to Merchants Information Solutions, Inc. in 1999.
  • Acquired Personnel Profiles Employment Screening to form background screening services powerhouse in 2006.
  • Acquired American Tescor, LLC adding behavioral assessments to screening tools in 2006.
  • Continues to expand by purchase of Scottsdale-based ID Advocates in early 2007.

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Our Leadership


Years of experience and a commitment to integrity serves as the foundation for our leadership. Read more about our directors and executives below.

Board of Directors

Philip LeHew, Chairman

Our chairman retired from Wells Fargo Bank as Vice President in the Special Investigation Division. He retired in 2009 after 17 years of service. His banking career spans a period of 29 years. During that time, he worked physical security, check, credit card and debit card fraud. He was also active in the design video surveillance and premise protection for the banks. His 17 years with Wells Fargo bank was spent working internal investigations. He has written bank policy and procedure manuals while employed with Western Saving and Bank of America and throughout his 29 years in banking conducted fraud and loss prevention training for bank employees.

He also enjoyed 10 years of law enforcement  while living in Iowa and again when he moved to Arizona in 1971. When he first moved to Arizona he attend Professional Golfers Association (PGA) business school and worked in the golf profession as an assistant golf professional and golf instructor.

Since 1987, he’s served on the Board of Directors of Merchants Information Solutions.

During his years of employment in law enforcement and banking, he continued his education at various colleges and employee sponsored classes and seminars in criminal law, interview and interrogation techniques, financial fraud and internal investigation classes. He also held office in the International Association of Credit Card investigator (IACCI), and does volunteer work at his church. He was a member of The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and was also a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Specialists (CFS).  

Ronald L. Westad, 1st Vice-Chairman

Ronald L. Westad began his service as a Board member of Merchants Information Solutions, Inc. in 1999 and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Arizona Federal Credit Union (AFCU). AFCU serves more than 200,000 members representing more than $1.6 billion in total assets.

Ron holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of New Mexico and has resided in Arizona since April of 1987.

Ron is active in Arizona’s civic and business communities. In addition, he serves The 100 Club, and the Board of Directors of CNBS, LLC. He is also a past member of the Board of Directors of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Youth Assistance Foundation and is a past Advisory Board member of Make A Difference (now known as HandsOn Greater Phoenix), a non-profit organization that coordinates a network of volunteers for diverse community service projects. Ron also completed an 8-year term on the Board of Directors of the Greater Phoenix Urban League. He held all table officer positions including that of Chairman. He also previously served a six-year term as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arizona Credit Union League, including terms as Vice Chairman and Treasurer, and a four-year term on the Board of Directors of First Corporate Credit Union.

Stephen W. Gilliland, 2nd Vice-Chairman

Dr. Stephen W. Gilliland is the Associate Dean for Executive Education in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. He holds the Arnold Lesk Chair in Leadership also serves as Executive Director of the Center for Leadership Ethics. He previously served as vice dean for the Eller College. Prior to moving to Arizona, Gilliland received degrees from the University of Alberta and Michigan State University (Ph.D., 1992) and was on the faculty at Louisiana State University.

Professor Gilliland’s research examines the fairness of management practices and policies and the impact of fair leadership on employee behaviors. Through this merging of social, legal, and managerial issues, he has authored more than 50 journal articles, books, and book chapters. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and the Academy of Management Journal. In 2006, Gilliland was elected as a Fellow in the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). He was also the 1997 recipient of the Ernest J. McCormick Award for Early Career Contributions from SIOP.

Professor Gilliland has taught numerous courses on business ethics, human resource management, general management, healthcare entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship. He has developed and taught executive leadership programs for healthcare, public sector, and mining organizations. He has consulted with small and large, public and private organizations on strategic planning and implementation and executive team development.

Ronald K. Sable, Director

Ronald K. Sable is president of Concord Solutions Ltd., a business consulting practice for commercial and non-profit entities. He is Chairman of the Board of the University of Arizona Center for Leadership Ethics in the Eller College of Management, a member of the Board of Paragon Space Development Corporation, IDAir Corporation, and the DM 50. He was a senior executive at The Aerospace Corporation, and McDonnell Douglas Corporation, where he led government relations for the $18B firm.

Before joining McDonnell Douglas, he was Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Affairs. In that role he was the lead White House liaison with the U.S. Senate on defense, foreign policy, intelligence, arms control and banking issues.

He served as an Air Force pilot (Colonel) and was an Outstanding Graduate of the Air War College. A graduate of Iowa Wesleyan College (BS), he has an MS in International Relations from Southern Illinois University and a Doctorate of Humane Letters (honorary) from Iowa Wesleyan. He is a graduate of the Harvard University Program in National & International Security, the Wharton School Executive Program in Finance, the UCLA Anderson School Program in Mergers and Acquisitions, and the Capitol University School of Banking.

He is the former Chairman of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and the recipient of the 2011 United Way "Live United" award for community service, he also is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Iowa Wesleyan, the George Washington Honor Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Medal (3 OLC), and is a licensed commercial pilot with instrument and type rating.

His views on subjects ranging from board of director responsibilities to national security, ethics in leadership and the challenges of our environment have been featured at the United Nations, in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Fast Company Magazine, The Arizona Star, and on NPR.

Frank M. Placenti, Director

Frank M. Placenti is a Partner and firmwide Leader of Corporate Governance and Finance Practice for Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP a 1,600-lawyer firm with 44 offices internationally.

His practice emphasizes the representation of public and emerging companies, and private equity and venture capital firms with respect to mergers and acquisitions, strategic transactions and capital formation, including initial public offerings. Mr. Placenti has substantial experience in corporate governance, takeover and anti-takeover efforts, shareholder relations, internal investigations and SEC investigatory matters.

He is very active in the governance field, including currently serving as the Founding President of the American College of Governance Counsel. He has conceived and founded this organization comprised of 60 leading corporate governance lawyers from the United States and Canada.

Mr. Placenti is also the Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association Corporate Governance Committee and a Member of the Greater Phoenix Leadership, and the American, Arizona and Maricopa County Bar Associations. He has served on the Board of several public and private companies.

Austin M. Bockwinkel, Director

Austin M. Bockwinkel has spent his career specializing in financial and professional risks and related risk management strategies - including risk transfer via insurance policies. He works regularly with his clients to identify and mitigate exposures for a wide variety of Public, Private and Non-Profit organizations across the globe. Currently, Austin serves as Director of Financial and Professional Risk for The Hauser Group, a consultancy focused on serving the needs of private equity firms and corporations in the areas of M&A due diligence, corporate risk, and executive benefits. As Director, Austin oversees a portfolio of specialty insurance programs including Errors and Omissions, Directors and Officers, Cyber, Employment Practices, Miscellaneous Professional, Crime, Fiduciary, Media, and Intellectual Property coverages. Prior to joining The Hauser Group, he worked for Aon Corporation serving as Assistant Vice President. Austin's responsibilities during his tenure at Aon included co-leading a national team specializing in the placement of Cyber and Errors and Omissions insurance.

James J. Rough, Director

James J. Rough is an Associate Director at Navigant Consulting, Inc. within the Healthcare and Life Sciences Disputes, Regulatory, Compliance and Investigations practice.  For more than fifteen years, US and international clients have trusted James to perform internal investigations and compliance assessments, consult on complex contract disputes, perform data analytics, and advise white-collar defense counsel in criminal, civil and class action proceedings.  

He regularly advises clients on multiple topics including the False Claims Act, Affordable Care Act, Medical Loss Ratios, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Usual and Customary Rates, and technical accounting for revenue recognition. His healthcare clients include some of the nation’s largest insurers, hospitals, global medical device/implant manufacturers and utilization managers. His unique combination of formal financial, fraud and forensic training is coupled with significant experience in various healthcare industry segments and familiarity with associated large transactional, financial, and regulatory data sets. This knowledge base provides clients a multi-faceted expert when they are facing internal and external investigation, litigation, and compliance challenges.

He’s led or has had significant roles in high-profile forensic investigations and compliance reviews domestically as well as in Europe and the Middle East. He has provided significant support to clients communicating complex issues to regulatory and enforcement personnel including the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) and has communicated investigation findings directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) enforcement personnel.  James is a regular lecturer for the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) on best practices for communicating with government regulators and enforcement personnel.

He has led substantial portions of consulting engagements involving public and private company financial restatements and Medicare Cost Reports. In many engagements, he’s asked to work on site, leveraging client accounting and operations staff where possible, while working in tandem with external auditors and regulators in order to facilitate an efficient outcome.

Executive Leadership Team

Russell A. Johnson, President & Chief Executive Officer

Russell A. Johnson, President & Chief Executive Officer of Merchants Information Solutions since 2004, a leading provider of Employment Background Screening Services, including Integrity Testing and Identity Theft Protection Services for consumers and businesses. Prior to that, he held numerous executive officer positions during a 20 year career in the Banking industry.

He is a respected thought leader with more than 11 years of experience both within the employment screening industry and identity theft protection industry. He regularly advises organizations and industry groups nationwide on best practices for both industries.

He holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and is an alumnus of the Graduate School of Bank Management from the University of Virginia. He has numerous business, educational, and professional affiliations and is a respected leader in the financial services industry. He is active in the Community as well, currently serving as a Board Chair for the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation and Board member for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member for the Center of Leadership Ethics Advisory Board, University of Arizona - Eller College, as well as, Executive Board Member of the Patrick Peterson Foundation for Success and an alumni of the FBI Citizen’s Academy.

James H. Collard, Vice President, Operations

James H. Collard, Vice President of Operations since 2005, has more than 30 years of experience in operations, credit management and sales. Before joining Merchants, he served as General Manager for Babbitt Trading CO’s Tuba City Division and was Chief Financial Officer for White Eagle Building Materials. Recently, he held the position of President of the Credit and Financial Development Division of NACM and was Chairman for the Phoenix Area Credit Executives.

Mark A. Pribish, Vice President & ID Theft Practice Leader

Mark A. Pribish, Vice President & ID Theft Practice Leader since 2005, has more than 25 years of experience in working with financial institutions, associations and Fortune 1000 companies throughout the United States. His background includes the marketing and sales of Identity Theft, Data Breach, Insurance, and Risk Management services.

Mr. Pribish has authored hundreds of articles and white papers and is frequently interviewed by local and national media as a Cyber Security, Identity Theft, and Data Breach Risk Management expert.

Prior to joining Merchants, Mr. Pribish was Senior Vice President for Aon Risk Services of Arizona, Inc., and National Sales Manager for AIG Life and AIG Environmental Banking Group. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts.

Michael G. Mortensen, Vice President, Information Technology

Michael G. Mortensen, Vice President of Information Technology since 2007, has more than 20 years of experience in Information Technology, Accounting and Finance. Most recently he served as an Analyst with US Airways, supporting its merger with America West Airlines. Prior to that, he was the Vice President of Information Technology at APPS Software, a boutique software consulting firm headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ and also served as Financial Analyst for NDC Health Information Systems.

Stephen J. Swope, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Stephen J. Swope, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer since 2004, has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in the finance and accounting arenas. Previously the CFO for Vital Processing Services in Tempe, he also held management positions with Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

He holds an MBA in Finance and a BS in Accounting from the University of Akron. A certified public accountant (CPA), he is an active member of the Arizona Society of Certified ePublic Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.