Malfeasance Monday – Under Armour Gets Probed, WeWork CEO Gets Away With It, and Ex-CEO of Woodbridge Gets 25 Years in the Pen.

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Have I got a deal for you on some synthetic fabric underwear and a million square feet of new-age office space!

Happy Monday, fellow fraud-connoisseurs! Much like the falling leaves of Autumn, the waning year brings us no shortage of falling stock prices, falling investment valuations, and C-suite executives taking falls. Let’s dive right in…


Under Armour faces federal investigation over its accounting practices (CNBC)

Under Armour is the subject of federal investigations by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission over its accounting practices, the company confirmed Sunday. 

Under Armour began responding in July 2017 to requests for documents and information related to its accounting practices and related disclosures. Under Armour is cooperating with both investigations and believes its accounting practices and disclosures were appropriate, a company spokesperson said. 

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation and is coordinating with civil investigators at the SEC, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. The SEC declined to comment. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under Armour has struggled on its home turf as of late in the face of stiff competition from Nike, Adidas and Lululemon. Its sales in North America dropped 2% in 2018 to $3.7 billion. Analysts say the retailers’ “performance” focused gear, like sweat-proof shirts, does not resonate with as many shoppers. 

Under Armour has also faced turmoil in its executive ranks. The company went through three CFOs in the period between 2016-2017 and is currently in the midst of a transition in its management.

CEO and founder Kevin Plank plans to step down from the top job on Jan. 1, and will be replaced by COO Patrik Frisk. Plank plans to stay on at the company as executive chairman and brand chief.

Plank said the change was part of the company’s succession planning.

There has also been public controversy over Under Armour’s work culture. Employees reportedly charged visits to strip clubs on their corporate cards to win over athletes. Under Armour ended the practice and Plank promised to build a “diverse” and “inclusive” environment at the company in the wake of the controversy.  

The company’s stock closed up 2.37% at $21.41 Friday. Under Armour’s stock is down nearly 11% over the past 12 months.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/03/under-armour-is-the-subject-of-a-federal-accounting-probe-wsj-reports.html


Too White To Catch: NYU Professor Says WeWork Is Like Theranos Fraud (The Mogouldon Nation)

One of our favorite reads is NYU Marketing Professor Scott Galloway’s Blog No Mercy/No Malice. If all Prof. Galloway had ever accomplished was coining the business term “Yogababble,” That would have been enough in my book to elect him to the business-blogger Hall of Fame (if such a thing existed. Get on it, WordPress!). However, he’s done much more than that. Back in August, he called the WeWork debacle before it all came crashing down. He also rightly identified it for what it was – a scam, specifically a scam perpetrated by founder Adam Neumann. Galloway predicted that Neumann would bail when the house of cards he had built started to collapse, and would take an ungodly sum of cash with him when he left, essentially leaving investors and employees holding the bag.

Now, Isheka N. Harrison has expanded on Prof. Galloway’s thesis, and made the case for why Neumann will very likely get away absolutely scot-free. It’s hard to argue against the benefits of Upper Middle Class Pseudo Hippie Sociopath White Privilege when confronted with the We Work story. It’s a crazy one, and worth diving into!

https://www.profgalloway.com/wewtf

https://moguldom.com/229869/too-white-to-catch-nyu-professor-says-wework-is-like-theranos-fraud/


Is There a Wine Cellar in Federal Prison? Former Woodbridge Group CEO gets 25 years in $1.3-billion fraud (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Robert Shapiro, the former chief executive of Woodbridge Group of Cos., received the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for running a $1.3-billion fraud that caused more than 7,000 retirees and other investors to lose money.

Shapiro, 61, of Sherman Oaks, promised returns as high as 10% from investments in loans to property developers. Instead, he used money from new investors to repay earlier ones and used $36 million to buy luxury homes, wines, paintings and custom jewelry for his wife.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in Miami sentenced Shapiro on Tuesday, giving him twice the amount of prison time suggested by his lawyers, according to court records.

Shapiro’s team argued that he’s in poor health and that the 25-year term recommended by prosecutors is harsher than the sentence he would probably have gotten for armed bank robbery, hijacking an airplane, sexual abuse of a child or even murder.

Prosecutors said Shapiro moved money through a network of 270 limited liability companies that he controlled. Investors lost $450 million, according to the government.

The scam ran from July 2012 until December 2017, when Woodbridge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Shapiro pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion in August. In November 2018, he agreed to pay $120 million to resolve related civil claims by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Two alleged co-conspirators are scheduled for trial in June.

Prosecutors said Shapiro used investor money for his $6.7-million home and $3.1 million for chartering planes and personal travel. He agreed to forfeit artworks by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; 603 bottles of wine; numerous pieces of luxury jewelry; and a 1969 Mercury convertible.”

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/story/2019-10-16/former-woodbridge-group-ceo-gets-25-years-in-1-3-billion-fraud


See you on Whistleblower Wednesday!

Fraud Friday – To Steal & Protect: One of the Craziest Public Embezzlement Cases in History


Usually, embezzlement cases in public agencies are, if not boring, at the very least extremely predictable:

  • Municipality/Agency/Authority X finds out that Trusted Longtime Employee Y has been running a fake vendor scam for several years, and has stolen $Z.Z million dollars in order to satisfy their addiction to Indian casino slot machines and flowery Vera Bradley purses.
  • Everyone is “shocked. shocked I tell you” that Y is a con-artist. Why, she went to church every Sunday and fed the local stray cats, and she used to always bring in her famous turducken/donut sandwiches for the employee holiday potluck! A person such as this COULDN’T POSSIBLY be a (whispered) criminal. I mean, she’s not even a black guy for chrissake!
  • The Mayor/City Council/Board of Trustees of said public entity shits bricks in private, then professes to have known nothing in public, having been hoodwinked by a Master Criminal and kept in the dark by the career managers.
  • The media creates a temporary firestorm of publicity, whipping up the locals into a state of understandable rage. Then, as quickly as they appeared, the Nancy Grace’s of the world are off to the next Pretty White Girl Kidnapping or heartwarming animal story
  • Staff who aren’t fired or indicted are left to figure out what the hell happened and how to continue to do the business of the agency with little or no executive management, reduced budgets, and sky-high stress levels
  • The perp tearfully confesses to the judge at her sentencing hearing, insisting that “she just doesn’t know what got into her,” and blaming her financial transgressions on the death of her labradoodle ten years ago. The judge, while moved by this vacuous display of self-interested apologia, realizes he can’t just let this perp walk free, because he’s been handing out 25-to-life sentences to the poor and the unconnected like traffic tickets to the locals in Ferguson, Missouri, so he gives her eighteen months in County and a “strong admonishment” not to do it again.
  • Perp does her time quietly, and then, once paroled, seems to spend an awful lot of time in her flower garden, digging up something that appears to have been buried there.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat. The names, places, and amounts change, but it’s always some variation of that timeline.

Not in this story, though. This shit is NUTS. It’s got it all: Embezzlement, money laundering, perjury, wire fraud, bank fraud, insurance fraud, suicide, document fabrication, death threats, the entire county executive team getting indicted by a grand jusry, and so much more. Seems like sleepy little Front Royal, Virginia was more less like Mayberry (per the story), and more like Twin Peaks. From the WaPo:

FRONT ROYAL, Va. — Before the $21 million allegedly went missing, before the sheriff put his gun in his mouth and fired, before Tuesday’s announcement that the entire top tier of the Warren County government had been indicted, there was the dream.

It was a dream of renewal for this town 70 miles from Washington, which fell on hard times after a rayon manufacturing plant closed in 1989, leaving 1,300 people jobless and 440 acres full of toxic waste… 

Twenty-five years later, with the land cleaned up and Front Royal increasingly attractive to tourists and former city dwellers, officials announced plans for a data center and retail complex that would bring 600 jobs and act as a catalyst for other projects.

The deal was brokered by Jennifer McDonald, a longtime Front Royal resident who directed the Warren County economic development authority. Washington-area developer Truc “Curt” Tran pledged to finance it with $40 million from wealthy immigrant investors and a $140 million federal contract his technology company had secured. As an added bonus, Tran would fund a police training academy overseen by longtime Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron.

But those were lies, documents in Warren County Circuit Court allege.

Tran never had the money to build the data center project on the 30 acres his company bought from McDonald’s agency for $1, a civil lawsuit alleges. And the training academy was one of several hoaxes that, prosecutors and civil lawsuits claim, allowed Tran, McDonald, McEathron and others to siphon away millions in public funds, which they allegedly used to buy properties, pay bills and gambling debts, and enrich relatives and friends.

Now McEathron is dead, Tran is being sued by the economic development authority and there are state and federal investigations underway. McDonald faces 28 state counts of embezzlement, money laundering and obtaining money through false pretenses. She has denied the allegations and did not return interview requests, while Tran declined to comment through his attorney.

The claims against them, industry groups say,reflect the perils of weak oversight in economic development agencies — quasi-public entities that oversee large, complicated transactions, and whose boards often lack the financial savvy and investor scrutiny that protect their corporate counterparts.In Montgomery County, Md., an economic development official pleaded guilty this year to embezzling $6.7 million. The head of economic development in St. Louis pleaded guilty to steering lucrative contracts to the county executive’s political donors. In New Jersey, a grand jury is investigating how $500 million in tax incentives went to firms that, in part, allegedly lied on their applications.

“The lessons here are that there’s a need for better financial accountability,” said Jeff Finkle, head of the nonprofit International Economic Development Council. “People beyond one person who is managing a project where the temptation may be too great.”

On Tuesday, the Virginia State Police announced that 14 current and former local officials — including all five county supervisors — were charged with misdemeanor misfeasance and nonfeasance “based on the individuals’ knowledge of and inaction [regarding] the EDA’s mismanagement of funds.”

Read the full, insane story here

Here’s another account from the Northern Virginia Daily, a local newspaper that’s done a lot of investigative work on the story as well.

Then there’s the Mad Mother, a Facebook page that has become a repository of news about the case, run by a Front Royal local who is, well, mad as Hell. Apparently, there’s been a proverbial GOBN (Good Ole’ Boy Network) in picturesque Warren County for many decades. I can’t say the info posted on her site is verified journalism, but it sure makes for interesting reading…

At the end of it all, one can only reach the same conclusions that are always there in these cases: Where was the oversight? The internal controls? Why wasn’t this caught sooner? What will it take for people to learn that when the opportunity for fraud exists, there WILL be (not MAY be) people who steal. As the anonymous quote states: “The lesson will be repeated until it is learned.”

Fraud Friday: “Inception” Bank Fraud, Cryptocurrency Vanishes, College Admissions Fraud

Greetings from the hazy heat of Summer here in the American Middle West. While it came late after a very wet Spring, it’s finally arrived in all its ridiculously humid glory. Fireflies are cool, though…anyway, one thing that never took a break was fraud, so here we go…


Bank manager hid employee’s fraud to hide his own $500,000 fraud, police say

A senior manager at the Commonwealth Bank, who stole almost half a million dollars, failed to report a member of his team for fraudulently transferring an alleged $64,000 to her personal account, lest his own fraud be discovered, police allege.

Lee Zaragoza, a self-described ‘results driven’ senior manager in the bank’s payment operations unit, is accused of funding a gambling habit by redirecting $463,240 from the bank into his own personal account between 2013 and 2018.” – Sydney Morning Herald

I love it – “results driven.” Yeah, the only result from you being a first-class asshole, Mr. Zaragoza, is that YOU’RE now going to jail, along with your fellow embezzling senior manager. It’s like the movie “Inception,” where everything is a crazily-related M.C. Escher-esque house of mirrors. This kind of situation actually happens more than one might think, particularly in organizations without a strong sense of ethics or a poor or dishonest managerial culture.


Where’d Your Bitcoin Go, Bro?

Losses from the theft of cryptocurrencies from exchanges and fraud-related activities surged in the first quarter of the year to $1.2 billion, or 70 percent of the level for all of 2018, cybersecurity firm CipherTrace said on Tuesday.” – Reuters

Shocking – shocking, I tell you: A bunch of criminal hackers invent a virtual form of money, and then use their superior technical skills to use that invention as an efficient method for separating the stupid from their cash.

Two years ago, I was getting yelled at online for being skeptical about the Bitcoin Bubble. Anyone who questioned the safety and security of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies was shouted down and branded a Luddite, and those without a blind self-interest in profiting from a bunch of suckers got badgered into silence. Well, the separation of idiots from their funds appears to be continuing apace…


Long before college admissions scandal, universities saw signs of fraud on campus

More than a year before the college admissions scandal investigation began, Georgetown University “discovered irregularities” in the athletic credentials of two tennis recruits, initiated a secret investigation and eventually forced coach Gordon Ernst to resign, court records show. University officials say those two athletic recruits were denied admission.

But none of Ernst’s conduct would become public until he was arrested in March on charges he accepted $2.7 million in bribes between 2012 and 2018. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy.” – LA Times

Once again, I’m surprised that anyone was surprised by this scandal. It’s been clear for several decades to anyone willing to see and hear that these sorts of schemes have been going on for a long time. Well, hopefully someone will have plenty of time on their hands to “get educated” about the issues from inside a correctional institution.

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend, and be on the lookout for some exciting format and layout changes arriving soon!

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