It had become time to face the devil and take him head on. The devil that was facing me from my poor choice of employers and the same snake who wanted me to suffer and die personally.
I started the legal response process by talking with my personal attorney who had handled the employment contract. We knew it contained provisions that the former employer agreed to that made it nearly impossible for me to do what they were accusing me of doing. For starters I had a provision inserted that stated specifically I had no authority to sign checks or indebt the company. My duties were specific and none involved corporate board activities or positions. In other words, my authority was limited to operations activities and even the people I wanted to hire had to be approved by ownership. I had no access to company property after hours. What they were accusing me of simply would never survive even the most casual smell test.
However, they did have money and access to prominent people in the legal and judicial community. So my personal attorney recommended using a proven litigation attorney we both knew. He was a guy for whom I had deep respect and had actually completed financing for in a business partnership in which he was an owner. He was a former Vietnam era Marine with significant battlefield experience and a senior partner in a well known firm that employed several partners from the firm of former Sen. Howard Baker of Watergate fame. My litigating attorney would treat me well (translation: discount) on his billings and be patient in collecting them as a favor for our past relationship. We countersued for payment of compensation due for the entire employment contract. If they wanted a fight, well, they found one.
We soon learned what they had spent nearly a year trying to do without achieving the level of success they wanted. They had made similar claims about me also to FIB and DODGE. They had even gone to the point of researching my past banking employment and sent FIB investigators checking out all of my past financings of businesses. Turns out their corporate attorney was drinking buddies with several FIB agents. They had other cases in which they had been intertwined. Their attorney had asked his buddies to look for dirt.
They had chosen a path of blaming me for all of the losses they would be forced to take on their financial statement and tax returns from the write down of the equipment and inventory they stole from themselves over the years, which included receiving funds on the fraudulent insurance claims. Apparently it was the only way they saw to potentially stall the bank that had made the loans that had required the audit and equipment appraisal. They wanted to trot this guy out as the scapegoat and tell those questioning that they had fired the bad guy. All that was left was to file the civil lawsuit to justify the claims and show it in the footnotes. Check the box.
Their plan was to stall it all out for as many years as possible for the flames to die down on themselves even if they were unsuccessful with making me the fall guy.
Once we figured out their game plan over the next year we worked to obtain evidence and witness statements. These led to depositions of course. If you have never been through that experience, they are not fun. Fortunately, I had in a couple of previous business related lawsuits so I knew what to expect during them along with the legal bills that followed.
In our case, it was during the deposition of the wife of the owner, who was actually listed as President, that they made a critical mistake. First, they had the son as President in my employment contract when he was only the General Manager. But she went on to say something even more enlightening to us. She stated that their attorney was the actual Chairman and CEO of the company. There was no denying it – straight out said it in questioning. The blood rushed out of their attorney’s face. My attorney had a huge grin on his. He knew that their attorney had a huge conflict of interest that had been undisclosed that was subject to referral to the Board of Professional Responsibility. He had attempted to keep it hidden. But he was the Chairman and CEO when the alleged activities occurred before I was employed and after while never disclosing his position. We now knew why he was fighting so hard to take me down, he had double jeopardy as the business’ CEO and within the legal profession.
My attorney made the referral to the Board the next week. It was time to up the ante.
It was during this period that FIB paid an unannounced visit to my residence while I was on the road in business meetings. I guess they wanted to see for themselves where I would hide over a million dollars of equipment on our half acre lot and 3 bedroom rancher in podunk. Being an ex-banker with a good understanding of how the legal game was played through her own past experiences, my wife saw them pull in the driveway and knew to not open the door. After a few minutes they left and never returned to our knowledge.
Next, I was able to witness the judiciary protect one of their own. We filed to have their attorney removed as attorney of record due to his status as CEO of the company. We now had the deposition and had secured additional information from company filings at the state as evidence. The judge acknowledged it all, yet, let him stay on as their attorney. My attorney offered to appeal, however, he felt the benefit was minimal compared to cost. He felt strongly we had the upper hand and already had what needed to make their attorney squirm.
The next major event that happened was a phone call I received from the FIB agents, who wanted to have a conversation with me. My attorney was on vacation, so I made the decision to go and have it. I wanted to hear what they were trying to accomplish. They played good cop bad cop and I knew they were trying to read me. They said there had been questionable loans made by me at my last employer, which I knew was fabricated. They asked about a couple, one of which I had not even approved. I had referred the customer to a consumer banking area to handle since I had previously worked with that customer at another employer. I asked them if they had a copy of the Code of Ethics form I had completed and signed with my former bank employer that listed prior business relationships previous to my employment there. They said they did not. I told them to check it out, that my copy was in my attorney’s office. I then asked them if they had a copy of my assigned lending authority documents as well as that of the bank overall in assigning authorities in all of the officers in the various departments. They said they did not. Whether they did or not, asking the questions let them know that I knew.
They then asked questions about my role at the equipment company. I proceeded to give them what I hoped would get back to their attorney buddy. I started with my employment contract details and let the air out of their balloon. I let them know clearly that there was over a million dollars worth of equipment and parts missing from our internal audit and third party appraisal, that the company had made insurance claims fraudulently, that they had not paid taxes on the missing equipment they sold for cash, that the agents should pay a visit to the owner’s farm, and that they were committing EPA violations at all of their locations. That took about 5 minutes and they decided to stop asking questions. They thanked me for coming in.
When my attorney returned from vacation he let me have it for talking to them. He told me to never acknowledge their existence. He said they were liars and would entrap innocent people just to win cases. I told him I was aware, that I had moved here from Arkansas. He knew what I meant. I also told him my referral network and the business community needed to know I was not the bad guy or it would kill my career.
He was right though, FIB and DODGE were not done. We found out later they had tried to indict me. A couple of past business associates let me know they were called to answer questions at a grand jury hearing. According to my attorney who researched it and the called witnesses the jury itself challenged the prosecutors about wasting their time with false accusations with no evidence. However, the thought that they had even attempted to do that sent shivers down my spine. Evil is as evil does. I am a sinner saved by grace, but I would never conspire to destroy an innocent person’s life and family like those evil doers did – ever.
However, my attorney and I knew factually the company had a problem that would never go away, which were the equipment and parts audit worksheets and third party appraisal of same. My guy had conducted the audits, I knew they were accurate as they were audited twice as a precaution, with the equipment also verified on the third party appraisal. All of that would go into evidence. The lack of investigation and follow-up by FIB after having been made aware in our meeting of their buddy’s criminality would come out as our meeting was recorded and the details had also been discussed in the depositions. They knew the equipment and parts were missing as they had used that claim from the company as the basis for conducting an investigation of me.
Which is why they would never have won a case against me even if the grand jury rubber stamped their claim. However, it is why I now know for certain that actual innocence or guilt has nothing to do with the outcomes of some of the cases you hear and read about. There are unknown motives and bad actors in positions of trust.
There had to be other motives to lie and run interference for those criminals besides friendship. Somebody owed somebody else something. The company may have been an undercover trap that local law enforcement, FIB and DODGE used for other purposes. Who knows? I had lost my curiosity for knowing more.
For the next six months or so we heard nothing. Until we received a letter releasing me from all claims and ending it all from the same devious Asst. U. S. Attorney who had tried to convince the grand jury. At the same time the equipment company was also now ready to end our lawsuits against each other. Shocker. Four years had gone by and four annual audited financial statements and federal tax returns submitted by them to the bank and to the IRS. I knew it was pointless to continue the process of my countersuit as the legal bills would only get larger. I had taken cash advances on credit cards to pay the more recent legal bills and we were just then starting to come out of the paycheck to paycheck life with my increasing commission income.
We prayed about it and the peace we received was clear. It was time to end this civilized war and focus on living free of that stress ever again. God would provide and vengeance is His to determine
After nearly four years of utter turmoil in one part of our lives, the Lord had blessed us beyond any expectation we could have in another. I knew I finally had found my career calling and I knew why it had happened. Which also brought peace to Rock Star.
There are strange people like me in this world that love small businesses and their entrepreneurial owners. Weird, huh? I admire their tenacity, belief in what they are doing, inventiveness and focus. They tend to be really creative in general and unafraid to take risks. Being a financial partner with many of these type folks is inspiring. Most working Americans do not realize that half of them are employed by small businesses. All of my work life experiences had led me to the strong support of the average Joe and Jane, the underdogs trying to succeed against the odds and the elites, corporate behemoths, and other naysayers who wanted to tamp them down. I no longer took pride in assisting the Pilots and Regal Cinemas of the world. I wanted to help us – real people who did not sell their souls to the devil for money and power, who believed in the American Dream.
In the process of handling this career I could do well for my employer, take care of my family and have more personal time available to do the work of the church. Self centered pride had exited and was replaced by sincerity and purpose.
Four years before I hit bottom with that termination and lawsuits, I knew more personal changes needed to be made. I could no longer have one foot in the world and one in God’s kingdom and expect to be blessed. I never wanted to experience anything like that ever again. The weight of providing for the well being of my family as well as living as Christ would have me live had brought me to my knees. Literally.
At age 40, I finally gave in. I chose that from that point on it would be Him and me. He could lift me up or toss me down. He could use me or not. I placed myself totally in His hands. Whatever happened would be what He desired to have happen, not me. I promised to be more thoughtful and to test decisions and actions against His word to the best of my human ability. I informed Rock Star and she had a puzzled look, but did not question it. My home office in the extra bedroom would become a sanctuary of sorts. Prayers would be offered and conversations held with the Lord daily. I had purchased a large dry erase board for the wall to track prospects and loan closings. I repurposed the top for a description of what each member of the Holy Trinity meant to me. To start my day I would read it and modify as more was revealed to me. I needed to become the best me so that I could love and serve others as He would have me do it.
With the next part we will go back and fill in some details, talk a little politics, expand the faith journey aspect and discuss what happened to various actors over time in this strange Goober Gump movie. Some say karma. I say, what goes around comes around. Until then…