Dead Solid Pluperfect

A Hot Buttered Guff™ Production

Arbortext Royalty Fraud: Chapter Seven

The “Preposterous” Missing Sales

First, we needed to extricate ourselves from Joyce Svechota’s little house of irrational, cheeky horrors.

Contract Interpretation. An innocuous, unthreatening place to begin. We sent Sterken an email questioning the cumulative royalties concept being enforced by Arbortext. We were not privy to my ex-partner’s alleged brain when the contract was harpooned into it, so we were seeking clarification. It did not seem clear from the contract language that the cumulation was perpetual, versus year to year. We preferred the year to year concept. Which was pretty standard industry practice. Would he agree this seemed fair?

Sterken was only too happy to respond immediately. Enthusiastically. Nope, we were dead wrong about this. Perpetual was the deal. Gotcha, Blueberry.

So exultant was our precious little expletive-deleted, that he inadvertently made a very telling and prophetic admission as well. He recalled quite clearly that “The whole philosophy here was that we expected Arbortext sales to increase over the years, and that we wanted to limit future payments to Blueberry.”

What a friendly and respectful philosophy. If royalties were based on sales, how does one “limit” them? By any means necessary, apparently. Like simply not reporting them. Or fabricating royalty reports. Get the message, Blueberry. This is not a business arrangement. It’s a heist.

We responded by sending three sample web page print outs of companies using Interchange that were not on our royalty report. Changing the subject out of the blue. What might your opinion be, Mr. Whole Philosophy, on the topic of Caught Cheating.

He responded that we had “blindsided” him and indignantly termed our insinuation that Arbortext was cheating Blueberry as “preposterous.” He had checked with Accounting, done an internal audit, and verified that Blueberry had been paid all royalties due. All. As in, Every Single Dime.

Jim, it wasn’t an insinuation. It was a fact. And now you’ve resorted to lying about it. Along with the weak ass wounded plea of innocence. Gee, pointing out to you that we’ve been cheated by you has hurt your feelings.

Then I did a very bad thing. Over-grring, so to speak.

Three very bad things, actually. First, I bought a fifth of Scotch. Then I drank it. Then I bolted up in the middle of the night, still half drunk, unable to sleep, boiling over with rage, and sent Jim Sterken a flaming email. Suffice it to say this email will not be entered into the Diplomatic Hall of Fame. It was an insulting, profanity-laced, slobbering, foaming at the mouth, hideous display of a brain-dead idiot having a lurid seizure of sanity.

When I confessed my deed to Mary the next day, the divorce lawyers went on full alert standby. I was sternly reprimanded and warned that if I ever interfered with her work again, she would cease any further involvement with Blueberry, Arbortext, and me.

Properly chastened, I slunk out into a corner of the backyard and had a conversation with the Lord about what He was thinking when he created such an abysmal character such as myself. I had accomplished the impossible. I had turned a scumbag thief into a sympathetic figure. And it was now I that was deranged. Derangement was much more threatening to society than Thievery. Great job, moron. Great job.

Don’t take your guns to town, boy. Leave your guns at home, son.

The rest of the morning, I kept a very low profile around our home. There are some things a man does in his life that burn uneraseable etchings into his gallant façade of I’m A Wonderful Guy, and this was definitely one of those things. There was a theory going around, at least in the jury box in my own head, that I was gathering all too many of these etchings as I stumbled recklessly through life. Something had to be done about it!

Unfortunately, I had not spent much of my time acknowledging that anything was wrong with me and had therefore not developed much in the way of any self-correcting tools that I could haul out of a spiritual work shed and align myself more properly with the true and humble tires needed for the road of life. So, my only recourse in moments like this was simply to feel like a big bucket of shit for awhile.

My stay in the doo-doo pail ended abruptly and somewhat stunningly.

Jim Sterken sent an email expressing his concern about my email, and casually informed us that Arbortext had, lo and behold, found some missing royalty sales!

Perhaps there was an archaeologist on staff who was able to dig deeper into the books than the company’s internal auditor had been capable of. Not just some missing sales, however. An entire YEAR of them. All of 2000, not just December. Where had these sales so cleverly and fiendishly been hiding? Did they sneak out the basement window and elope with a BMW? How were they ferreted out from their invisible hide-away? Was Arbortext extraordinarily concerned about the apparent ability of sales to vanish from their accounting system software? And then magically reappear? Perhaps the Internal Revenue Service could help them solve this perplexing problem. They were purportedly quite proficient in these types of vanishing matters. Or maybe the Securities and Exchange Commission. Certainly prospective stock buyers for the rumored inevitable Arbortext IPO offering would be concerned about this carelessness.

The net effect was our first ever royalty check based on real royalties, not minimum guarantees. And the check was for nearly $30,000, an entire year’s worth of minimums in one measly quarter. A check which also wiped out our cumulative deficit with $30,000 to spare.

This news was both joyous and perplexing. And maddening. If we signed our royalty agreement with Arbortext in July of 2000, why were we getting royalties from sales that occurred before that date? In addition, the first five months of the contract, as I mentioned earlier, which for nearly two years and six consecutive quarterly royalty reports, plus three or four more from Svechota, had always been reported as no sales at all, were suddenly rife with sales. The company Controller, Cherie Van Allen, had verified more than once that there were no sales in this five month period. Svechota, the unnamed internal auditor, Sterken, and Accounting had reaffirmed this fact. Absolutely, positively no sales.

Zero.

And yet, there they were. Attached to large corporate customer names. Clearly, these customers had purchased our software during the entire first year of our contract. And just as clearly, Arbortext had purposefully not paid us for these purchases, not reported them, and had no intention of EVER reporting them. Until Mary had smoked them out.

And the Zeros, that had been cheekily verified over and over again as absolutely, positively Zeros, were now no longer Zeros. They had monetary value. They obviously had always had monetary value. Arbortext, Joyce Svechota, had simply lied to us repeatedly about them.

The “preposterous” missing sales we had reported were magically not preposterous and not missing any more. And not accompanied by any apology whatsoever. Not even a tiny little “Oops.”

Like I said in the beginning, Jim Sterken was a liar, a thief, and a scoundrel. And he had just proven it dead, solid perfect. On the record. Here’s the evidence. Go straight to jail, young man. I’m sure they have paddle balls there. You’ll feel right at home.

Mary and I went out to the front porch and sat on the swing. We swang for awhile, then she said, “It’s not often that bad behavior is rewarded.”

I sensed I was being let off the hook of shame. Forgiven, slightly. I vowed silently to keep my big, fat mouth shut from here on out.

Perhaps, now that they had been caught, Arbortext would just pay us fair and square in the future and all would be well.

Little did we suspect that this was only the first battle and the war had just begun.

To be continued tomorrow with an examination of the Evidence . . . Free Hit Counter website statistics

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June 18, 2008 - Posted by | Business, Law, Life, News, Software, Technology, Writing | , , , ,

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