Dead Solid Pluperfect

A Hot Buttered Guff™ Production

Arbortext Royalty Fraud #24: Ten Lawyers or $100,000

Chapter Twenty-Four
Ten Lawyers or $100,000

Sole owner of Blueberry.

Not as impressive as Royal Duke of Westblathersbey Shire. But okayish, I suppose. In reality, I was not now nor ever could be the sole owner of anything except my clothes. Dwan had been right about that. About his notion that I could not succeed on my own. I could do just about anything necessary to starting, building, and running a business – except lead it or represent it. I had terminal failure when it came to Public Relations. It wasn’t that I did not possess people skills. It was that all these skills were Negative and Disastrous. Which was fine if your business was starting barroom brawls or international conflicts. But very counter-productive to generating a living wage.

Dwan knew this. He considered it his secret weapon. The ipso facto of why, eventually, he could not fail in his quest for power and control.

Where Dwan was fatally wrong was in assuming that he was irreplaceable. He and he alone could provide the leadership and representation necessary for my survival. It never occurred to him that anyone else could possibly fill this role. Or that I could locate such a person even if I tried.

But he had overlooked Mary. Probably never even considered the notion of her being able to step right in and provide the leadership and representation that he assumed only he could provide. Within one month, she proved not only to be a replacement, but a major, major upgrade.

And now, nearly two years after she discovered Jim Sterken’s thievery, which had passed unnoticed under Dwan’s nose for a year and a half, and a year after our meeting at the Mariott with Jim Haggarty and Ted Herzog, she was now finally free to resume her efforts to extract an honest royalty report out of Arbortext, unhindered by Dwan and Bernheim.

We sent a notice by registered mail to Ray Schiavone, the new CEO, informing him of the Blueberry change in ownership. Then Mary emailed him and suggested that she and I fly back to Michigan and have a little pow-wow to iron out our difficulties. After all, Sterken was no longer the Boss, right? Surely Schiavone would want to clean up Sterken’s mess and be able to produce, perhaps for the first time in Arbortext’s history, an honest set of books and records

Schiavone responded by suggesting a conference telephone call instead.

Mary was disappointed with this approach, but not me. While it was true that I had never been to Michigan, somehow its allure had never captured my imagination. In fact, I can’t say it ever even entered my imagination. I only knew about three things associated with Michigan: Magic Johnson, Jimmy Hoffa‘s last known address, and the place they made cars.

Plus, of course, the real reasons. A phone call was much cheaper than two round trip plane tickets and some hotel bills. And I didn’t have to shave and dress up and sit around in an uncomfortable office chair. Instead, I got to sit in my rocking chair, marginally attired in suburban slob threads, while Mary chatted on the phone. This wouldn’t be possible in the future, when phones had cameras embedded in them, but it was still safe in November of 2003.

Mary was a bit nervous when she found herself talking not only to Ray Schiavone, but to the new CFO, Dave Peralta, who had recently assumed the duties from Jim Haggarty. Haggarty was no doubt relieved to be out of the accounting fraud cover up business and back to providing scaled up baloney to the public as the company CIO.

According to Mary’s research, good old Dave was a specialist in cleaning up sloppy books and records in order to pass muster for an IPO offering. Mary located him in an online article one day warning his readership of fellow CFO types that using editable Spreadsheets for accounting matters was something to be frowned upon. Of course, that was precisely what he was presiding over at Arbortext in terms of reporting our royalties. The actual preciselyers were down there in the Engineering and Product Management departments. But it was his Presiding and it was at his desk that the Buck ceased its torturous journey upward.

I couldn’t help marveling at this kind of blatant hypocrisy. Sanctimoniously handing out expert advice while doing exactly the opposite himself. The business mind, like other professional type minds that have been referred to in these pages, was beyond my understanding. I mean, didn’t these people have personal lives involving other human beings where some sort of ethical system, some sort of honesty, was required for any kind of acceptable functionability? This type of written professional effort was no spur of the moment queasy solution to an unexpected encounter in the hallway, either. It was dead solid planned and implemented. A purposeful hollow word, bullshit heaving, hypocritical performance. I just don’t get it. Where does the soul corruption begin? In the womb? Puberty? College business courses? The first extraordinary fear induced by the Real World?

At any rate, one more Arbortext villain added to the roster. And more than just Schiavone and Peralta were listening in. Mary could tell she was on speaker phone back there in Michigan and distinctly suspected she heard the sound of a paddle ball paddling in the background. It could have just been a noisy heating duct, possibly.

Mary gulped and hurled herself into the phone lines. She informed Schiavone that Blueberry had decided to invoke the clause in the contract that allowed it to perform an audit of Arbortext’s books. An audit that could be done by Blueberry itself, or by any number cruncher of Blueberry’s choosing. And not just an audit, but a forensic audit.

This rather routine contractual right to audit royalties was something that Arbortext itself inserted into their own contracts whenever they partnered their technology with some other company. And it was plainly stated in our contract that we could do so ourselves. Royalty Audits were common place business matters throughout the world, whether for software, music, films, or whatever.

Schiavone, however, did not take kindly to our request. Instead he suggested, somewhat ungraciously, that he would sic ten lawyers on us if we tried to perform one. Apparently, he was emphatically rescinding Sterken’s and Haggarty’s exhortations the previous year to come and conduct an audit and find out how honest Arbortext was. Apparently, Schiavone and Peralta had a different view of Arbortext’s so called honesty and preferred to keep it in the realm of public assurances, and not have it actually privately verified. In other words, the books were dirty and they knew it.

Schiavone further suggested that Blueberry choose instead to accept a $100,000 buy out of the Arbortext/Blueberry contract.

Mary covered the phone with her hand and mouthed this offer to me. I scowled. She relayed my scowling by letting Schiavone know that this offer was “not going to fly.” Which we hadn’t, as I’ve mentioned, little knowing that our untaken plane trip would turn up metaphorically on the phone.

The conference call ended soon after this, with both sides agreeing to chat again early the following week.

No such chat occurred, however. Indeed, no chatting ever occurred again between Arbortext and Blueberry.

This freeze in communications could probably be traced to a faux pas committed by either Ray or Dave. Mary had great difficulty during the phone call keeping track of which one of them was talking at any one time. It was like following the pea in the shell game. Her only clues were the occasional self-references like the following:

“Isn’t that right, Ray?”

“Right, Dave.”

I mention this not to imply that Abbott and Costello were now running Arbortext and performing a schtick on the phone with her, but to explain why it was uncertain which of them made the egregious blunder of equating Jim Sterken and me as the parties responsible for the current problem between the two companies. And implying that there was an emotional conflict occurring between the two company leaders that made solutions difficult.

For Sterken to hear himself and me tossed into the same salad as two equal tomatoes must have pushed him into a paddle ball frenzy. He was Him. i was me. No way could he and I appear in the same sentence as equals.

Bad move, Ray/Dave.

To be continued . . .
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July 16, 2008 - Posted by | Business, Life, Software, Stories, Writing | , , , , ,

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