Greg Whitten, Great-West Assurance: The Rainmaker Revisited?
Why would a Billionaire and a Billion Dollar Company deny a former employee who has Heart Failure and is currently on Social Security, a $6800 profit-sharing payment due him 14 years ago? (Think it was the interest?) Was it about what that movie, The Rain Maker, brought up, where the policy of the insurance company was to deny each and every request for payment until the claimant either died or gave up? Or was it about office whispers that someone became a Billionaire on the back of someone else’s abilities? Or was it simply that some people can never have enough? You decide.
Billionaire Gregory Whitten, who reports himself to be the 11th employee of Microsoft, is also well known for his multi-million dollar heated multi-acre garage which houses his collection of classic cars, one of which is reported to be worth $52 million. Whitten is also the founder of Proximation LLC, which appears he merged, for all practical purposes, into Numerix LLC, where he made a well publicized $32 million investment. What will Whitten’s legacy be? Will it be about Microsoft, about getting out from the shadow of Gates with Numerix? Or will it be about the story unfolding right here and right now.
Be sure to see parts II and III to this story
Fourteen years ago, Greg Whitten licensed a full distributed object system and hired the expert who wrote it. For our techies, it was similar to Microsoft’s COM and DCOM. Distributed objects are the core technical stuff that works behind the scenes and makes things like the Internet work. This expert, who we’ll call the Retiree, granted Proximation a non-exclusive license to his software for the sum of $100,000 dollars, a fraction of its reported worth, but the Retiree was collateral damage from the dot com crash. To help Proximation implement the software and train their employees, Whitten insisted he sign an employment agreement to stay with Proximation for a year and structured the $100,000 to be paid in four quarterly installments. He was given a $185,000 salary plus bonuses and a $10,000 moving expense allowance. Not exactly minimum wage stuff.
Approximately eight months after our Retiree moved to New Mexico to work for Proximation, and around the time Greg Whitten got deeply involved in Numerix, he was called into the office of Whitten and was fired without explanation. He was told directly by Whitten that Proximation would be keeping his software, but not paying him the remaining $50,000 due him, claiming he hadn’t fulfilled his one year contract. Let’s get this straight: Whitten fired the Retiree without explanation, and then refused to pay him because he didn’t stay a full year. Convenient? For our legal readers, this sure appears to be a clear Condition Precedent. After our Retiree threatened litigation, he was advised to consider the reality of suing a Billionaire like Greg Whitten and so settled for half of what he was due.
Proximation, for all intents and purposes, became part of Numerix. This included former employees and their Santa Fe, New Mexico offices as well as, it is believed, the Proximation technology, which would have included our Retiree’s software. When we reviewed the Numerix products pages, we found one striking coincidence: the widely-touted foundation of Numerix’ distributed objects bears a striking resemblance to our Retiree’s Distributed Object System, its Concepts and its Design. The same concept and design for which Whitten never paid our Retiree in the amount agreed to in their contract. Now don’t get us wrong, we have no evidence that it was our Retiree’s products or design. But the similarities got our attention and we believe these similarities would, as they say in the legal biz, make the eyebrow of the average person rise. For that reason, we believed this was a story that deserved a much closer look.
Fast-forward 14 years to 2014. Our Retiree applies for Social Security. Shortly afterward, he receives a notice from Social Security that he may be due $6800 from Proximation, the company he had worked for 14 years previously. The problem is that Proximation and Metavante, the company handling Proximation’s profit-sharing/retirement funds at the time of the Retiree’s employment, are no longer in business. After months of emails, letters and phone calls to company after company trying to find information about the money, our Retiree gets a voicemail from an unknown caller (425-818-2278). It appears that Whitten et al. were quite annoyed that the Retiree was bothering them for such a “trivial” amount. Think we’re kidding? Listen to the voicemail.
At this point, our Retiree threatened to sue. He finally heard from Gary Mueller who represented Whitten et al. and the response was that they were denying our Retiree’s claim as he hadn’t participated in his 401K. The denial came in an attachment to Mr. Mueller’s email, by Marilyn Bartelme, Compliance Specialist at retirementpartner.com. As pointed out by the Retiree in his email back to Ms. Bartelme and Mr. Mueller, they couldn’t make that claim as they had fired him before he could make a contribution. Sound familiar? Sure sounded to us like yet another Condition Precedent claim, just like the one made to not pay the $50K.
At this point the Retiree reported his story to us here at the U.S. Watchdogs. We have contacted Marilyn
Bartelme, the Compliance Specialist responsible for denying the Retiree’s claim who appears to be the employee of retirementpartner.com/FASCore/Great-West Financial, giving her the opportunity to answer our questions and give her side of the story. We have never received a response from Ms. Bartelme.
Who exactly is the company working for Whtten Et Al that is now handling the profit-sharing due the Retiree? The website, retirementpartner.com, redirects to FASCore, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Great-West Financial. Robert L. Reynolds, formally of Putnam Investments, became president and chief executive officer of Great-West Financial in May 2014 and Great-West is the same company estimated to be spending millions to promote its new “Empower” retirement plan you may have heard of. The Boston Globe reported, Putnam and Great-West combine retirement services under a new brand: Empower. Great-West Financial also acquired the J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services creating, as they state on their website, “one of the largest retirement recordkeeping firms in the U.S. marketplace”. We hope this isn’t how they intend to treat all of their clients’ claims. We can’t seem to shake that Rainmaker Thing.
The Mystery: Why such an effort to not pay what has admittedly been called by Whitten et al., a trivial amount? What if anything did the Retiree’s Distributed Object Software have to do with this? Was it used, at minimum, as the basis for the Numerix Distributed Object Software? Is that why there is such reluctance to let this Retiree “share the profits”, or is it a worry familiar to Whitten from his Microsoft days, when Microsoft was found to not have paid “just compensation” to the author of DOS?
Our Thoughts: Greg Whitten appears to be a disciple of his former boss, Bill Gates. Gates has done a great job of changing his public image from one of the most predatory businessmen to have ever walked the earth to
somehow now being perceived as one of the world’s great benefactors. This, even after Microsoft with Gates at the helm, was sued by the United States Government and the European Union for engaging in “abusive” market practices. With this complete change in how the world perceives of him, we can most assuredly add world’s greatest salesman to Gate’s list of titles. However the world perceives of him now, doesn’t change his past practices.
Did Whitten learn his lessons from Gates? That’s a scary thought. Gates has been accused of stealing the software he made billions on. Check out the story about Gary Kildall who is believed by many insiders to have been the true author of DOS. There are rumors that some insiders whisper that Whitten would still be writing code for $50 grand a year if he
hadn’t been hired by Gates. It’s understandable if Whitten were to want to get out of Gate’s shadow. With his PHD in Mathematics from Harvard and his new company Numerix deeply rooted in financial mathematics, the Gates shadow could be a very, very heavy weight to carry.
Does the influence of Bill Gates and Microsoft become part of the story? The closer we look, the more coincidences we find and the more questions we have.
Current Status: Gary Mueller of Proximation LLC, has not answered our Retiree’s last email late Friday afternoon, asking for the status of his claim. Muller did state in his previous emails to our Retiree that, as the documents of the claim were over 10 years old, they had to retrieve them from storage. Also in fairness, Mr. Mueller may have gone home and not received the email yet.
What will Monday Bring?: We have only started looking into this matter. We originally were only trying to assist a Retiree with a bad heart in getting the monies he certainly appears to be owed. While everything we have stated is conjecture, and/or based on circumstantial evidence, we have asked the parties involved, Whitten et al. and Great-West et al., for answers to our questions in this matter and will report the results to you, if any, as well as copies of our requests.
Stay tuned for part two of this evolving story as our investigators dig in and uncover the facts and answer these and many more questions as well as show that there is:
No question about the money: Proximation/Whitten Admits To Owing Funds.
Update; Is It Rainmaker, The Sequel?: One of our members just pointed out how the reality unfolding is truly mimicking the movie The Rainmaker. When they listened to the voicemail left by Whitten et al., it clearly stated they had no record of any 401K or Profit Sharing Plan for our Retiree. When they were threatened by a lawsuit, they suddenly found it. Shame on you at Whitten et al. Four Pinocchios to you all.
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