Wednesday, February 22, 2006

FELD: If only your former employer was as sketchy as mine

Russ, one of the guys who used to work for me, dug up Sparshott / Feld & Check Smith appeal in honor of the lockdown going on at FELD. For the next two weeks, the building is on lockdown while one of the many lawsuits is being tried.

I'll let the decision speak for itself, and interject along the way:

Shan Sparshott and Charles Smith were both employees of Feld Entertainment, Inc., the operator of the Ringling Bros. circus. Smith was the Chief Financial Officer, a board member, and a minority shareholder; his responsibilities included management of firm security. Sparshott worked in the travel office. In 1993 the two began a romantic relationship; early in 1994 Shan Sparshott moved out of the home that she and her daughter Morgan had shared with her husband Tracy Sparshott and into a house for which Smith paid the rent.

Let me also add that Chuck Smith was the architect of Disney on Ice. Without Smith, it's quite likely that Feld would have never gotten into bed with the Mouse and subsequently paid Disney $250 million dollars in royalties since 1981.

In 1994 Sparshott found two recording devices under her
bed and connected to the phone jack. The discovery did not
itself tell her that it was Smith who was wiretapping her, but
was clearly evidence of a violation by someone. When Spar-
shott told Smith about this equipment, Smith suggested that
it was Tracy Sparshott, her ex-husband. Soon after that, she
enlisted Smith's help in wiretapping her ex-husband, her
daughter, and her nanny, and he provided equipment strik-
ingly similar to the recording devices she had found under the
bed. In 1995, picking up a suit of Smith's at the cleaner's,
she found in the suit an audiotape of her business conversa-
tions from work. According to Sparshott's own testimony,
Smith admitted making this recording but promised not to do
it again. This find gave her actual notice that Smith had been wiretapping her, as well as added reason to suspect his
denial of the earlier recording. Later in 1995 or 1996,
Sparshott found a recording device attached to the home
office phone. Smith admitted owning the recording device
but claimed he was simply taping his own business calls.
Altogether, the evidence of wiretapping gave Sparshott good
reason to be skeptical of Smith's explanations and promises.

[...]

In addition, Sparshott had substantial evidence that Smith
was spying on her in other ways. Starting after she had first
moved into a house separate from her husband, Sparshott
several times noticed that someone was following her, and in
January 1997 confirmed that the shadow had been hired by
Smith. She confronted Smith and demanded that he get
counseling. In early 1996, Sparshott discovered five video
cameras hidden inside her house. Smith responded to her
inquiries by saying that the cameras were part of a security
mechanism to protect their house from burglary; but he had
told her nothing about the video cameras earlier, even though
it was she and her daughter who lived in the house. For a
reasonable person these events would surely undermine
Smith's explanations, denials and promise to quit wiretapping
her.

Finally, in 1996, Sparshott's ex-husband, a police detective,
warned her that Smith was tapping her home and office lines.
He even had her sign an affidavit acknowledging that he had
told her of Smith's wiretapping. Though entitled to discount
her ex-husband's testimony to some extent (the marital
break-up was not a harmonious one, and active custody
disputes lingered), the fact that Mr. Sparshott was a decorat-
ed police detective and that he went so far as to have her
make an affidavit should have given her notice that she
needed to have this situation investigated. Her own actions
indicate that she at least took him somewhat seriously. As a
result of Mr. Sparshott's statement, she began leaving her
office to use a payphone to call him.

If you continue reading, you will see the $500,000 judgement in favor of Sparshott was overturned on this appeal. The chaos that Chuck Smith caused, however, continues in the Pottker Lawsuit:

On a gloomy Veterans Day in 1998, Janice Pottker answered an unexpected knock on the door of her home in Potomac, Md., a woodsy, upscale suburb of Washington. Standing there was a man she'd never seen before, a private detective who introduced himself as Tim Tieff. He told Pottker, a freelance writer married to a senior government official, that he had a discreet message from Charles F. Smith, a former top executive with Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circuses, Disney Shows on Ice, and other subsidiaries that make it the largest live entertainment company in the world.

[...]

Over lunch, Smith recounted a campaign of surveillance and dirty tricks Feld had unleashed on her in the wake of her 1990 magazine piece in the now-defunct Regardie's magazine. Feld, he said, had hired people to manipulate her whole life over the past eight years. Feld had spent a lot of money on it, he said. He may have even tried to destroy her marriage. In fact, Pottker would eventually learn of a massive dirty tricks operation, involving former CIA officials and operatives, that would target Ringling enemies such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups, not just Pottker.

For proof, he told her to go to federal court in Alexandria, Va., and look at a suit he had filed against Ken Feld. In that suit, she would find an affidavit from a man named Clair George with attachments. Those, he told her, are all about you.

And then Smith left.

The next day, Jan Pottker and her husband went to the Colonial-style courthouse in Alexandria and asked for Smith vs. Feld, civil action case number 98-357-A. They opened the files and found the affidavit Smith had described.

"My name is Clair E. George," it began. "I was the deputy director for operations (DDO) of the Central Intelligence Agency from July 1984 through December 1987 during which time I was responsible for the CIA's covert operations worldwide." In 1990, when Pottker's article was published, George declared, he was "a paid consultant to Feld Entertainment and its affiliates on international issues."

The theme of "old men playing spy vs. spy" continues in the PETA trial:

4:34 p.m. August 31, 2005 | McLEAN, Va. – A judge sanctioned six lawyers representing the owners of the Ringling Bros. circus and ordered them to pay $51,000 in fines to the animal-rights group PETA for contempt of court and other violations.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment, which produces the circus, more than four years ago, claiming Feld ran an extensive corporate espionage campaign against it. PETA alleged Feld paid millions of dollars to a former top CIA operative to help run its spy operation.

Don't get me wrong, I fucking hate PETA, but I have seen the invoices and cancelled checks on this one. It's one thing to defend your company against your enemies, but don't expect me to write a cheer:

Ready? Ok
FELD owns the circus, they make it so great
But the crunchy folks at PETA got nothing but hate
So some creepy men who worked at FELD, after they cursed
Made up a fake campaign they dubbed "Putting People First"
Through Richlin Consultants, they funneled some cash
To hire plants to work at PETA that busted their ass
To steal the PETA mailing list cause they were so mean
And use that list to feed the Circus propaganda machine

Incidentally, that machine still runs in full force to this day.

I remember reading that Salon article when I started working there, and thinking that it had to be 10% fact and 90% artistic license. After working there for three years, the things I've read like that Salon article are anything but far fetched. I'm probably lucky that I just got screwed out of money, and wasn't a target to have my life ruined (I'm not nearly important enough).

I will say it again, I miss that place like AIDS.

1 comment:

Will said...

Hello John

Was actaully reading an old page regarding the days of yor and as400 @ WEB/taylor/corporate bs. just wanted to say Hi. I am Bill Flewelling formerly of web/regency/amsterdam etc etc etc. and am no longer involved with the printing Industry...I count cars for a living and couldn't be happier. Again Just wanted to say Hello. email willy_flew@yahoo.com