Frequently sporting a $2 billion plus market capitalization, Acadia Pharmaceuticals brings to mind the work of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. His 1929 painting “The Treachery of Images” depicts a pipe with the inscription “This is not a pipe,” suggesting that an image and its meaning don’t necessarily correspond with each other. In that vein, San-Diego-based Acadia portrays itself as a pharmaceutical company but a Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation investigation has revealed that this is merely a clever facade. What lies below is a ruthless marketing entity whose pursuit of regulatory approval is best described as “loophole-centric.”
Nonetheless, in little more than two years, Acadia has gained a remarkable foothold in the pharmaceutical marketplace. The company generated $124.9 million in sales last year — a steep increase from its $17.3 million in 2016 — and its management has told brokerage research analysts to expect its revenue to more than double this year.
It was corporate skulduggery at its most audacious. Last September Frank Newbould dined at Scaramouche, a swanky downtown Toronto restaurant, with a businessman who said he would like to hire Newbould as an arbitrator. In reality, this was a ruse to engineer an attempted sting on Newbould, a retired Ontario judge, as the National Post reported. Newbould’s would-be client worked for Black Cube, a Tel Aviv-based business intelligence firm, staffed with former Israeli intelligence agents, that has attracted notoriety for its work for disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, among others. As Newbould and the man conversed, another Black Cube operative was secretly photographing them.
For eight years, Craig Boyer was a senior executive at Callidus Capital, and by the time he quit in 2016 he was its chief underwriter and vice president. But last year Boyer sued Callidus for CA$100,000 in damages, claiming the company had denied him health and other benefits and seeking the return of his stock options. It’s safe to say that when Boyer left Callidus, he was clearly an unhappy man. In his claim, he said he had been subjected to “abusive management conduct” in the form of “abusive email and verbal treatment” from Callidus CEO Newton Glassman, including “on occasion, physical abuse.” Boyer even mentioned how in 2016 he was “participating in a meeting where a senior officer of the defendant’s parent [company] physically attacked the plaintiff’s immediate superior.”
Boyer’s portrait of Callidus as a “poisoned” workplace, whose management style focuses on the “berating and belittling” of employees, is not an isolated one: Two former employees of Callidus’ parent company, Catalyst, have alleged in court filings that they had witnessed numerous instances of Glassman being emotionally or verbally abusive to his colleagues. Yet Callidus, in a statement of defense and counterclaim, has denied Boyer’s allegations of a poisoned work environment, saying he never raised such issues while working at the company.
Editor’s note: Wirecard has replied to questions posed several weeks ago, and their answers are found throughout the text and at the bottom of this story. Wirecard AG is the luckiest company you’ve never heard of. It has the good luck of a boxer who’s a master of bobbing and weaving in the ring, making it difficult for an opponent to land a punch. Prizefights, though, typically go for all of 10 or 12 three-minute rounds. Yet for 10 years a combination of short sellers, journalists and forensic research consultancies (whose clients often include short sellers) have publicized a long list of concerns about Wirecard’s operations, to little avail.
Editor’s Note: In the original version of this story, the number given for DaVita’s U.S. patients was incorrect. According to the company’s third-quarter 10-Q, it is 194,600, not 214,700. Additionally, a reference to a published report that provided an inaccurate estimate of the combined Fresenius and DaVita market share was deleted. Veteran card players pride themselves on the ability to discern what’s known as “the tell,” the series of involuntary mannerisms that can betray a rival’s strategic deceptions and even suggest a possible next move. Then there are those rare occasions when a tell metastasizes into a red flag, a clear indication that something is terribly wrong.
If you put together all the chief executive officers from the financial services industry in one room and asked them, “Who looks back on the years 2007 to 2009 with fondness?” it’s a very safe bet that only one hand would be raised. That hand would be on the arm of a man named Gregory Garrabrants. Don’t feel badly if the name doesn’t ring a bell because the institution Garrabrants has run since October 2007, BOFI Federal Savings, a La Jolla, California-based bank, is about as unlikely an institution to have prospered in those years as can be imagined. As banks, thrifts and mortgage-finance companies were busy collapsing or receiving multiple federal bailouts, especially in Southern California (the epicenter of the global financial crisis), BOFI was just beginning an earnings streak that’s seen its bottom line grow at a compounded annual rate of 44 percent since Garrabrants was hired.
BOFI Federal Bank’s disclosure practices seem baffling at best if the standard it’s judged by is how well it informs investors about developments that could potentially change the risk profile of their capital. In fairness to BOFI, the key word here is “baffling” since the laws governing U.S. corporate disclosures have few bright lines and a great deal of murkiness. As Steven Davidoff Solomon noted in an New York Times column, the Supreme Court upheld in 2011 a previous ruling that if “disclosure of the omitted fact would have been viewed by the reasonable investor as having significantly altered the ‘total mix’ of information made available,” a public company’s failure to reveal certain information is considered “material” and could potentially subject it to civil and criminal investigation. Left unsaid is the fact that companies may have their own opinions on who’s a “reasonable investor” and what he or she might consider “significant.” Hint: Companies often find ways to claim news that would prompt probing phone calls from investors and reporters isn’t significant enough to merit disclosure.
Editor’s Note: Marc Cohodes, through a charitable trust he controls and in conjunction with a conference appearance, recently made a $15,000 donation to the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. This interview was conducted and published prior to the donation being made. He was not a source for our reporting on BOFI. In the evening of Aug. 8, 2016, a retired hedge fund manager named Marc Cohodes was puttering around the house on his Cotati, California, farmstead when he received a most unusual phone call. The caller was Polly Towill, a partner with Los Angeles’ Sheppard Mullin and, according to Cohodes, she got right to the point: She was calling on behalf of her client, La Jolla, California-based BOFI Federal Savings Bank and she was authorized to explore retaining him as a consultant.
The velocity of the destruction of Synchronoss Technologies investors’ capital is brutal to behold: In less than four months, the value of their investments has been halved. There’s a reason for that. On Dec. 6 Bridgewater, New Jersey-based Synchronoss announced an unusual pair of transactions that radically altered its business model just weeks before the end of its fiscal year: It paid twice the then price of shares to merge with the public company Intralinks and simultaneously sold the mobile-phone activation unit, which was responsible for almost half of annual sales for Synchronoss. This prompted the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation to take a hard look at the company’s shift in strategy, whose sheer complexity masked some troubling details.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, the corporate poster-child for price-gouging, tax-inversion and hedge-fund manager wealth destruction quietly severed all ties with J. Michael Pearson, its former chief executive officer and longtime guiding light, in January according to its annual proxy statement filed this morning. While Pearson stepped down from Valeant in May 2016, and struck a wide-ranging separation agreement that paid him $83,333 per month for consulting–especially the much-touted and at least temporarily disastrous Walgreens contract–his primary job was to cooperate with the seemingly eternally expanding roster of civil and criminal investigations. The deal with Pearson was supposed to last through this December and the use of the word “initial” in the contract’s wording was a suggestion it might be renewed. Valeant, in the Proxy, says it last paid him in October, and in December its board of directors determined no more payments would be made: “In December 2016, the Board determined that we are not in a position to make any further payments to Mr. Pearson, including in connection with his then-outstanding equity awards with respect to 3,053,014 shares.” Pearson’s agreement was terminated in January, for unspecified reasons.