Blogger-SMS | Déjà Vu ~ Times

Promises, Promises

By lavish self-presentation, BK is a b-b[1] oilman; though by comparison to the BM-types[2], BK is of the bottom-rung variety. He began a dream-project—a massive, corporate retreat for b-b comrades who were said to crave a western, cowboy experience on a big ranch. BK bought sections of land on a river; fenced it with miles of post and rail (none of that tacky, cheaper barbed wire!); bought cows, horses, exotic harnesses & tack, and brand-new, earth-moving equipment. Not just one new high-hoe, but two. Not just one new Cat, but two. Not just one massive, commercial-size, fuel-storage tank, but three. Not to mention the county-size road-grader and the tractor-trailer unit to haul his equipment to “other” big projects, as needed. And, of course, three, huge generators to power the “K-Ranch” project as electricity had not yet arrived on site. BK instructed that a lake (pond-size) be constructed; and hired a gifted, local contractor to construct houses, cabins, and two huge barns, as fast as he and his crews could (calving season was on the near horizon). And of course, top-of-the-line, panel corrals were ordered and installed to manage the livestock.

Over the next months, BK and his courtier side-kick would arrive on Fridays to review the progress and make expensive change-requests that had popped into his (their) minds. Huge progress was mandated for each visit, so outward appearance would have to always trump finish-work. Soon there were dozens of projects, half-done, and promises, promises about agreed-upon compensation, supply accounts, up-front payments, etc., etc. It was a huge, potentially profitable job for many, but soon the red-flags began blowing in the western breeze all along the long, gravel road to the “K-Ranch.” It’s just that no one wanted to see them—to doubt BK’s integrity, his honesty, the viability of his dream or their own jobs or their outstanding accounts. Why BK even had some local family roots!

So promises, excuses, and periodic, late payments kept his contractors and other employees working—and buying materials & supplies, out of their own pockets, to meet the requisite weekly progress. Wages and reimbursements were always just a cheque away, even though several payments bounced once or twice before finally landing firm. When unpaid contractors, with less trust and patience, walked before job completion, BK hired others to finish up (and didn’t quite get them paid either). Of course, he paid critical employees (e.g., his calving crews) till the end of their last crucial month, then zip—nada. Even extended family members were recruited at the end to push the earth-moving and building projects as far as possible before … .

Well, no one yet knows what he told them. Perhaps, before the equipment had to be moved to some “other” big project?

His one-on-one personal chats about employee loyalty were crafted to solicit silence or spread the BK-line.

NOW, the cattle are sold, the equipment hauled away in a long convoy (by repo?[3]), and hundreds of thousands owed to contractors, suppliers, and employees. And still the promises are coming. “You will be paid—ASAPT[4].” With the unspoken, but subtle message, “Don’t do anything rash like try to sue, or register a builder’s lien, or do anything more than just wait patiently, and trust that I will do the right thing. … Otherwise, you might offend me. And of course, neither of us wants that.” (Like the unpaid, young cowboy who reportedly carried his saddle offsite as collateral for unpaid wages? Now reported to the police for theft—by or on behalf of our b-b man who, dare we say, has a legion of his own more egregious offenses?! Dare we suggest reciprocity for all the materials and supplies BK incorporated into his project that he “neglected” to pay for? Dare we suggest that BK and his courtiers self-reflect?!)

And so the déjà vu strikes. How many must repeat this sad saga as the con-frauds wend their way through the world?

But of course, there was no intent to con or defraud! There was always intent that income or loans would be sufficient to exceed project outflow, even when extravagance, excess, and new commitments seemed undiminished by the reality of bouncing cheques, late payments, cash-flow bottlenecks, and mounting defaults. There was always intent to get things sorted out even as new contractors and employees were hired while prior ones remained unpaid. There was always intent to pay for the stuff he maneuvered contractors and employees to buy on his behalf. There was always intent to set up accounts for materials and supplies. There was eventually intent (promises) to realize enough from the sale of assets to pay unsecured debts even when those assets were known to BK to be secured by others. There was always intent to keep his promises.

And so, another b-b man, with “no intent” to harm, con, or defraud, manages all three with a clear conscience, offended by any suggestion otherwise. A b-b man who will likely follow in the steps of his greater and lesser comrades whose red-flags look suspiciously criminal in pattern and consequence, but who manage to keep things “civil” in the bankruptcy courts. A b-b man who will in all likelihood pass on his improvements to someone (an insider?) for a fraction of their cost, because huge parts of the costs were born by others.

The story of BK is still playing out, unknown to the general public as he maneuvers his options, stalls whatever creditors he can, postures himself, and plans to literally “parade” his defunct enterprise before an unsuspecting, festive public. For what purpose? To solicit new investors to pay off prior obligations? To stall for self-interest? To self-delude?

Maybe it’s about time to begin calling a spade, a spade.

[1] big-business
[2] aka Bernie Madoff’s
[3] Those who know are commanded not to talk about the equipment!
[4] “As soon as—perhaps tomorrow.”