One of my pastimes is listening to interviews with accused corporate fraudsters before and after they got caught. (Yes, I should probably get a life.) The funny thing about white collar fraudsters is that most of them don’t go around advertising their criminal tendencies. This makes it hard to tell who to suspect and who to trust. Listening to these interviews makes you realize how unique these individuals all are. The interviews all have their own flavours, making it hard to find patterns or unifying personality traits among the interviewees. Listening to stories about their childhoods, motivations and perspectives drives home that despite criminal records, these people are very human. The line between a fraudster and a charismatic leader is a thin one.
Disclaimer: This list is not exclusively interviews with indicted people or convicted fraudsters, some were just individuals who were in positions of power at a company that subsequently collapsed.
Trevor Milton on The Chartcast with TC & Georgia in 2020
Duration - 1h 39m
Trevor Milton is the former executive chairman of Nikola, an EV company that was accused of misleading investors and stakeholders. Nikola settled with the SEC last year.
This episode was recorded a few months before the Hindenburg report that torpedoed Nikola’s stock price and reputation. While podcast hosts TC and Georgia are famously skeptical of other EV companies (the podcast was created in part to discuss potentially nefarious activity at Tesla), they take a congenial tone with Milton. Milton comes across as genuine and passionate, not the smarmy fraudster one might expect.
The Rise and Fall of Wells Fargo with Dick Kovacevich on the FinReg podcast in 2020
Duration - 1h 26m
Dick Kovacevich was CEO of Wells Fargo from 1998 until 2007. Kovacevich is credited, in part, for the bank’s focus on aggressive cross-selling but Wells Fargo’s fake accounts scandal didn’t occur until after Kovacevich’s tenure.
I find it surprising that Kovacevich agreed to do this podcast. I assume he thought the interviewer would be less critical. Kovacevich doesn’t appear to hold himself accountable for the bank’s later missteps and generally stands behind his strategic choices.
Tom Hardin on CUNY TV Beyond the Bottom Line in 2018
Duration - 26m
Tom Hardin was a hedge fund analyst in the early 2000’s. He got connected with the wrong people and started insider trading. Hardin notably paid off a Moody’s analyst with an envelope of cash. He was caught relatively early and agreed to cooperate with the US Department of Justice.
In this interview, Hardin discusses how remarkably common insider trading was at the time and reflects on the pressures and opportunities facing an analyst. Hardin talks about how he rationalized the original trade around minute 6:55. Hardin’s naivete and straightforwardness make him a sympathetic character.
Elizabeth Holmes on Mad Money with Jim Cramer in 2015
Duration - 9m 32s
This interview is guaranteed to make your blood boil. “This is what happens when you work to change things,” says Holmes in her beautiful baritone. The Mad Money interview was taped while Holmes was at her first Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows meeting just after Carreyou’s article first came out.
If you consume Theranos content in the same voracious way I do, you’ve likely already seen outtakes of this video but it’s worth watching it in full. To paraphrase my mother, Holmes comes across as a true scumbag.
Parker Petit on Mad Money with Jim Cramer in 2015
Duration - 5m
Parker Petit ran a biomedical company called MiMedx until 2018 when he was ousted. He has since been convicted of securities fraud and served a prison sentence.
The Mad Money interview includes a rehearsed exchange where Cramer asks Petit to describe the placenta and Petit calls it a “not very good looking organ”. Petit then pulls out a processed piece of placenta that looks like wax paper. Pete Petit has a smooth southern accent that almost makes phrases like “human amniotic membrane” sound posh. Unlike Trevor Milton and Martin Shkreli, Petit embodies everything I expect from a fraudster. In fact, Petit sounds and looks quite a bit like a caricature of Enron’s Kenneth Lay.
If you’re unfamiliar with the MiMedx saga, I recommend this interview between Edwin Dorsey and shortseller/whistleblower, Marc Cahodes.
Do Kwon’s interview with Alexandra Botez in 2022
Duration - 37s
Twitch streamer Alexandra Botez interviewed Do Kwon just five days before the devastating collapse of the TerraUSD stablecoin and its sister coin LUNA. In this interview, Botez asks Kwon how many crypto companies will exist in the long run. He arrogantly proclaims that 95% of them are going to die, adding, “there is also entertainment to watch the companies die.”
Elon Musk on the Joe Rogan Experience in 2018
Duration - 2h 37m
Musk settled with the SEC which earns him a spot on this list. The debate around whether or not Musk is a true “fraudster” is heated and I will opt not to engage. From a personal perspective, I would love to be Musk. Nearly everything he does is a joke and that strikes me as a wonderful way to live. When he’s not making a joke, Musk believes he’s saving the world. His bizarre approach to life and business is exposed to the viewer over the course of this two hour interview. This man does not have normal motives.
Ken Lay presents to Enron employees on the day after Jeff Skilling resigns in 2001
Duration - Each part is 9 minutes
Kenneth Lay walks through a long list of disasters facing Enron during an employee meeting that took place the day after Jeff Skilling resigned. The overwhelming sense you get from Ken’s attempt to assuage his employee’s fears, is one of incompetence. Ken is akin to a grandfather arguing the legitimacy of Santa to a group of children. He expects no pushback and makes very little effort to address any issue in detail or depth.
“Martin Shkreli Opens Up On Surviving Prison - Rules, Gangs, Fights And Snitches” on Destiny in 2022
Time - 1h 59m
Ever wished you could get life tips from post-prison Martin Shkreli? This is the interview for you. Featuring great Shkreli quotes like, “they would hand me a knife and say, ’go stab this Mexican’”. Shkreli also shares his thoughts on therapy and problematic self-promotion on social media. Go figure. Full disclosure, I’ve never gotten through the entire interview because no one in their right mind wants to listen to Shkreli for two hours.
“Martin Shkreli on Drug Price Hikes and Playing the World’s Villain” with Vice in 2016
Time - 16m
Pre-prison Shkreli is worth checking out too! Featuring great quotes like “I think I’m a hero”. Shkreli is inarguably charismatic.
BONUS: Bill Hwang with the Hawaiian Island Ministries in 2018
Duration - 25m
Bill Hwang managed $10B in family money under Archegos Capital Management. Bill Hwang and Archegos topped headlines last year when ballooning losses triggered large defaults at multiple banks.
Bill comes across as a sweet and conscientious man in this video about reading the Bible. He certainly doesn’t come across as the type of man who would bet the house on GSX Techedu (a Chinese education stock that collapsed last year), then remortgage the house and then go to another bank and get another mortgage….you get the idea. This video humanizes the man on the other side of the trade.