March 16, 2012; Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek
The former chief of Tyco, Dennis Kozlowski, didn’t go to jail for playing with toys; Kozlowski’s Tyco is a security company headquartered in Switzerland, not the American Tyco company that is part of Mattel. He was convicted in 2005, according to BusinessWeek, for “looting his company” and sentenced to eight and one-third to 25 years in the big house. Among his looting expenditures was the purchase of a $6,000 shower curtain, paintings by Renoir and Monet, a $15,000 umbrella stand, a $30 million Manhattan condominium, and more, all unwittingly paid for by Tyco’s shareholders. Among the charges that led Kozlowski to jail was his receipt of $81 million in unauthorized bonuses from Tyco. Before and during his trial, Kozlowski took the path of a number of recent corporate felons and tried to fashion himself as a philanthropist of note. We’ve never been bowled over by felonious philanthropists, particularly when this practice became a part of the corporate defense art form as practiced by the late Ken Lay and others at Enron.
Kozlowski has just been transferred to a minimum security work-release prison facility in Manhattan after some years in an upstate New York prison. According to BusinessWeek, as part of his work-release activities, Kozlowski’s lawyer says that the felon is “working full-time as a financial consultant for a non-profit organization that helps ex-convicts.” While in prison, he shared space with convicted former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and rapper Ja Rule, with the latter mentioning Kozlowski’s good work in helping teach inmates to read in order to qualify for their GEDs.
Last year, Kozlowski said he had lined up a job at the Assets Technology Group in New Canaan, Conn., whose CEO wrote to corrections officials last fall, saying that Kozlowski would be a tremendous asset to his organization. We couldn’t find an Assets Technology Group or an ATG listed as a nonprofit on Guidestar. There have been a number of corporate felons who have tried to turn some aspect of their lives around by doing nonprofit work after prison or as part of their work-release programs. During Kozlowski’s trial, we remember him as somewhat less than repentant. We hope we are wrong, but given Kozlowski’s exuberant behavior at the helm of Tyco, we’d suggest checking out ATG’s charitable bona fides.—Rick Cohen