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'Corruption Comebacks': Suzanne Folsom on Duty at Academi (Xe, Blackwater)

Bea Edwards, February 25, 2013

notebook_attSo just last week, we heard from Suzanne Folsom, the general counsel and chief compliance officer at Blackwater, a.k.a. XE Services LLC (February 2009), a.k.a. Academi LLC (December 2011). As you can see from the chronology, this is a company that regularly changes its name, so being the chief compliance officer there is going to be a challenge.

It seems from Suzanne’s blog on “Corruption Currents” that, as a matter of fact, she has work to do. First, she pops out of bed at 5:45 a.m.: “I am in constant demand from the moment I wake up,” she writes.

I’ll bet. Apparently, there are a number of Academi officials in need of legal counsel. Why, just last August, the company paid $7.5 million in fines to settle 17 counts of arms smuggling. Seems someone forgot to register all those firearms. 

Given her history, we can’t help but wonder if Suzanne is really equipped to erase the considerable blotches on the Blackwater brand. At GAP, we’ve been following her since she departed the World Bank in 2008, after her conduct as Director of Investigations (INT) came under the scrutiny of a review panel headed by Paul Volcker. 

It got ugly. Suzanne enlisted a snitch on Volcker’s Panel and then retaliated against the staffers who said unflattering things about her. They sued in the Bank’s Tribunal and won over $2 million in damages. The judges were clearly appalled by Suzanne, quoting from a witness who testified for her:

Having led the Internal Investigations function within the Bank Group for the last nine years, I have received and reviewed hundreds of allegations of staff misconduct. Among the cases have been scores of complaints from staff who allege abusive, hostile, harassing, and/or retaliatory conduct on the part of their supervisors or managers. To help put [Ms. X's] apparent behavior and actions in perspective ... in my professional judgment, none of these workplace misconduct cases as alleged compared to the level of egregiousness, intensity, and frequency of the apparent abusive, hostile, harassing, and retaliatory behavior [Ms. X] subjected INT staff during her tenure as INT Director(emphasis original).

 Ms. X was Suzanne Folsom.

To deepen her own branding problems, Suzanne signed on at AIG in April 2008, just before the place imploded, and then jumped ship with a severance package so generous that Senator Charles Grassley inquired about it formally. So we weren’t surprised to find her next at a firm run by soldiers of fortune.

We can just imagine what it’s like there. By 6:00 a.m., we suppose, Suzanne is suited up – she’s got her body armor and her helmet firmly in place, so she can deal with the mounting compliance issues facing the merchants of death out on the rifle range. And she’s anxious to let all the good folks reading “Corruption Currents” know what it’s like trying to keep order in the fort.

Dear Diary, Suzanne gushes, another busy day here at our practice warfare camp! I’ve really got to hustle to get all our Big Boys to my monthly huddle on influence peddling. At Academi, this is such an issue; we have so many ex-spooks stuck in our revolving doors that yesterday Cofer forgot whether he was coming or going. Poor dear. He’s getting addled.  I’ll have to arrange for Bobby Ray to lose him out in the training swamp.  Make a note.

But then, of course, I’ll be stuck dealing with loony Bobby Ray myself. Only Cofer can calm him down when he’s got “Chinese hackers coming in on his back molars.” Cofer checked it out and now he claims Bobby Ray is getting a signal. Oh, dear, God.

Later today, I must deal with Erik and his tracer bullets. He’s been using the locals for target practice again, and Ashcroft was so upset he called the ATF on his new “Cryptophone.” Fortunately, those guys thought it was a prank. You don’t know what pressure is until you have them breathing down your neck. 

John is such a prude. All week he’s been raising heck about the “ladies” in the snipers’ dorm. He wants them to wear burkas. I suggested this to the head madam, and oh, my! Diary, I can’t even write down what she said! I told John I was sorry. They were all cleared by Procurement and he had to get over it or I’d waterboard him. He knows I can do it, too. We’ve got a manual – over in Compliance. The Quality Control folks have one, too.

Big day tomorrow, Diary! Her Royal Highness Princess Lala Salami is coming to tour our model panic rooms. She wants us to build one for her. I’m soooo excited! She always bring presents. Last year she gave me my own practice prisoner, but Ashcroft said I had to give him back.

I just hope Erik doesn’t pick off her bodyguards down by the bollards. I’d better keep them away from the executive conference room, too. Erik’s been barricaded in there since last night. I know it’s him. I saw his Buzzy Bean-Head haircut when he peaked around the blackout curtains. I got out my megaphone, Diary, and told him, “Erik, I know you’re in there. If we’re going to get this Princess deal, we’re going to have to build to spec. No free-lancing. Not like last time.” Oh my, that was horrible: 2011, remember? When Erik stuck the Princess with a pantload of dud hollow-points. She was livid, and I had to send her a fruit basket and a Gucci gift card.

I love my job, Diary, but when I took it, I had no idea what Bobby Ray, Cofer, John and Erik had gotten up to here.  I mean, come on, I knew we had to be off track, or we wouldn’t be changing our name every two years. But I had no idea that the guys were gifting the King of Jordan with a dozen unregistered Glocks, for golly’s sake. That wasn’t even funny.

So, got to run, Diary. We’ve got a Deferred Prosecution Agreement to frame for the office. Cofer and Bobby Ray are fighting over it. I’ve got to make sure neither of them is armed or there could be casualties. That could make us look bad.

The italicized text above was not actually written by Suzanne Folsom. Rather, it is fiction, written by Bea Edwards, Executive and International Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.