Gini Dietrich

Man Convicted of Fraud for Falsifying Contracts at Agency

By: Gini Dietrich | March 9, 2016 | 

Man Convicted of Fraud for Falsifying Contracts at AgencyBy Gini Dietrich

Running a business is hard.

You interview people who have expertise in your field. You check references and references of references. You dig into their personalities to figure out if they’ll be a culture match.

You negotiate a package. You bring them on and work with them diligently for the first 90 days to make sure they understand your process.

And then you cross your fingers, trust them, and let them fly.

In most cases, things work out. People are professional and can be trusted.

But if you’ve run a business for any length of time, you’ve likely been burned.

To Make Partner…

That’s what happened to an agency in North Carolina when they hired an ambitious young man who wanted to make partner.

“Sure!” they said. To make partner, he had to invest $150,000 or bring in $500,000 in new business.

He didn’t have the cash so he got to work.

According to Agency Spy,

Bill Grizack convinced agency executives he had won the business of Coca-Cola, Brown-Forman, and other clients to the tune of more than $269 million.

The agency was so excited about all of this new business that the contracted the help of another local agency and, between the two of them, hired 40 new professionals.

And Grizack was rewarded handsomely.

The contracts did indeed land him a partnership. He also received a $165,000 increase in his salary, a $65,000 car, and a $22,500 investment into his 401(k).

But that’s not all. The local agency they contracted with transferred $1.5MM to the lead agency and they also hired Grizack and paid him an annual salary of $250,000.

Not a bad deal for bringing in $269.9MM in new business.

The Problem?

It was all fake.

He created fake emails, faked phone calls, and signed faked contracts that he drew up himself.

He pretended to call executives of the companies while his colleagues were in the room.

He created fake briefs for the teams to work on.

And this all went undiscovered for about six months.

When he was confronted, he left North Carolina and went to another agency in Boulder, where HE DID THE SAME THING.

They found out more quickly, though, and fired him immediately.

(I guess not everyone checks references or references of references.)

Then he moved to an agency in West Hollywood and was there a little less than a year before he was extradited back to North Carolina and charged with three counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

His LinkedIn profile, which has since been removed (and his tweets have been protected) read the following:bill-grizack-linkedinNotice it says key clients include Coca-Cola, Brown-Forman, P&G, Suntrust, Hanes, and BB&T?

Not true.

Falsifying Contracts is Bad. Protect Yourself.

Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman, and I talk about this during this week’s Inside PR.

I was a little incredulous about how it can go six months undetected.

Here, we have a rule that new clients must not only sign a contract, but provide a deposit before any work will begin (because we’ve been burned).

But Joe had a great point. He said many large companies (such as Coca-Cola) have gigantic procurement departments and it takes 120 days to get paid.

And, having worked in a large firm, I definitely know you front clients money for a few months.

So it can happen and this guy clearly took advantage of the process at each of these agencies.

But the moral of the story is this: You are not the bank. You should not front your clients money. If they have a 90- or 120-day payment process, then negotiate—up-front—a way to submit three or four invoices at once and don’t begin any work until you get your first check.

I know it’s not easy to do, but cash is king.

If you hire 40 new employees and work for six months, you’ll also incur lots of expenses…to the tune of approximately $6MM.

It’s worth figuring out a way to make it work for you and for the client (assuming they are real).

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Holy Crap Batman!!! The balls thia guy has to not only do it once or twice but three times! #TruthStrangerThanFiction

    • Right? It’s pretty astounding. I guess once you get away with it… and clearly he didn’t think anyone would tell on him.

  • Well, if you are going to go might as well go big, huh?

    Being in a commission based business, I don’t get paid until the customer pays. Big numbers on the board look good and being in sales I’ve heard some whoppers, but at the end of the day, show me the money.

    Obviously a lot of planning went into this scheme; it’s beyond belief how he thought he’d get away with it. Too much drama for me; I like to sleep at night.

    • Waaaaaay too much drama. If he’d put half the effort he did into fake accounts into finding real ones, he’d probably not be going to jail.

  • In looking at his LI profile, it seems I actually lived in Winston Salem for a period during the time of his reign as king of marketing. Who knew?! (It’s also where I first came across Spins Sucks.) I am so shocked this happened, and so many times, but am glad they pursued legal action. I wonder if any of the other companies have. This is just incredible.

    • Gini Dietrich

      From what I can tell, it sounds like at least one of the other agencies is pursuing legal action. His sentencing hearing is on June 13. You can bet I’ll be paying attention!

  • I bet they make a movie about this guy. Which actor should play him?

    • Gini Dietrich

      Who is the sleaziest actor there is? Nicolas Cage?

    • Edward Norton

  • Laura Petrolino

    This story. I don’t…..I mean, what? I really can’t even grasp the fact this is real life and people are this horrible.

    • Gini Dietrich

      I think you CAN grasp it. Some people just cannot be trusted.

      • Laura Petrolino

        You are right. I CAN grasp it. I just don’t want to.

  • I just don’t get how people do things like this and think they’ll never get found out!

    • Gini Dietrich

      I have a story that I’ll eventually share about someone we hired who was working the system in an unethical and illegal way. It didn’t take us long to figure it out, but I asked the same question: How did NO ONE warn me about this because it was evident he’d been doing it for years and was quite the pro at it.

      References of references of references had been called before I offered him the job and not one person warned me. What I discovered much, much later is he had always had jobs in gigantic corporations where what he did was easy to go undiscovered. But when you pull that crap in a small organization, it’s super easy to spot.

      • So many people fear lawsuits and stick to the basics for references. Many companies don’t disclose why someone leaves. I wonder if your employee’s references actually knew.

        • Gini Dietrich

          I don’t think they did. After digging through it all, my general consensus is he was always in gigantic corporations and fell under the radar. So no one knew and it allowed him to become a professional scammer.

  • Keena Lykins

    The guy wasn’t as smart as he thought he was. He clearly forgot to develop an exit strategy.

    • Gini Dietrich

      LOL! I’m fairly certain he didn’t think he’d get caught. Narcissism at it’s finest?

  • One of these is a client of mine.

    • Gini Dietrich

      OMG. I hope they’re okay. As an agency owner—and someone who has been burned by illegal activities—it makes me sick to my stomach. And I totally empathize with them.

  • This happened in my back yard and he hurt a LOT of people, most of all his 2 daughters who went to school here. It boggles my mind that something so big can go undetected for even that “short” of a period of time. Luckily the main agency in question is still one of the most respected in town and produce amazingly beautiful work.

    • Gini Dietrich

      Laura and I were just talking about this. You have to be under an immense amount of pressure to behave this way.

  • Bill Smith

    This is fraud pure and simple and I hope the agencies burned have some recourse with civil suits.

    • I know he was ordered to pay $235,000 to one, but who knows if he has the money or if that’s even close to enough.

  • Interesting story. I thought only Wall Street sleezebags did this kind of stuff.

    • Gini Dietrich

      There are bad people everywhere, EB!

  • Wow Gini, just…wow. And agree on the needing payment upfront to get started.

    • Right? My friend at AdWeek has the court documents so I can’t wait to hear what else he learns.