OZY Media’s Deceptive Misconduct to Secure Investment Funds Backfires

by | Oct 5, 2021

OZY Media is a media and entertainment company launched in September 2013 by Carlos Watson and Samir Rao located in Mountain View, California, with a satellite office in New York.  The company is known for producing podcasts, television series and events and has even won an Emmy for a program that aired OWN.  By all accounts, OZY Media is a promising media company.

However, they are in the hot seat now as they have participated in deceptive misconduct in an attempt to secure $40 million in funding from Goldman Sachs.  This week, the New York Times published an explosive article with revelations that Rao, COO and cofounder, participated in deceptive misconduct. In the call Rao, impersonated YouTube executive, Alex Piper to inflated YouTube/Google traffic statistics in order to make the company appear more attractive and less risky for the investment.

As reported in the New Your Post By Will Feuer

“As the call went on, though, the Goldman investors noticed that Piper’s voice sounded strange and “might have been digitally altered,” the Times reported. So the team from Goldman reached out to Piper’s assistant at YouTube only to find that he had never been on the call, according to the Times.

After the issue was raised, YouTube’s security team started investigating and within days, Carlos Watson, co-founder and CEO of Ozy, apologized to Goldman and said the impersonator on the call was Rao, the Times reported.”

This week’s report has caused the company to go into full-on crisis management mode as Samir Rao has been asked to take a leave of absence amid an investigation.  The company’s board of directors has hired a law firm to investigate the company’s business activities.

Several of the company’s high-profile employees, such as Katty Kay have resigned from the organization. She posted the following on her Twitter feed on Wednesday.

 “I had recently joined the company after my long career at the BBC, excited to explore opportunities in the digital space. I support the mission to bring diverse stories and voices to the public conversation. But the allegations in The New York Times, which caught me by surprise, are serious and deeply troubling, and I had no choice but to end my relationship with the company.”

Marc Lasry,  Ozy Media’s board member and a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, responded by saying, “The board was made aware of the incident, and we fully support the way it was handled. The incident was an unfortunate one-time event, and Carlos and his team showed the kind of compassion we would all want if any of us faced a difficult situation in our own lives.”

The incident is reportedly being investigated by the FBI. The FBI does not confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

The incident is being described as attempted securities fraud, however Goldman Sachs has yet to take legal action against Ozy.   Since Ozy Media is a privately held company, they are subject to corporate law, which does not subject them to the same scrutiny of a publicly traded entity.

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Sources:

New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/26/business/media/ozy-media-goldman-sachs.html

Vanity Fair – https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/09/ozys-media-meltdown

Bloomberg – https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-09-27/impostors-on-the-due-diligence-call

 

 

 

 

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