Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Disgruntle Office Depot Employee Finds Tinkerbelle

I have heard of drinking and dialing - calling old girlfriends when you have a little buzz on from the night of drinking, but "kick your ass so hard that you would fly across Florida like Tinkerbelle." to the CEO of Office Depot. This disgruntle employee is making the AG's to look into his allegations.

From the Dallas Morning News

The Texas attorney general's office is investigating the question after receiving a complaint from a former Office Depot employee who accuses the company of manipulating prices.

The ex-employee accused the Florida-based company of overcharging Texas public agencies that made purchases, in part, through a national contract for office and classroom supplies. His information has led to investigations in multiple states, and Office Depot has responded in some cases by repaying nearly $3 million.

When we asked Texas AG spokesman Tom Kelley for a status report, he declined to comment. "We don't acknowledge investigations," he told The News.

Office Depot, though, did acknowledge receiving what amounts to a subpoena from the AG. Spokesman Jason Shockley said the company was cooperating.

"We intend to vigorously defend any allegations of wrongdoing lodged against our company," he said in a written statement.

Shockley described the ex-employee, David Sherwin, as "disgruntled" after Office Depot fired him for "workplace misconduct" in April 2008. That misconduct included sending "highly inappropriate and threatening internal emails," Shockley said.

Sherwin has acknowledged sending an e-mail to Office Depot's chief executive in which he threatened to "kick your ass so hard that you would fly across Florida like Tinkerbelle."

Sherwin said he was drunk at the time and has entered rehab since he was terminated. He said he was frustrated that Office Depot superiors had not taken seriously e-mails and memos that he sent warning of liabilities from the alleged overcharging he found.

At issue are prices charged to government agencies, in part, through a national contract brokered through a non-profit, U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance.

U.S. Communities says it helps public agencies "in reducing the cost of purchased goods and services through pooling the purchasing power of public agencies nationwide." Once a contract is bid and a supplier selected by one agency, others can piggyback onto the same terms when buying products.

Texas' investigation comes after some states, cities and counties have settled complaints against Office Depot. (Check out our cross reference of Office Depot Part Numbers to Office Max or Staples?) Others agencies -- including the federal government -- are still examining overpricing allegations. Here is a snapshot of events to date:

  • February 2008: The state of Georgia terminated its $40 million contract after finding billing errors that Office Depot failed to correct.
  • April 2008: A Nebraska state audit found agencies there were "paying too much for office supplies because of serious pricing errors and overcharges."
  • July 2008: The Florida's inspector general's said the attorney general was investigating and the management services department's inspector general was conducting an audit.
  • August 2008: The state of California won a repayment of $2.5 million for two years of overcharging. Officials said they did not receive promised discounts from Office Depot.
  • September 2008: A North Carolina audit found state agencies were overcharged $294,000 and noted that the company "inflated retail prices on Office Depot brand items so that they could offer a higher discount to win the bid."
  • February 2009: The Alabama attorney general said it was conducting a preliminary review. Office Depot also confirmed in its annual report that the Justice Department was conducting a joint investigation with the Defense and Education departments, as well as the General Services Administration.

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