Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Obama Commerce Secretary Nominee Penny Pritzker Raises Visions Of Secretive Rollins Clan In Atlanta

President Obama and Penny Pritzker
President Obama has nominated Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce, and her ongoing Senate confirmation is not expected to meet any major hurdles. This nomination, however, should be alarming to Americans who value transparency and integrity in financial transactions.

Pritzker belongs to the family that founded the Hyatt Hotels chain, and published reports show the family has a history of hiding massive amounts of money in offshore tax shelters and even deceiving family members about the contents of trust funds.

If that sounds familiar to Legal Schnauzer readers, it's because the Pritzkers apparently studied at the same school of financial skulduggery as the Atlanta-based Rollins clan, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control and the subject of numerous posts growing from the controversial Rollins v. Rollins divorce case here in Alabama.

The similarities become eerie when you consider the experience of Liesel Pritzker, who filed a $6-billion lawsuit at age 18, claiming that her father and 11 older cousins had looted her trust funds and those of her older brother, Matthew. The Pritzker lawsuit, launched in 2002, was settled in 2005, with Liesel and her brother receiving a settlement that totaled $900 million

Liesel Pritzker, under the name Liesel Matthews, was a child actress who starred in such films as A Little PrincessAir Force One, and Blast. She left the entertainment field and co-founded the IDP Foundation in 2008.

Her story mirrors that of the younger generation in the Rollins family. A pending lawsuit in Georgia alleges that Randall and Gary Rollins, heads of Rollins Inc. (the parent company of Orkin and other enterprises), raided family trust funds for their own benefit. A recent appellate ruling found that the case brought by four of Gary Rollins' children should be heard by a jury.

Sarah Rollins, who now is 19 and grew up in Birmingham with her mother Sherry and younger sister Emma, apparently is the beneficiary of a trust fund established by her grandfather, John Rollins Sr. But Sarah's father, Campus Crest Community CEO Ted Rollins, has kept his daughter and ex wife in the dark about the fund--even though the law in most states requires that, at age 18, beneficiaries are entitled to be informed about provisions of trust accounts.

Are Ted Rollins and other family patriarchs using Sarah Rollins' money for their own benefit, without her knowledge or consent? That appears to be a distinct possibility. A curious car crash, which coincided with Sarah Rollins' visit to Birmingham and left Sherry Rollins with a number of injuries, adds to the intrigue.

Liesel Pritzker
As for Obama and the Commerce Department, what kind of secretary would Americans be getting with Penny Pritzker. Rick Perlstein, of The Nation, paints a grim picture in a recent two-part series. (See "Penny Pritzker's Commerce [Part One]" and "Penny Pritzker's Commerce [Part Two].") Perlstein describes the Pritzker business motto as "cash for quiet." From Part One of Perlstein's piece:

In 1982, for instance, when The Kansas City Times published an investigation of family finances after the collapse of a skywalk at a Kansas City Hyatt killed 114, they discovered that the family’s casino purchases beginning in 1959 were funded by $54 million in loans from the notorious mob-connected Teamsters Pension Fund, without telling stockholders as the law required. (The family agreed to a consent decree that allowed them to neither admit nor deny the allegations—shades of Superior Bank). The paper also quoted an IRS informant, a vice president of the offshore bank where the family stashed their cash: “The Pritzker family of Chicago through their Hyatt Corp. initially received their backing from organized crime.” According to the reporter who won a Pulitzer for the series, Knut Royce, Jay Pritzker’s initial response was to try to buy the newspaper. Failing that, he arranged a private takeover of Hyatt, the family’s one company that has ever been public, so it never would have to file information with the Securities ad Exchange Commission again.

Perlstein also provides a nice summation of the Liesel Pritzker case:

This family is famously secretive. In 2003 two family scions, siblings Liesel and Matthew Pritzker, sued their father Robert Pritzker for $6 billion, claiming he had looted their trust fund. In 2004, a judge gave them access to sealed financial reports. Explained investigating reporter Gus Russo, “that unearthed a secret family deal cut after Liesel’s uncle Jay Pritzker’s death in 1999, a plan that would have broken up the fortune into eleven shares valued at $1.4 billion each. In early 2005, rather than expose the complicated Pritzker offshore shelters to the light of day, the Pritzker family put the final touches on a private settlement agreement” giving Liesel and Matthew Pritzker upwards of $500 million each to drop the case.

We now have some idea about why the Pritzker family, of Chicago, has kept its financial dealings in the shadows.  But what about the Rollins family, of Atlanta--with a branch in Delaware that largely is responsible for Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, plus Rollins Jamaica Ltd? What is driving the older generation to take liberties with funds that belong to the younger generation?

The pending lawsuit in Georgia might soon provide some answers. And we might learn even more if Sarah Rollins someday pulls a Liesel Pritzker and takes legal action to find out what her father and other patriarchs have done with her money.


Anonymous said...

Any idea as to when the 4 Rollins children's case will go to trial? Should be interesting!!

Anonymous said...

Is the Sherry Rollins case regarding the trust fund one that could be handled for her by some group such as but not limited to the ACLU ?

Anonymous said...


We know which A$$es get to have lots of USA taxpayers' disposable income for wiping.

Working class heros must get real about the shock and awe, BANKS AND 'TRUSTS' = money laundering umbrellas. Which 'families' came from Nazi Germany? The ones that now own all the 'STASI' [NSA 'Snowden'] USA corporations of off shore 'wealth'? One has to question the intelligence of the NAZI agenda yesterday, today and certainly with the technology transparency, now.


Great reporting, LS, as always.

Anonymous said...

Essentially, his previous life is now totally over. And if the U.S. government gets their hands on him, he will be very fortunate if he only has to spend the next several decades rotting in some horrible prison somewhere. There is a reason why government whistleblowers are so rare. And most Americans are so apathetic that they wouldn’t even give up watching their favorite television show for a single evening to do something good for society. Most Americans never even try to make a difference because they do not believe that it will benefit them personally. Meanwhile, our society continues to fall apart all around us. Hopefully the great sacrifice that Edward Snowden has made will not be in vain. Hopefully people will carefully consider what he has tried to share with the world. The following are 27 quotes from Edward Snowden about U.S. government spying that should send a chill up your spine…

Anonymous said...

Why did Edward Snowden go to Hong Kong? by Dave Lindorff

Then too, there is the matter of the Confucian concept of gift-giving and mutual obligations. It was, I am sure, no accident that Snowden chose the weekend that President Obama was hosting a summit in California with China's new president Xi Jinping to disclose his identity as the NSA whistleblower who exposed the national spying program to the Guardian and the Washington Post. In doing that, he gave President Xi an incredible gift -- the chance to hold the upper hand in his negotiations with a hugely embarrassed and compromised Obama over issues like Chinese computer hacking of US corporate and government secrets, and theft of intellectual property. For of course it is clear that the NSA is at least as active in hacking Chinese computers and spying on Chinese communications.

Such a gift as that is not easily ignored or forgotten in Chinese culture. President Xi owes Snowden a lot, and I believe he will honor that debt by seeing that Snowden is protected from any threat that might be posed to him by a vindictive or frightened US government.

But Snowden isn't relying solely on Chinese cultural values to protect himself.

He was also careful to send a powerful message of warning to the US officials in the videoed public interview he gave outing himself. As he told interviewer Glenn Greenwald, "I had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all over the world. The locations of every station, we have what their missions are and so forth. If I had just wanted to harm the US? You could shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon."

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 7:51--

I'm not aware of a trial date. The appellate ruling was not too long ago, and it will have to go back to trial court for a trial date. My guess is that it never will come close to going to trial. Like the Pritzker case, it almost certainly will settle--for a substantial sum. No way the Rollins "big boys" want their financial shenanigans exposed in a public court case.

Anonymous said...

If anyone doubted that Obama is a corporate whore, this nomination should erase all doubts.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 7:55--

Based on my experience, and what I've heard from others, the ACLU is pretty much worthless regarding most legal matters--especially in Alabama. They might have some use on free-speech issues or certain oddball, high-publicity cases, but it appears to me they are of no value to the vast majority of everyday folks. I've seen no signs that the ACLU, at least in Deep South, stands up to corporate or legal wrongdoing. The ACLU probably would argue that such cases are not within its mission--and that might be right. I think a lot of Americans, including me, have a poor understanding of the ACLU's mission. We tend to think that they are just itching to stand up for the little guy, for justice against those who have been wrong. That doesn't appear to be the ACLU's purpose--and I have no idea what the ACLU's purpose actually is. But I think the organization would be of zero help to Sherry Rollins. I doubt they even would respond to her calls or e-mails.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Penny Pritzker has ties to the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago, which is one of Obama's biggest financial backers. That's the law firm where Michelle and Barack Obama met. It's played a huge role in his rise to power.

Anonymous said...

Liesel Pritzker ain't a child star no more. She has grown into a mighty fine looking young woman--and she's rich. I think I'm in love.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:05--

I had that same question about Sidley Austin. Ironically, Sidley Austin is one of the primary corporate law firms for Rollins Inc. and Orkin. If you get poisoned from a bad Orkin treatment in your home, there is a good chance Sidley Austin will defend the firm and try to deny you any compensation.

Anonymous said...

How is Obama's appointment of Penny Pritzker, after receiving campaign contributions from her, any different from what Don Siegelman did with Richard Scrushy?

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 9:32--

There is no difference. An illegal quid pro quo was neither required nor proven in the Siegelman case, so Obama is doing the same thing that landed Siegelman in federal prison. According to current 11th Circuit law, and SCOTUS has done nothing to say it's wrong, a jury could "infer" that Obama and Pritzker had a quid pro quo agreement. That same law could be applied outside 11th Circuit.

Anonymous said...

Pritzker and Hyatt Corp. have a terrible history with labor--very poor treatment of employees. And yet, Obama nominates her for commerce dept.? Is this what the Democratic Party has come to?

Anonymous said...

Horrible choice by Obama. He's apparently gotten to the point that he has no shame.

Anonymous said...

L.S.: this appointment of Penny Pritzker is on the same level of G.W.Bush appointing his cronies, rumsfeld, rove et al.

She probably was a big part of the force that got him elected in the first place; now it is payback time.

e.a.f. said...

Pritzker's appointment to Sec. of Commerce is an excellent choice. Here we have a 1%er in charge of ensuring other 1%ers stay that way, and their way of doing business isn't changed.

Many had hopes that Obama would change things for the better in American. That hasn't happened. The appointment of Pritzker is just another example of how the super wealthy will be able to continue to remain that way.

Give organized labour has supported Obama and millions of workers has supported him, you would think they guy might have chosen some one not affiliated with a corporations which is less than labour/worker friendly.

A choice such as Pritzker is something you would expect Romney to make. It is hoped some one will raise objections to this appointment.