Fatburger with a side of lies
By Al Lewis,
Friday, December 30, 2005
Former Qwest executive Marc Weisberg's punishment -- to be
decided March 3 -- may sound something like this: "Marc,
Sixty days' home detention is what he'll serve under a plea
agreement with federal prosecutors announced this week.
That sure beats 20 years' hard time, which is what he may
have faced if he had been convicted on any of the 11
wire-fraud and money-laundering charges that federal
prosecutors threw at him.
How often Weisberg will be allowed to leave his expansive
home in Cherry Hills Farm or whether he'll have to wear one
of those unfashionable ankle bracelets has yet to be
Under the plea agreement, Weisberg, 48, will be placed on
probation for two years, pay a $250,000 fine and be banned
from serving as an officer of a public company for two
The good news is that Weisberg can spare the $250,000; he
does not have to pay any restitution to Qwest shareholders;
and he will never need to work for a public company again.
- His fabulous home on Grand Cayman Island, which
prosecutors had once sought to confiscate.
- $2.9 million he was said to have made in allegedly
illegal stock deals at Qwest.
- $29.8 million in profits he reportedly made selling Qwest
stock during his time at the company -- none of which was
ever alleged to be illegal.
And then there's Fatburger. Earlier this year, Weisberg
opened New York state's first Fatburger restaurant. He also
announced plans to develop and operate at least 50
Fatburgers in New York over the next seven years. This
empire will cost as much as $34 million to build.
So despite a felony on his rap sheet, his life will go on
with Fatburger abundance. Must be nice to have worked as a
top executive for former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, even though
Nacchio was recently indicted on insider-trading charges.
Weisberg made his fortune during the carnival of greed at
Qwest under Nacchio's watch. He was among several top
executives who made millions selling Qwest stock options as
the company they were guiding drowned in a sea of debt.
Most of these executives will never be prosecuted because
their trades were probably not illegal.
The millions made dumping Qwest stock options, however, were
Several top Qwest executives also demanded that companies
doing business with Qwest give them discounted stock or
insider access to initial public stock offerings. One of
them was Weisberg.
This practice was common in the heady days of the
telecommunications boom. And it was, in most cases,
perfectly legal. It became a criminal liability for
Weisberg because, in at least one instance, he did not
disclose to Qwest that he was doing this. Prosecutors
alleged that all together, Weisberg illegally made $2.9
million buying and selling vendor stock.
On the only count for which Weisberg pleaded guilty,
however, he bought stock in an iffy startup telecom company,
Redwood City, Calif.-based CoSine Communications. Court
records show he bought this stock in 2000 and sold it for a
$528,753 loss in 2001. Imagine the humiliation of
confessing to a felony that netted this kind of negative
Weisberg has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in
the criminal insider-trading case against Nacchio. But it's
not likely Weisberg has anything to add.
In the grand scheme at Qwest, Weisberg was just a sideshow.
Prosecutors uncovered and made a criminal case of his
misdeeds as they were rummaging through the debris at
Qwest. Had they not been after Nacchio, they might never
have bothered with Weisberg.
In the end, there's no evidence Weisberg knew anything about
alleged accounting fraud at Qwest that led the company to
restate $2.5 billion in revenue and earnings, the alleged
illegal insider trading of top executives or other alleged
The evidence mainly suggests Weisberg was a self-dealing
executive, too busy enriching himself to notice what other
senior executives were doing wrong.
He was of little use to Qwest and its shareholders and
employees. And now he is of little use to prosecutors. He
made a fortune flipping stocks on the side, and now he's
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