Dear Mrs. Bluth,
It is on the advice of my accountant that I am reaching out to you, as we are both at a loss for what to do. I think it best if I first start with background information so that you will better understand the depth of our dilemma.
My family has been in the real estate business for over fifty years, with my father running it as the head of our corporation, up until two years ago when he could no longer stay as head of the company, due to ill health. He, then, put my eldest brother in charge and had little to do with the day to day business dealings. Then Covid-19 came into the picture and much changed. Our long-time bookkeeper had to be let go and I took over managing the books. Along the way, I noticed small discrepancies, then larger ones and called a friend who does the taxes for our company to help me understand what is going on.
After much backtracking and taking apart two years of financial question marks, my accountant informed me that there had been expenses much larger than even I had guessed, made within the past two years. In fact, from exactly when my brother took over the business, with monies from the business, but not for business expenses. What is even worse is that we are heavily in the red and stand to be in great financial trouble with vendors who have not been paid for their services. Two have actually filed legal suits against our holdings. The accountant pointed out the obvious, that it could only be my brother who is skimming monies off the top and camouflaging it as having gone to pay for non-existing services and expenditures, while in truth, he was pocketing it for himself and his family who were living high on the hog during these dry and financially slow times.
I know what you are probably thinking, why had I not caught on to this, as I was doing the books and saw this reflected for the past two years? Mrs. Bluth, how does one go about suspecting a much loved brother, who always was the picture of respect and honesty, of stealing from his own family? I accepted, blindly, every expenditure as going towards the day to day running of the properties and wrote off the great losses as due to the pandemic and that many of our tenants could not pay their rents. But now, I am faced with two lawsuits for non-payment and possibly many other surprise financial legal issues stemming from my brother’s actions. Worst of all, I have no idea how to handle this .
Do I bring it to my father’s attention? I wouldn’t dare on the chance that it would probably kill him. Do I speak to our other siblings who are not involved in the family business and risk causing bad blood amongst us? Do I go to the authorities and risk having him put in jail? The shame and the gossip would wipe out our good name in the community, were it ever to become public knowledge!
So, on the good advice of my CPA friend who helped me unravel the mess, I turn to you for your good advice on how to deal with this matter and preserve everyone’s dignity, privacy and keep our family business from going under as it is the only means of support for my parents.
What a sad state of affairs this seems to be, judging from your letter, however, all is not lost. I know how it appears, and possibly, it is in fact far worse if other litigation may surface in the future. I feel that your attention should focus on the here and now.
As your first course of action, I would tell you to approach your brother and present him with a copy of your findings. Highlight every expenditure that was made that was not directly involved with the running of the properties and ask him for an explanation. Once he owns up to his misdeeds, tell him he must make good on all the monies that went into his own pocket. If he is indeed an honest person who has fallen low during these hard times, which caused him to stoop low and steal from his own parents in order to keep his family afloat, that may be an understandable explanation, but not an acceptable one. He must agree to make full restitution for the monies he pocketed and accept full responsibility for his actions. Since he is the CEO of the company and the legal messes it is in, is due to his misdeeds, it is incumbent upon him to handle and resolve the legal issues he caused. If he agrees and is genuinely repentant, it ends there.
But things don’t always go smoothly in such situations, so you have to have a plan B, which may not be pleasant. Should you run into opposition from him and he becomes defensive and unyielding, tell him that he has signed his own sentence, leaving you no other option but to expose his actions to the rest of the family and decide what should be done about him, understandably leaving your elderly parents out of this. I am hoping it won’t come to that, but should it, unless you can see another way that I don’t, be prepared to stand firm on your demands that he pay back what he took, even allowing him a span of time over which to do it. But he must assume responsibility for cleaning up any legal messes borne from his actions.
I wish you well, and hopefully, you will send us a follow-up letter in the not too distant future letting us know if all went well.