While I much enjoyed the “Great Calm” quarantine had brought, the time to focus on my writing and ponder life while hanging in a hammock, lately the news cycle has drained me.
It’s gotten so bad that I’ve forced myself into a kind of detox; while I haven’t left social media entirely, I’ve tried to consume as little news as possible, resisting the compulsion to jump into dumpster fire comment threads.
So it brings me no pleasure to bring you this story — one that enraged me so much that I bang away at a keyboard at 4 in the morning, having just discovered it.
Enter Panthera Worldwide (not to be confused with Stepbrothers’ Prestige Worldwide, though both are about as legitimate). If you’ve never heard of the company, you’re most certainly not alone. They describe themselves on their website as “elite training and mission support”, with their parent company is based out of Virginia, kind of. I have to say kind of because the LLC is listed as inactive, having not paid their fees.
The Washington Post reported that one of its owners said he’d had no employees since May 2018. Like zero.
They are also in the middle of a lawsuit, the plaintiff is the man that is leasing the company’s only known major asset — their training facility —who says they misrepresented ‘estimated revenue’ as ‘actual cash payments’. Apparently in response to that, the company has entered bankruptcy protection, citing more than $50M of liabilities on the books. (Rememeber that number for me.)
The company sounds like a real winner.
Ready for the drop?
This company was recently awarded a $55 million government contract to provide N95 medical masks. This is despite there being no record of this company having ever produced a thing, much less medical grade equipment.
The owner, speaking with the Post, claims that he has contacts in the medical community who can provide the masks, which he will then provide to the government, per the contract. He promises.
But that is wildly problematic. Even if we ignore the mountain of bothersome details presented above, and assume that this shell of a company is capable of producing what they say they can, I have a few major points of contention.
First — why the need for a middleman in the first place? If these masks are being produced, why can’t that entity sell directly to the United States government? Why didn’t they bid for and win the contract? What value is Panthera Worldwide providing in this transaction? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to skip the middleman?
Even if we put that landmine aside, it just keeps getting worse.
The contract is for N95 masks at about $5.50, per mask. If that seems high, it is: 3M charges about $0.63 per mask.
Pardon my language, but what the actual fuck?
So what are we left with? A company that is, at best, legitimate but being sued, with more than $50M of liabilities on the books, zero employees, but somehow able to supply N95 masks, at about nine times the going rate.
At worst? This is corruption at the highest level — a bloated contract awarded to a re-seller, during a pandemic, to provide something they’re literally not in the business of providing.
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said “This is not how the government procures training or any type of supplies… You just wouldn’t do business with somebody like that.”
To their credit, if I was the owner of Panthera Worldwide, and I could negotiate a contract for $55M, promising to provide products with a cost of a little over $6M, I’d be pretty excited about my the $49M profit I was about to make. For doing nothing more than moving some masks around.
I’d be especially excited if, say, I was being sued, with liabilities owed of over $50M.
Story first reported by The Washington Post.