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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Air Force Brass Uses Undue Influence to Protect First Command 
Some more super shoe leather reporting from the New York Times' Diana Henriques reveals that Air Force brass with ties to First Command stymied an investigation into First Command's questionable sales practices.

So First Command was not happy a year ago when it discovered that a legal office at Air Force headquarters had put out a notice asking military lawyers in the field for feedback on "reports of possible unethical or overly aggressive" sales practices by the company's agents. The notice also raised questions about the suitability of the company's core product, an archaic and expensive type of mutual fund with sales fees that eat up half of an investor's first-year contributions.

First Command fought back: it complained to the second- most-powerful general in the Air Force. And it was heard.

The New York Times has found that within three weeks of the legal office's posting, the Air Force issued a retraction, which it had allowed the company to edit. It gave the company a letter of exoneration, signed by the Air Force's top legal officer, after letting the company edit that, too. The Air Force legal staff stopped cooperating with a securities industry investigation into the company's practices and products. And the Air Force effectively abandoned a broad inquiry of its own, letting local base authorities handle complaints.



It's bloody amazing that any self-respecting attorney would all of a sudden begin to withhold cooperation with an investigation with the securities industry (presumeably the NASD, but not neccessarily).

It's amazing that any commissioned officer--knowing the issues involved--would buy into blocking the investigation.

Nevertheless, it illustrates how effective First Command has been over the years at nurturing relationships with senior military commanders, including General Anthony Zinni and Army Chief of Staff Pete Schoomaker, both of whom hold or held seats on First Command's advisory board.

I would love to see Diana press the issue: what compensation did General Schoomaker recieve while on the Advisory board at First Command?

Given the allegations of undue command influence within the Air Force, these ties become relevant to the other services.

First Command's reaction to its critics doesn't surprise me.

Their modus operandi seems to be to smear or attempt to intimidate their critics either through nastygrams from attorneys, allegations of bias, or through calling on their extensive rolodex of Kool-Aid swilling doppelgangers throughout the officer ranks to insinuate professional consequenses if the rest of us don't play ball.

Both techniques are in evidence within this article.

And I've been on the recieving end of both of them, personally.

Sorry. It ain't gonna work with THIS officer.



Splash, out

Jason



P.S.,

More background Here, here, here, and here.


Kudos to Diana Henriques, once again--chewing on the story like a bulldog on a bone.

She's been working it for months.

(No, I'm not one of her sources at all.)

Persistence pays.









Comments:
I sent Diana Henriques an email thanking her for her reporting on this subject. She even took the time to send me a nice reply!

Congress is taking this matter out of the hands of military brass. Pending legislation will tighten up the rules on sales to the military and eliminate funds with 50% up front loads.
 
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