“CEOs hold positions of special trust and authority, not only in the companies they serve but as leaders in society. We expect them to act with integrity,” Minkler said in a press release. “Exploiting that special trust for personal gain is an egregious crime, especially when those defrauded are friends and neighbors in a community that the CEO was hired to serve.
Mizelle, once the CEO of an Indiana electric cooperative, has agreed to plead guilty to fraud after an investigation revealed he had collected over half a million bucks in personal expenses from the cooperative since 2009, while claiming they were "business expenses."
Mizelle allegedly siphoned funds from the company’s expense account for his own personal use on a routine basis, according to Minkler.
As CEO, Mizelle was permitted to seek reimbursement for legitimate business expenses. Since at least 2009, however, Mizelle submitted dozens of fraudulent expense reports that disguised personal expenses as business expenses, Minkler said.
For instance, on an April 2009 expense report, Mizelle claimed approximately $650 for business entertainment. According to the federal charges, however, he actually bought a black sapphire bracelet and Mont Blanc pen from a local jewelry store for his own use.
On an October 2014 expense report, Mizelle claimed $1,250 for sponsoring a business-related dinner event. According to the charges, Mizelle had actually purchased a Eurail train pass for a family vacation in Europe.
His fraudulent claims allegedly resulted in reimbursement checks not only for personal vacations and jewelry, but also for iPhones and iPads, tickets to sporting events, clothing, meals, and even groceries.
No amount was too small. According to the charges, in January 2012 Mizelle claimed $20 for a business lunch that actually went toward the purchase of a pizza delivery to his home.
Do you know what the CEO of your electric utility, cooperative or municipally-run electric supplier claimed on his or her expense reports last year? Probably not.
What if your CEO also bought a black sapphire bracelet, but then presented it to a business associate as a trinket of company appreciation? Would it then be a business expense? What if your CEO joined an exclusive social club, and then invited business associates there for "meetings?" Would that membership then be a business expense? What if your CEO had a clause in his employment contract that allowed him and his family to use the corporate jet for personal travel? Would that still be a business expense? It's all in how you package it. I guess Mizelle wasn't very good at the "ratepayers pay for everything" game.
The article doesn't explain how Mizelle's issues came to light. How did a cooperative accountant continue to process these "business expenses" month after month for at least 6 years and never once think something was amiss?
If you think you're safe because regulators or "the government" is watching out for you, you're just kidding yourself. CEO excess is the rule, rather than the exception. Shame on Mizelle... for getting caught.