Attivio CEO Ali Riaz was previously CFO and COO of FAST. He tried to avoid involvement in the recent expose’ of his former employer. For his troubles he got a parking lot ambush, a big photograph, and some unflattering coverage. Adriaan Bloem and Stephen Arnold have been hotly debating Ali’s culpability.
There are two general issues here, based on the fact that Ali and a couple of other key Attivio executives come from FAST. First, they were at a corrupt company — but resigned before the worst (and perhaps all) of the corruption happened. Second, they were at a company that did very well in some respects, but very badly in others, so it’s a mixed-quality resume item.
So far, no biggie. Lots of executives exude overoptimism about their companies products and business prospects. And I haven’t identified anything which suggests to me as a former stock analyst that the controls Ali put in place as CFO/COO were inadequate. (If he’d been long-time CEO, it would have been a different matter, as he would have been more responsible for the general ethical culture of the company — but he wasn’t.)
So the main serious charge is that FAST funneled a lot of sales through small reseller companies owned by its executives, including Ali. Such arrangements could be used either for misappropriation of funds, or to inflate revenue. In the article, Ali denies involvement in any reseller until after he left FAST’s employment, but the reporter purports to have discovered proof to the contrary. I couldn’t quite get Ali to reiterate his denial to me — or, indeed, to talk with me directly about the matter — but did get an emailed statement which reads:
Mr. Riaz categorically denies any wrongdoing during his tenure at FAST or in any relationship with FAST thereafter. He has not been an employee of FAST for almost two years now, and therefore must defer all further comments to Microsoft’s official 2006 and 2007 statements on the matter.
I’ve advised my clients at Attivio that they should be clearer and more specific, but so far I’m not carrying the day. So for now, we’ll go with that.