FEEDING THE BEAST: How Wedtech Became the Most Corrupt Little Company in America by Marilyn W. Thompson

FEEDING THE BEAST: How Wedtech Became the Most Corrupt Little Company in America

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A journalist's tellingly detailed recap of the ascent and comedown of Wedtech Corp. As a correspondent for New York's Daily News, Thompson was to some extent a part of the Wedtech story. At any rate, she scored a number of beats in her coverage of the breaking scandal, which helped keep prosecutors on the case. Her account of the fleetingly inspirational enterprise that proved an arrant criminal fraud compares favorably with Feeding Frenzy (1989) by William Sternberg and Matthew C. Harrison, Jr.; it's also far superior to James Traub's Too Good to Be True (reviewed below). In a somewhat discontinuous narrative, Thompson traces the twisty career paths that led John Mariotta (born to Puerto Rican parents in Manhattan's Spanish Harlem) to join forces with Fred Neuberger (a Romanian Jew who escaped the Nazis) in a Bronxbased machine shop. The fledgling firm had a hard time making ends meet until the odd couple discovered the SBA's 8 (a) program, which provides for the award of government contracts to minority-owned concerns on a noncompetitive basis. Duly qualified for set-asides, the principals began making money in old-fashioned ways--e.g., by embezzling; bribing public officials; purchasing (at no small cost) the sponsorship of politically powerful influence peddlers; and recruiting financial executives willing to cook the corporate books. Wedtech obtained contracts with a face value approaching $500 million, mainly from Pentagon agencies that received precious little in return. The crooked folks who ran the place even managed to take the company into the capital market, selling $160 million of eventually worthless securities to credulous investors. When the gravy train derailed, the casualty count was high. In addition to costing over 1,000 innocent workers their jobs, the Dong-lived seam has produced more than a score of guilty pleas or verdicts, and a wealth of civil suits remain to be adjudicated. A tawdry tale well told by a reporter who understands the implications as well as the facts of the Wedtech deception.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
Publisher: Scribners