Ex-Microworkz CEO Changed His Name, but Not His Deception

Don Tennant

In my previous post, "Former CEO of the Failed Microworkz Has Failed to Learn the Lesson of Truthfulness," I wrote about Richard Keith Latman and his new book, "The Good Fail: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Microworkz." That post, written from my standpoint as a partner in QVerity, a company that provides training and consulting in deception detection and critical interviewing techniques, took the form of a behavioral analysis of my interview with Latman. My conclusion: If the interview was a test of Latman's truthfulness, he failed it miserably.

 

There's a lot more to the story than I was able to convey in my behavioral analysis, so a follow-up is in order. In the interest of convenience, here's the quick background I provided in my previous post:

Microworkz was a company that Latman founded in Seattle in the 1990s to sell low-cost PCs. Latman bit off way more than he could chew, and the company began taking orders and accepting payments for PCs it couldn't deliver. Microworkz died a very messy death in 1999, leaving a lot of extremely unhappy people who had paid for computers they never received. The Washington state attorney general's office filed a lawsuit against Latman, alleging deceptive business practices, and won a $1.5 million judgment against him. Latman filed for bankruptcy and never paid up. He was subsequently indicted by a grand jury for bankruptcy fraud, and a guilty plea got him house arrest and five years' probation, which ended last year. This March 2006 Seattle Times article provides more details.

Latman, who went by "Rick" when all of that bad stuff was happening, subsequently adopted the persona of "Keith Latman" as a means of putting the past behind him and reminding himself on a daily basis that he had become a new and improved version of himself. After interviewing him, I was reminded of the line from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet": "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Only in this case, I concluded that a thorn by any other name is just as barbed.

 

Let's start with the fact that the press release for Latman's book states, "A good fail' is a failure that has a learning value greater than the offset collateral damage." I brought that statement up during my interview with Latman: "OK, but if I paid you for a computer that I never received, and I never got my money back, I'm delighted you learned something that you could use to start a new, successful business," I said. "But I'm the collateral damage, so those are pretty hollow words. What's your response to that?" Here's what he said:

Well, one, there isn't a person that you'll be able to source that has paid money and not received a computer. And if you can, that would be great, because I'd like to know who that is. We went through the list from the [Washington state] attorney general, which if you have read those articles, it was about a hundred people. I personally purchased computers for every person that we could find. So over the course of the last 10 years, the people who are "collateral damage," most of them-I'd say 99.9 percent of them-either received a refund from their credit card agency because they disputed their charges, or they received a PC. The people that actually have been left holding the bag, if you will, were people that bought Microworkz computers and didn't have a warranty. And for that, we certainly feel bad about it. I think that any business has a risk of failure, and I think that when you're trying to pioneer something, and you're trying to bring a computer to market that was at the time half to a third the price of the big guys, there was risk in that model. So I think 99.9 percent of the people who wanted something from Microworkz either got their money back or got a computer. But if your article can source a couple more, we'd be happy to get in contact with them.



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May 15, 2012 2:06 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

I learned all I need to know in the 2006 Seattle Times article you cited:

"But the court denied the couple's request to have their debts discharged. In April 2001, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Karen Overstreet in Seattle told the Latmans' lawyer that bankruptcy-court protection was intended for "honest debtors," and that in her seven years on the bench she had never seen a case so permeated with "inconsistencies" and "excuses.""

And the state obviously doesn't believe that the debt is discharged:

"The state later obtained a $1.5 million judgment against Latman but has not collected a dime. Assistant State Attorney General Paula Selis said Thursday the case has been assigned to a collection agency."

He's going to have a tough time dancing around the facts.  If he were smart he wouldn't be writing a book at a time he is dodging the government.  Someone just moved his file to the front burner. 

Reply
May 15, 2012 10:18 AM Richard Keith Latman Richard Keith Latman  says:
but you should have read the book before you wrote. Your article was a failure for sure, but a "Good Fail" it was not., Reply
May 15, 2012 10:19 AM Richard Keith Latman Richard Keith Latman  says:

I knew when I wrote The Good Fail that somebody would just blindside me with a biased personal attack.I knew that some self-righteous, pompous know-it-all wouldn't even read the book and would interview me solely for the purpose of spinning the words.I knew that I'd try not to respond, but in the end, I knew I would.Well folks, today is the day

I'm not going to take issue with the author of the hit-piece because he's a nobody trying to build a name for himself and trying to promote his book.I am however going to go piece by piece and talk about what he wrote in detail because it's important that we discuss the issues openly, honestly and completely.The book addresses a lot of this but because he didn't read it, he writes as if it didn't.

OK, Ready?I'll quote the assault BLOG posting where I can:

1."My conclusion:If the interview was a test of Latman's truthfulness, he failed it miserably."

I spoke to this guy for 20 minutes and 15 of them was him trying to ask various ways if I intended to pay the civil fine levied against me in Washington State thirteen years ago.I respectfully asked him several times to drop the question because the "interview" was about the book, not the fine or any other legal issues.The Good Fail is a story of turnaround against all odds, it's meant to be an inspiration to those without hope and it's meant to convey the message that hard work and learning from failure will prepare you for success.If he had asked for the interview to discuss my personal reasons for not paying the fine to the state I might have given it to him, instead he tried to sandbag me and it was disgusting.

For those of you who are curious though I will be happy to discuss the fine, the abuse of power that the state wielded against me and why I refuse to pay the state a penny.It's pretty easy:The state of Washington continued with a case against me WHILE I was in personal bankruptcy and unable to defend myself.They violated the automatic stay of litigation that is afforded all bankruptcy filers and received a default judgement only because I was broke.It was a disgusting use of power then and it remains so.

2."I did source a person who paid money and never received a computer...", "Latman said he would be happy to take care of Rowe as long as he can prove how much he paid, that he never received a computer, and that he never got his money back.", "But Latman's response in this case bespeaks a frame of mind that simply doesn't mesh with the persona of a reformed guy who's trying to teach a lesson about accountability and resilience, a persona he's struggling so mightily to create.Someone who had truly changed would have instinctively known that the right thing to do would have been to do whatever it took to get the $1,493 back to that small-town fire chief who said 13 years ago that he paid the money because he believed what he heard from Latman on that local radio station.Rowe's word that he never got his money back would have been all that someone who is truly determined to do the right thing would have needed.He would have been driven to get that money to Rowe as soon as he possibly could."

Yeah, no chance.Here's the deal:I bought this domain back over 5 years ago and began actively looking for people to buy computers for.The author of this trash told me he'd put me in touch with the fire chief and he never did. Reply

May 15, 2012 10:19 AM Richard Keith Latman Richard Keith Latman  says:
I'm not going to blindly write checks to mythical people who may or may not have already disputed their credit card or even received a refund from me personally already.Until the article came out yesterday I didn't even know who the guy was.This smells as a setup because, well, it was.

Those of you reading this probably know I have personally refunded or provided computers to over 400 people over the past 10 years.That's every man, woman or child that I could find and most of them did not have documentation.I purposely "hid" in the most obviously place possible and had the author of the "review" actually put me in touch with the fireman, he might have his money today.It has always been my intention to make every consumer whole and I feel very good about what I have done.

3."Phrasing it in terms of "doing the right thing" was difficult for Latman to deflect.In an odd approach that was reminiscent of O.J.Simpson's chilling 2006 "If I Did It" manuscript, Latman chose to respond in terms of a hypothetical scenario"

Wow.Are you Kidding?The man compared me to O.J.Simpson.This is a point directly to the person who wrote that:I'm not mad at you but you sincerely need professional help.Your years as a self-professed NSA and security expert have warped your brain.Please, please get some help.

4."This is what you have to come to grips with, Keith:You weren't let go by those employers because of "negative newspaper articles and court filings found on Google." You were let go because of your actions, which were made public by those negative newspaper articles and court filings.And I would imagine that your failure to be upfront about them when those employers hired you didn't help.People can be very forgiving, as long as you're truthful, you take responsibility for your actions, and you don't try to cover anything up.You have to understand that your lies of omission are every bit as deceptive as your lies of commission, and no decent, honest employer would turn a blind eye to those lies, no matter how much money you brought into the company."

Again, since we never discussed this issue, the author is off on a slanderous rant.No, I was not fired because I tried a business model and failed.I was not fired because of Microworkz at all and yes all the employers knew about Microworkz.Keith is my legal middle name and every payroll check was still made payable to Richard Keith Latman so clearly these companies knew.I was fired because a reporter at 1 newspaper in the entire country wrote articles like "Latman Gets a New Job" or "Microworkz Founder Still Trying".It was the press that refused to let me try to feed my children and try to regain my footing that was the cause.The actions at Microworkz, and the admitted mistakes I talk about in the book, were truly regarded as a "Good Fail" that I was unlikley to repeat.

4."Keith, you need to recognize how artificial and distasteful it is to have written a book that purports to offer sublime lessons for others, when in truth you haven't even learned those lessons yourself."The Good Fail" is a farce, Keith.It is nothing but a self-serving attempt to cleanse your soiled image, and to make a few bucks in the process.Your failure would only have been a good one if you had truly taken full responsibility for your actions, if you had been honest and open about them, and if you had changed your deceptive behavior as resolutely as you changed your name."

Notice the ", Keith" as if to make fun of my using my middle name? Reply

May 15, 2012 10:20 AM Richard Keith Latman Richard Keith Latman  says:
Let me make something very clear here:I am extremely proud of who I am and what I have accomplished in my life.I am a 50% dad to three wonderful children, despite the challenges I've created more than one very successful company and now I have written a book to help others not make the mistakes I have along their path.I opened a very personal history of my life to public ridicule long after most had forgotten it on purpose:The whole story needed to be told and hundreds have emailed their appreciation since its publication.

I'll end with a direct note to the author of the trash that I am responding to:

After 20 minutes of discussion over a telephone you have reached conclusions that were clearly predetermined and utterly false.You don't know me, you don't know what happened and you wrote your attack admittedly before you even read the book.I won't insult you as you did me because you are not worth the extra keystrokes.I hope and pray that before long you find peace in your world as I have in mine.

I forgive you for what you have tried to do but you should have read the book before you wrote.Your article was a failure for sure, but a "Good Fail" it was not.

, Keith

Reply
May 15, 2012 11:33 AM RichardMilhousNixon RichardMilhousNixon  says: in response to Richard Keith Latman

In the words of the 37th President... "I'm not a crook". There are mistakes and then there are scams. I find it funny as to  how all the banksters and scam artists of the business world who wilfully deceive and break the law are the first ones to seek its protection and quote it line and verse in their defense.  We have a potential candidate for the Count Victor Lustig award right here.

Reply
May 16, 2012 1:05 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Richard Keith Latman

If you're going to comment on what I write, Keith, you need to read it more carefully.I did read your book.As I wrote in this post, I received it the day after I interviewed you.I read it before I wrote my first post, which is how I knew that the first 90 pages of your 153-page book were a rehash of your past, up to the point of your bankruptcy filing, and how I was able to quote from it in this post.

Since I had not read the book by the time I interviewed you, I didn't ask you about your book, other than to ask you if you intended to use any of the proceeds to pay the $1.5 million you owe the state of Washington.My job is not to further your agenda and to ask you the questions you want to be asked.My job is to write what I deem worthy information for my readers to know about.I've been doing this a long time, Keith, and I do my homework before every interview I conduct.The questions I asked during this interview were the questions I believe my readers would ask if they had the chance, and if they'd done the homework I'd done.

I did not sandbag you.I did not go into the interview with any thought of conducting an analysis of your deceptive behavior.I had no reason to believe that your responses would be deceptive.But you exhibited a striking deceptive behavior in response to my very first question, and my antennae went up.Throughout the course of the interview you provided classic, textbook examples of deceptive behavior that my readers could learn from, and I provided the analysis accordingly.

In my response to your comment on my previous post, I told you you're welcome to comment here, but you need to be truthful.I will repeat that admonition.

In this post, I pointed out that you weren't fired from all those post-Microworkz jobs because of negative newspaper articles and court filings as you claimed in your book, but because of your actions.And I suggested that your failure to be upfront about your actions when those employers hired you didn't help.In response to that, you wrote in this comment, "Again, since we never discussed this issue, the author is off on a slanderous rant.No, I was not fired because I tried a business model and failed.I was not fired because of Microworkz at all and yes all the employers knew about Microworkz." 

So you thought that when I referred to your actions, I was referring to the fact that you tried a new business model at Microworkz and failed?Seriously?Can't you understand that anyone who reads this will see how blatantly deceptive that is?Do you think anyone who reads this and who read your book will miss the fact that you tried to hide your actions from those employers?What did you mean when you wrote in your book about being fired from Coremetrics, "Granted, I hadn't brought it up, but I assumed they knew everything.I was wrong." Or when you wrote in your book about being fired from Responsys, "You would think they had heard about my background, or at least done a check of their own.But no." Or when you wrote in your book about being fired from Phoenix Technologies, "Apparently, they had finally run a background check and didn't like what they found."

You have also been untruthful in your characterization of the interview.In your comment on my previous post, for example, you accused me of twisting your words and taking them out of context.In this comment, for another example, you claimed that I dedicated 15 minutes of a 20 minute interview to the matter of your failure to pay the money you owe the state of Washington. Reply

May 16, 2012 1:05 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Richard Keith Latman
As I responded to you previously, I don't like being falsely accused.And I pointed out that I would be happy to post the link to the full audio of the interview so my readers can listen for themselves and decide whether you're being truthful.I told you that all you have to do is say the word, and I'll post the link.You didn't respond.My offer still stands.Say the word, and I'll post the link right here.What do you say?

Reply
May 16, 2012 11:44 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to Richard Keith Latman

Hi Keith,

For the sake of argument let's assume that 100% of the customers from the 90s were made whole.  I'm sure even you would agree the actual number is less than 100% (but still a high percent), and perhaps others would take issue with that.  How many people were made whole or not is really a distraction from the million dollar issue.

You have a judgement against you for $1.5M or thereabouts.  According to your post you felt like the process was unfair and you were denied an automatic stay of litigation, and you feel this was a "disgusting use of power". 

You are using legalese to distract people from the core issue here.  An automatic stay of execution would essentially mean that the stamp of a court clerk protects you from your creditors.  Are you expecting state investigators to halt everything because some clerk stamps your bankruptcy filing? 

What's worse is that you PLEADED GUILTY TO BANKRUPTCY FRAUD and fined $65k more:

www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-04/wringing-lessons-from-microworkzs-failure

"Microworkz was sued by Washington State's attorney general, which obtained a $1.5 million judgment against Latman that was never collected because he filed for bankruptcy. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud and was fined $65,000."

So you think you deserve an automatic stay of litigation because some clerk stamps a document - that was apparently fraudulent!!! 

This is incredible.  I was going to say that you play the victim really well, but I fear that more people will become a victim to your predatory practices.  You make a convincing argument on the surface, but anyone who digs into your past will quickly discover that you are a snake.

Agree or not with the judgement against you, it was imposed as a civil penalty.  If one could dodge civil penalties simply by filing for bankruptcy, we would never have accountability from people like you.

The state did make a mistake when it came to seeking judgement from you.  Clearly your case belongs in criminal court, not civil court.  You are no different than the common thief.  I take that back.  Your crimes harm far more people.

I'm glad Don posted this because it reminds me that there are people like you in this world that we must watch out for.  The next book you write should be from behind prison walls.  It's clear that any civil judgement against you won't be paid anyways, so the logical solution is incarceration.  That's the only way justice will be served.

The irony here is that your company, iMagicLab, writes software for car dealerships.  This may be the first time in my life that I am concerned for a car dealership.  Please tell me you aren't ripping off all these honest hard working car dealerships.

Reply
May 16, 2012 12:31 PM Richard Richard  says:

Don and R. Lawson, your observations and comments are spot on.  As a former employee of Mr. Latman, I can tell you with certainty that he is nothing but a scam artist and a con man.

His unethical and deceptive business practices continue today.  You have exposed him for what he truly is.  A pathological liar and an ego maniac.  One of these days, and  hopefully soon, all this will catch up to him and he will get what he deserves.

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