There have been many who have spread many false rumors – many for ulterior motives – about Sholom Rubashkin. We feel it is important to address these fabrications. Truth be told, each lie is so transparent on its own it would be easy to deal with, but there are just so many of them. Here we will attempt to provide the facts to many of these misconceptions:
- The only basis for the personal gains allegation is the government’s allegation. It is full of demonstrable falsehoods as addressed in court. Documentation was provided (and not challenged) that showed that their assertions were patently false in some instances, and the result of intentional misrepresentation in others.
- The foundation of the charge is an intentionally deceitful one-sided accounting, counting only money moved to Sholom, without counting any money which moved in the other direction in multiple ways. They admitted as much at trial. Worse, as earlier drafts of their motion demonstrate, they scrubbed the one example that ended up in their motion, intentionally falsifying the total and presenting/perpetuating a false narrative. The other side of the accounting reveals numerous legitimate grounds for reimbursement that justified the transfers.
- The details of their allegation are likewise deceitful. They listed a number of items allegedly obtained with the money which Mr. Rubashkin was not entitled to have the company pay for. This list is entirely baseless. One glaring example is the home mortgage. They asserted publicly that he used funds “funneled” from Agriprocessors to remodel his house. In fact, his home was remortgaged to pay for the remodeling. The mortgage was presented as evidence in court. Of course they continued to make the allegation in the media. In fact, additional funds procured through the mortgage were transferred to Agriprocessors’ main account, but that information was scrubbed from their documents. The government’s actions to continue spreading these fallacies is reprehensible.
- Unlike what has been portrayed by the prosecutors and their PR effort to taint Sholom in a negative light, none or virtually none of the alleged loss in this case went to the defendant. It went back into the business. Sholom Rubashkin was in that way the opposite of the Bernie Madoff-style thief. Where are Sholom’s vacation homes? Where is his yacht and fancy car? His private jet? He lived a simple life and raised ten children in a small Iowa town. Many testified at sentencing to Sholom’s modest lifestyle. Numerous times he gave away his car to his workers who couldn’t afford one. He never said “no” to anyone who came to him for assistance – Jew and non-Jew alike. The fact is that the money made from Agriprocessors was not used for a luxurious lifestyle, but rather was put back into the business, put back into the Postville community and for charities.
- At trial testimony, not one witness, even from the prosecution’s witnesses, said a bad word about Sholom’s character. In fact, the government’s own witnesses characterized Sholom with these words: “sincere”, “generous”, “concerned”, “problem solver”, “trustworthy”, “honorable”, “good on his word”, “well intentioned”, “honest”.
- At sentencing, the judge received numerous letters testifying to the fact that Sholom had helped save marriages, save people from drugs, paid for people’s medical bills, paid for college tuitions, helped support soup kitchens and a myriad of other good deeds. Clearly, this was not a man who was in it for himself.
Hiring Illegal Immigrants and Paying them Cash Off the Books
- All immigration allegations against Sholom and Agriprocessors were dismissed.
- Trial testimony revealed ICE attempted to infiltrate Agriprocessors with on or more confidential informants, including Confidential Informant #007 (CI 007). On three occasions, CI 007 was denied employment outright due to lack of documents or obviously false documents.
- Agriprocessors employed the Nyemaster firm, the largest firm in the state of Iowa, to ensure its compliance with immigration and employment matters. On the very day of the raid, the Nyemaster lawyers were inspecting applicants’ paperwork.
- Undocumented workers indeed acquired employment at Agriprocessors, largely through the failings of the Human Resource department as detailed at trial and sentencing and the State case. From May of 2007 until the raid, Sholom was working with counsel to deal with the no-match letters and release and replace employees whose paperwork was questioned by the SSA. In fact, in April of 2008 – despite some resistance from other management – Sholom spearheaded efforts to release no-match employees.
- Rabbi Kohn, one of the head rabbis in charge of kosher certification, testified at trial that given the dictates of the Rubashkin’s faith, the Rubashkins were prohibited from working on the Sabbath or paying others to do so. The Hunt Payroll was designed by Donald Hunt, the former Agriprocessors CEO, and facilitated plant maintenance on the Sabbath.
- The Hunt payroll was not off the books. Rather, it was simply a different set of books, which were overseen by Judy Hunt. Mrs. Hunt testified as to the need for the separate books given the maintenance work which had to be completed on the Sabbath.
- There is absolutely and unequivocally no evidence ever presented that employees were paid in cash. This is an outright lie.
Child Labor Allegations
- An Iowa jury found the State’s child labor allegations baseless and acquitted Mr. Rubashkin on all charges.
- It was proven at the State trial that Sholom neither wanted nor condoned the employment of minors in the plant. Minors infiltrated the plant by fraud, often with the assistance of their own parents. It was further proven at trial that many of the 35-50 suspected minors easily looked 18 or older. A number of them carried children while employed at Agriprocessors. At least one alleged minor female represented that she was married.
- In all cases that minors were identified – they were fired.
- Sholom readily consented to searches in April of 2008 by Iowa/DOL and was not informed that they supposedly identified suspect minors. When they received a letter from the State that minors were working at the plant, Agriprocessors asked the State for their names so they could fire them. The State refused – despite the fact that they were worried, so they said, that these minors were working in a dangerous environment.
Allegations of Mistreatment of Workers and Worker Exploitation
- Many testified to the sincere concern Sholom had for each employee. If there were isolated allegations of individual instances of mistreatment, it was not tolerated.
- What did occur at Agriprocessors was an underground of sorts occasioned by the Hispanic population which brought with it all the cultural conditions and grievances common in Latin America. For example, in Latin American countries harassment is a serious problem. These issues were brought with the immigrants to America. In addition, the supervisors were largely Mexican nationals, and over time, the workforce became Guatemala heavy. Mexico and Guatemala have their own issues between them and these issues migrated with the workers.
- The workers were not exploited, as was revealed in the State trial. Each and every one of the witnesses described how much they appreciated the work opportunities presented to them at Agriprocessors.
- While there is no doubt that employees would have preferred higher wages, Agriprocessors always paid more than minimum wage. Government and defense witnesses testified Agriprocessors employees wanted more hours not fewer. Employees were anxious to work additional hours due to overtime pay, which equaled one and a half times their normal hourly rate.
- The health care offered by Agriprocessors exceeded industry norms and it included dental care.
- Many of the allegations of exploitation are leveled at nameless “supervisors” or at Hosam Amara – with no linkage to Sholom Rubashkin. Hosam is the only individual who has been alleged to have sought compensation for providing an employee a job. There is no proof Sholom knew or approved of Amara’s activities. This was against everything he stood for.
- Workers received post-hire training and received state-of-the-art safety equipment. Agriprocessors spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on safety consultants. Employees using knives were required to wear heavy steel smocks and steel mesh gloves as detailed in the State case. It’s important to note that the kosher method does require more hand labor than non-kosher plants which utilize more mechanization.
- Plant facilities, including the lunch room, were drastically improved in 2007 and 2008.
- Testimony under oath and records from Iowa Workforce development established Agriprocessors had no more worker injuries than any other meat packing plant.
- In fact, Agriprocessors was entitled a refund from its workers compensation carrier due to the infrequency of injuries at the plant.
- Dozens of emails exist to prove that Agriprocessors took injuries seriously and supervisors were ordered to bring all injured employees to the appropriate responders at the plant for transportation to Decorah hospital as necessary.
Discouraging Unions and Labor Organizers
- Iowa is a right to work state. Agriprocessors was not required to submit to unionization. The Union was coordinating its actions with Rabbi Morris Allen of Minnesota, who sought control over the kosher practices and methodology.
- Some, like Avram Lyon, were hired consultants for the union that tried to unionize Agriprocessors, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
- The unions and labor organizations propagated falsehoods about Agriprocessors to pressure Agriprocessors to unionize.
- Sholom knew from the Smithfield litigation that the union’s methods were to make allegations of impropriety and enlist the government to assist their unionization efforts by creating false scandal or exaggerated claims.
- Agriprocessors was entitled to borrow up to 75% of outstanding accounts receivable and 50% of inventory.
- A South Dakota jury merely convicted Agriprocessors of borrowing more money than what it was entitled at a particular time and repaying the money pursuant to the terms of the loan agreement with interest.
- Government witnesses acknowledged Agriprocessors paid as much as $20 million dollars over the life of the loan in interest alone.
- Sholom did not control production and it was production that controlled the plant.
- There was no money laundering of profits. The mechanism was merely a way to utilize float and pay back the AR received by Agriprocessors and run through general accounts for overhead.
- Over the term of the loan, Sholom had very little contact with FBBC – Agriprocessors’ main lender. FBBC communicated nearly daily with Toby Bensasson.
- FBBC never demanded audited financial statements from Agriprocessors. Instead, its agents conducted periodic field examinations. At least twice each year, FBBC conducted field exams at Agriprocessors. During these exams, FBBC personnel were given access to whatever financial data they desired to look at. In fact, during these field exams, the actual physical inventory of product kept in warehouses was never audited for accuracy.
- Some of the claimed fake invoices were documentation supporting promises to buy large block quantities in the future. The name for this type of transaction was bill and hold.
- Other so-called fake invoices resulted from product being shipped without being scanned. Agriprocessors had the warehouse ship product directly to the customer and Agriprocessors created a corresponding invoice. This practice created a gap between the Order and the Invoice.
- FBBC also knew that Agriprocessors supplemented their daily financial needs and expansion projects by obtaining monies from outside private loans and investments. Prior to May 12, 2008, FBBC never directly asked to see such third-party loan information or nor did it inquire how Agriprocessors was accounting for and repaying such loans.
- The company also survived on loans from the Jewish community. Outside monies came to Agriprocessors directly or through Aaron Rubashkin or Sholom. Even though the monies were intended for Agriprocessors, the providers of these monies may have considered the transactions to be between themselves and Aaron Rubashkin or Sholom. Some loans came from purchasers of Agriprocessors products, while other investors provided loans to Agriprocessors under terms of Heter Iska.
PETA Allegations of Animal Abuse
- Allegations of animal abuse were initiated by PETA in an effort to manipulate Agriprocessors.
- The undercover PETA “expose” revealed nothing more than the traditional slaughter method employed by Agriprocessors and approved by the various kosher certifying bodies and observed daily by the USDA in the plant. Agriprocessors had obtained the analysis of experts in kosher slaughter that the animal was not suffering.
- PETA made their motive very clear time and time again: to put a stop to all kosher slaughtering and consumption of meat.