Org Prep Daily

September 3, 2017

Breaking Bad in South Florida (9)

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 12:27 am

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. If you find any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, deadly or lively, or actual molecules, carbons or heteroatoms, it is purely coincidental.

Part 9

(here is Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 10)

When I received the settlement documents from the company, I saw they did a quick job: there were typos, only two months of medical, instead of a temporary job extension at a reduced pay it was a straight separation, with a severance paid out in installments over a period of four months. The pay amount was the only thing that remained from our agreement, the rest was something else. The lawyer who drafted it had no clue. It was actually the same company lawyer who negotiated with the biologist fired couple months before – and our research director again did not feel like telling her about all the drugs that the management used to cook at the company, or the promises he just made to me…

I called the research director and protested that this wasn’t what we agreed on. He pretended like he did not see the documents – he assured me “he wasn’t trying to sneak this one on me”. Then the second version of documents came: it was the same text just with the typos corrected. I was supposed to apply to COBRA to get my medical and the company would reimburse it maybe later. The research director explained that he was working hard to come up with the agreement that “encapsulates” what we discussed on the dinner meeting on Monday. He just thought it expedient not to keep his word even though we shook hand on it. Instead, he proposed to have another meeting to renegotiate.

Meanwhile I saw that the Mac I got from him was trying to upload massive volumes of data to the cloud – it was tying up the connection and filling up the computer memory. (I did not have the net connection at home set up yet, I just ordered it and the Verizon guys were taking their sweet time so I was temporarily using a free login guest account on wifi radiating from a retirement community nearby; their connection was frail and slow). Then I noticed someone was reading an unopened message from my laid-off colleague in my private gmail account – and he tried to mask it by deleting the message and emptying the trash bin. So I checked the security settings: the Mac was set on enabled remote access and the firewall was down… I had pretty good idea who was reading my private e-mails and trying to upload my files to find out if I had any interesting piece of evidence on my computer. The offer about consulting and working from home was probably a ruse from the beginning, to have me take the backdoored Mac.

I changed my passwords, disabled the auto-backup cloud uploads and the remote access. I wrote the research director that it was difficult to take seriously anything he promised, and I was not slighted as he implied – not even surprised – but getting progressively more tired of everything that happened with the company and the role he played in it, as he kept making the same mistakes and excuses over again. And if we meet and try to reach a new agreement it should be final this time and not re-interpreted, modified or encapsulated.

To which I got a reply from the research director that he was cancelling our meeting and the deal was off. It was time for the lawyers. Instead, I went to war.


At this point it wasn’t about money anymore: I wrote to the research director and the business development guy explaining that the research director needs to resign from his role of a CEO – and I promised to do my part to get the company raided by the police and pushed out of the campus if he does not step down soon.

I also informed my freshly laid-off colleagues about the negotiations with the company. Some of them reacted with a surprise – they only got two weeks of severance – but they were hurt and not in a fighting mood: if anything, they were more angry with me that I got a better offer (and did not take it – because they would).

Next I called the DEA – they asked me to come over immediately but I wanted to meet some officer who investigated our company before, for repeated attempts to purchase the Ecstasy precursors. They said they would find out who that was and call me back. It took few days for them to do that.

I also paid a visit to the Chief compliance officer at the university: We had a long evening meeting and he promised to help. I knew his boss was the wife of our research director so it was tricky for him; she was the university vice-president for research integrity and compliance. I hoped he would not go to her straight away if I explained how much the whole affair stank. And I think he didn’t – but it is likely that he talked to someone else, in the university president’s office.

The university chief compliance officer was quite taken aback by the stories of drug cooking at our company – and he wanted to have absolutely no part in investigating it. He was saying it was a job for the police. So I also described some of the mishaps and close calls in our manufacturing, the risks of running kilo-scale polymerizations of ethylene oxide in a sealed glass reactor without automated cooling backup, without a burst disc and even without a reaction temperature internal thermometer. I mentioned the hectoliter volumes of flammable solvents in the lab and the nature of work with potassium metal, KH and diphosgene. We had no specialized safety training or sensors for detecting ethylene oxide leaks as required by the regulations. I showed him a picture of myself in a gas mask standing next to a 15L reactor full of concentrated HCl and heavy metal complex – parked next to a fume hood because we lacked a walk-in hood for the reactor.

Now we were on the same page. The university chief compliance officer told me that the fire safety people at the university were still having nightmares about our manufacturing lab ever since that fridge explosion and fire in March 2014. He said he would talk to EH&S at the university and he was pretty sure these safety violations alone should be enough to get the company kicked out of the research incubator. He said he would write the report using anonymous online EthicsPoint submission to the university, and he would do it by himself because he knew what to put in there to have the right effect. So he wrote it and I never saw his report.


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