The Internet was littered with scam warnings from small-time contractors who claimed they had been ripped off by Singapore-based UNI Strategic, but that didn’t seem to bother the State Department or Bill Clinton.
The agency, headed at the time by Hillary Clinton, signed off on a Nov. 14, 2010, speech delivered by the former president on behalf of UNI at the Presidential World Economic Forum held in Taipei, Taiwan.
The payday: $400,000.
Clinton’s speech was not remarkable, but it probably didn’t have to be. He spoke about the global economy, economic inequality and global warming in front of an audience of around 2,000 — eager to hear from an American politician of Clinton’s stature.
But while UNI could afford to pay Clinton a one-percenter’s annual salary, the company was ripping off a slew of contractors it had hired to provide training in various Asian nations.
Internet message boards, scam alert websites and independent blogs show up at the top of searches for UNI, which was founded in 2002 and specializes in workshops for governmental organizations and multinational corporations on a variety of topics.
It is unclear if UNI’s dastardly deeds were as well-known in 2010, but complaints stretch back to well before Clinton’s speech, and would seemingly have been easy to discover by anyone who cared to look.
One blog, which started in April 2010, detailed UNI’s operations. The company would pay speakers and trainers around $2,500 per day to organize events, typically in Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore or Malaysia, according to the blog. While the company would take payment from its attendees, it would often refuse to pay its trainers and organizers.
“They SCAM you, then move on to SCAM another speaker or trainer for the same event or topic,” the blog alleges. Other message boards and websites level similar accusations stretching back to at least 2009.
The company’s business model seems to have changed very little.
David Einolf, who owns Oregon-based Endeavour EHS, wrote a scathing review of the company last year.
“UNI Strategic — a training firm based in Singapore with offices in Malaysia is such an unethical player,” wrote Einolf, who provided training for UNI on a hazard materials handling class.
“I’ve been promised payment on this invoice so many times, I can’t count. There’s always an excuse. But, the reality is — UNI has decided that I’m not an important trainer and there’s someone else out there who they can scam — there’s no better word for it.”
The Daily Caller contacted Einolf, who said he was finally able to get paid after months spent hounding UNI. He said others who have worked with the company have not been so lucky. One of Einolf’s friends, a motivational speaker, is owed $15,000 by the company, he said.
One U.K.-based corporate management trainer shared a similar experience. The trainer, who asked not to be named, told TheDC that it took him more than a year to receive payment for a Nov. 2013 training seminar he conducted in Thailand.
“They paid after I threatened them, wrote to the Singapore Government and exposed [them] in discussion forums online,” the trainer told TheDC.
He said that the company went to great lengths to avoid paying him and other trainers. The trainer said that all payment correspondence went through a UNI finance director — Stephan Kapoor — he later learned used a false name. The trainer also said UNI would send fake payment transfer documents to keep trainers at bay by leading them to believe they would soon receive payment.
Though the company’s seedy tactics have been known for years, several things are unknown. It is not clear whether the Clinton or the State Department were aware UNI had racked up dozens of accusations that it had bilked trainers. It is also unknown whether either entity would have declined the speech offer had they known.
Neither the State Department nor the Clinton Foundation responded to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.
It is also unclear whether UNI gave more to Clinton than just the $400,000 honorarium, which is listed in Hillary’s Clinton’s 2010 financial disclosure.
According to a BBC article ahead of Clinton’s speech, the company said it planned to donate 10 percent of the revenue from its event to the Clinton Foundation. As The Straits Times noted, UNI Strategic negotiated with the State Department and Clinton’s office for two months ahead of the event. The State Department signed off on all of Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements while Hillary served as secretary of state.
While UNI is not listed by the Clinton Foundation as a donor, the first family’s charity has admitted that it has failed to list all of its foreign donors, even though Hillary Clinton agreed to do so before taking her job in the Obama administration.
Clinton’s decision to speak at the UNI event highlights a pattern that has become increasingly apparent as the family’s paid speeches have come under renewed scrutiny as Hillary Clinton runs for president: Bill Clinton seems keen to speak to any group, anywhere, and at almost any time for the right amount of money.
The New York Times reported last month that Clinton initially declined an invitation to receive a lifetime achievement award from a Haitian relief charity. But he finally agreed to show up to the group’s swanky gala after they agreed to pay the Clinton Foundation $500,000.
In cases like that and many others, Clinton provides a certain quid pro quo, but not one that runs afoul of the law. Instead, in exchange for a paycheck or a donation to the family nonprofit, companies and foreign entities are able to raise their profile and build their brand by having Clinton speak at their events.
That seems to have been the case with UNI. According to The Straits Times’ 2010 article, UNI’s CEO, Roger Tie, said he hoped Clinton’s appearance would help attract business in Taiwan as well as on mainland China.
“We engage world leaders in all sectors like US President Bill Clinton to give speeches,” the company’s website touts. In other online advertisements for its classes and seminars, UNI touted Clinton’s appearance at its Taiwan event, giving the company an air of legitimacy.
UNI did not respond to a request for comment.