Ramsey is one of America’s best-known financial advice gurus, famous for his gospel of “financial peace,” “Biblically based, common sense” wisdom on debt, investing, and retirement. Exploding out of the evangelical Christian world and onto the national stage, he has sold millions of books, hosts a popular radio show, and runs an organization that boasts more than 400 employees. Eight million people listen to The Dave Ramsey Show, 400 publications run his “Dave Says” column, and more than 2 million families have participated in Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. According to Ramsey, his Lampo Group sells “hope,” and that business has given him an estimated net worth of $55 million.
Fans seem to love Ramsey’s good-ol’-boy charm, a no-nonsense approach to finances, family, and life. On the radio, his matter-of-fact answers to callers’ questions and his frankness about the economy, politics, Obamacare, and faith make him a favorite among conservatives. Perhaps his No. 1 leadership mantra is that every business should implement a “no-gossip policy.” While nobody likes gossip, Dave Ramsey hates it with biblical passion. (Gossip is strongly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments.) Ramsey says there’s only one way to share information: “Positives can go up anywhere, negatives go up.” On his EntreLeadership podcast, after calling gossip “one of the most evil spirits that Satan ever let loose on this planet,” Ramsey said, “once I will warn you and then I will fire you! I have a zero-tolerance-plus-one policy for gossip. I will teach you once and then I will fire your butt.”
But perhaps most telling is the kind of gossip that Ramsey says is the worst. “The gossip about the person who’s freakin’ paying you!” As the president of The Lampo Group, the only thing Dave Ramsey hates more than gossip is seemingly when the gossip is about Dave Ramsey.
“As a boss, Dave Ramsey was a bully,” said one former employee, who was a member of a secret Facebook group of about 100 former Lampo employees that Ramsey managed to infiltrate without their knowledge last year. “Most of us left Lampo years ago and yet he still haunts us, lurking over our shoulders like he’s the damn Godfather. And many of us are scared of him, unsure of how far he’d go to silence us.”
The secret group, Former Lampo Folks, was started in 2012 by K.C. Jones as a way to reconnect with former coworkers, but had grown into a forum for airing complaints about the work environment at Lampo. From basic managerial processes to the “no-gossip policy” to how they were treated upon leaving, Jones, who left Lampo after four years in 2011, said that “the group became a safe place for people to express themselves freely, which is something we didn’t get to do very often while working at Lampo.”
Members of the Facebook group had no idea Ramsey knew what was being said until early spring, when a current Lampo employee informed them that one of their private conversations was the topic of discussion during a meeting at Lampo. Members of the group still don’t know how Ramsey got access, but concluded that one member must have given him their Facebook login information or made copies of discussions taking place in the group. In an email exchange with one of the group’s administrators, Robert Faulkner, Ramsey claimed that he had accessed the supposedly-closed circle.
Angry that Ramsey and his team had gained entry to the private group, several of the group’s members took to anonymous Twitter handles like @FormerCultist, @DaveRamses, and @DaveRamsesII to protest.
Late last year, @DaveRamses tweeted: “Wow. I literally have no idea why all his former employees think he’s the devil incarnate.” In March, @FormerCultist tweeted: “Dave claims to be a Christian, and an ethical leader. And teaches others to do so. His actions are neither Biblical or Ethical.”
The public criticism enraged Ramsey, who, according to one current employee, went on a “warpath” to expose the Twitter critics. During an all-staff meeting on May 7 that was described by several current employees, Ramsey offered thousands of dollars in bounties in exchange for the identities of the tweeters. (Employees’ accounts differed on the dollar figure, but ranged from $5,000 to $20,000). Ramsey was especially intent on identifying the tweeter behind@LampoLeadership, a parody account that had begun tweeting about the inner workings of Lampo, suggesting it was run by someone inside the company. (In an interview with The Daily Beast, the person who operates @LampoLeadership said they had no connection to the other parody tweeters who were members of the Facebook group.)
On May 8, Ramsey fired two Lampo employees, Chris Blaylock and Josh Harman, on the mistaken suspicion that they were operating @LampoLeadership or leaking inside information to the person behind it. Though Blaylock declined a request for an interview and Harman did not respond to emails, a Lampo employee confirmed that despite management eventually learning that Blaylock and Harman had no connections to the Twitter account, they were still fired based on “negative chatter” being discovered in the distant history of their office instant messaging. Another Lampo employee said, “You’ll never talk to them about this. Ramsey will make them sign non-disclosure agreements, the kind without expiration dates.”
Source: The Daily Beast | Matthew Paul Turner