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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hearings: Looking Back to Look Ahead

- I consider today's Thursday's congressional hearings to be a nuisance and little more than some posturing politicians killing time wagging fingers while they await their re-election efforts this fall (and perhaps pick up some autographs as well). If you missed it, be sure to check out Matt Hegarty's superb overview and critique in the Form. The industry participants certainly need to at least appear earnest, regretful of past sins, nodding approvingly at the Representatives' suggestions, but expressing confidence about the steps already taken. But in terms of the feds actually getting involved, I think the industry has little to fear.

It may be instructive to take a look back to another House Subcommittee hearing, one which occurred over 2 1/2 years ago, in order to get an idea of what will - and will not - grow out of this one. At that time, in October, 2005, Rep. Ed Whitfield, who has called Thursday's hearing as the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, was the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation. As opposed to this one, that panel was actually investigating something worth investigating - the circumstances under which jockey Gary Birzer was left with no catastrophic insurance coverage after being left paralyzed from a spill, and the suspected improprieties in the financial management of the Jockeys Guild by its then-president Wayne Gertmenian, including and especially his allowing the insurance policy to elapse. I wrote about the starkly emotional proceedings at the time.

In short, the subcommittee heard jockey after jockey testify angrily as to how Gertmenian betrayed the membership, lining his pockets and those of his family and friends through his phony consulting company Matrix Capital. They expressed shock at the callous manner in which he allowed the policy to expire without informing the riders. They pressed him on the questionable assertions on his resume. "We think it's a complete fabrication," Representative Joe Barton told Gertmenian, calling him an "absolute disgrace;" as reported on Bloodhorse.com by Ray Paulick (before he started morphing into Drudge).

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn was stunned by the inconsistencies. "This is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss novel," she said. "Events that never happened in a town that doesn't exist."

"This thing is really a hornet's nest and it's starting to unravel," said Michigan Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak.
Rep. Whitfield said that Gertmenian "has a tendency to exaggerate -- to embellish." And, a month later when Gertmenian was removed (prompting him to write himself checks on the way out), Whitfield said "we're still looking at" possibly pursuing perjury or other charges against Gertmenian.

But what has happened since? Absolutely nothing. All of that bluster turned out to be just that. Not only was Gertmenian not charged, but he still maintains his post at Pepperdine (though the resume appears to finally have been removed). A federal lawsuit against him filed by the Jockeys Guild was thrown out, and the last we heard, he had pending legal action against the Guild. Gertmenian incredibly became the head of the creditors committee in the Guilds' bankruptcy case, before a U.S. trustee with a brain finally booted him off, incredulous I'm sure that the man who contributed so greatly to the Guild's plight through his greed and sleaze would be in that position. I still can't get over that, nor the silence from the media that accompanied it.

Another thing that did not come to fruition was the subcommittee members' threats for Congress to mandate adequate catastrophic insurance policies for jockeys through legislation. Rep. Whitfield did actually twice introduce measures to amend the Interstate Horseracing Act to require the industry to do just that (and, by the way, to ban horses treated with anabolic steroids from racing). But the House had little appetite to get involved. Many tracks, even before the 2005 hearing, had already taken out policies, usually for coverage up to $1 million; and others, including Mountaineer, the track at which Birzer was hurt, soon followed suit. (Subsequent efforts to bring coverage further up to speed in light of soaring medical costs have not been successful.)

So, while I wouldn't take any specific threats that we might hear on Thursday too seriously, the industry will at least need to keep on its toes, follow through with the current efforts which seem nearly certain to ban the routine use of steroids, and continue to work towards safer racing surfaces. I really don't believe we'll see the United States Congress take time out of its far more pressing issues to pass any laws regarding these matters anytime soon. But it should sure be fun to hear what Dutrow has to say.

15 Comments:

Ray Paulick said...

Thanks for the shout-out...I think. If I can do for racing what Drudge has done for politics, I'll take that as a compliment! And by the way, you're right about Matt H. He is a terrific reporter..and you're not so bad at analysis yourself.

Glimmerglass said...

Alan did you say "today's" congressional heangs? Isn't it Thursday June 19th when the Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by D-MI John Dingell oversees: "Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Horseracing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse".

The audio link is availble off that committee's site

It's a shame that Ray would think any gains could be had from cloning the well-known equidaily.com site of Seth Merrow.

I have been enjoying TVG's coverage (rebroadcast of 'At The Races' signal/commentary) of Royal Ascot. Jolly good stuff!

alan said...

>>Alan did you say "today's" congressional hearings?

Correction noted. I'm leaving for a long weekend in Florida tomorrow, and I'm completely disoriented from re-arranging my schedule this week! So oops, and sorry. (I think I did say Thursday in there at some point.)

Glimmerglass said...

One upside to Ray's new website, as noted on another forum, which shouldn't go unnotice: it slips past employer web filters as a wagering site.

Equidaily as well as the DRF, TB Times, etc tend to get blocked as "gambling sites" due to the links and advertising.

However after a while software filters catch on ...

Alan enjoy your holiday. I'm off to Italy for a few weeks on Monday so outside of seeing the Palio live I'll be without any racing fix for quite some time.

Saratoga Charlie said...

"It's a shame that Ray would think any gains could be had from cloning the well-known equidaily.com site of Seth Merrow."

Well, is paulickreport.com cloning Seth Morrow or is it cloning the Matt Drudge. It appears to be the latter.

Moreover, if they're competitors, why does the paulickreport.com provide a link to equidaily.com Go figure....

I say, the more the merrier -- a rising tide lifts all boats.

Glimmerglass said...

Hey Saratoga Charlie, I'll say that I respect your opinion and leave it at that. Don't take it a step further and feel the need to rip on me on other blogs as it is a bit petty.

Saratoga Charlie said...

Glimmerglass:

Truce! Point taken as I can understand where you're coming from...

FYI, I am an AVID, daily reader of equidaily AND (as of this week) paulickreport. Together, I find them the complete package -- along with the blogs, of course.

United we stand
Saratoga Charlie

Anonymous said...

Frankly I am glad that the "trial by media" has not been able to prosecute it's scapegoat. As a former student of Gertmenian's at Pepperdine, I find the accusation hard to swallow. If there was something that the industry or the Guild could have made stick, they have had an ample opportunity, but haven't. It's time to move on. I know the media, and the sub-media bloggers who have no journalistic integrity will have quite a bit of trouble dealing with it, but its time the industry and it's participants take a good look in the mirror to find out who is truly greedy. I wouldn't want to wish congress, a union and the gambling industry on anyone.

Anonymous said...

I was a former student of Dr Gertmenian's at Pepperdine. I was telling my brother today how his class was popular, and he asked "what became of him? I thought I would find books or articles written, or awards bestowed. I was shocked to read what I read. The Jockey Guild mismanagement, his not being on a board he claimed to be on, and was he really a Chief Detente Negotiator? He has a lot of explaining to do. I am starting to wonder if he really has degrees from USC and Idaho. If Dr. G is a Con Man, then it seems to me that Pepperdine should verify his claims immediately. Apparently, they did not do that when they hired him. If they are found to be false claims, he should be terminated immediately.

Anonymous said...

http://leftatthegate.blogspot.com/2008/06/hearings-looking-back-to-look-ahead.html

I justed watched the congressional hearing here. Not the Gertmenian I remembered. When confronted about his resume, his "consulting fees", he seemed to have no answers. The crowd clapped after Dr G got grilled, and seemed without a response. How could nothing happen after this?

Anonymous said...

Oops...the link is here:

http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/10182005hearing1679/hearing.htm

alan said...

Anon - Thanks for stopping by. You're the first commenter I recall that had dealt with Dr. G at Pepperdine and didn't come here to defend him. He's apparently a very persuasive guy, but he certainly wasn't at that hearing.

Anonymous said...

He is indeed a very persuasive guy. But that starts out with him telling you who he is. He establishes his credibility with the important positions he has held. Today, I am wondering which of the things I learned and heard in that class were true. I was always proud that I got an "A" in his class, because it was an "A" from an instructor that I thought was more than just a teacher. He supposedly, did not just teach, but accomplished great things outside of academia. I thought he was a person who had worked for President's and represented the US to countries like Iran, and could turn businesses around. You hung on his words because he told you Presidents and leaders of countries had done the same.

In retrospect, and reviewing some student and alumni posts on other sites, it is a bit "cultish". If you took that class from any other Professor, you might have felt you missed the "Dr G" experience. Some would even rub it in. I too got sucked in to his, and have believed it all for over two decades up until a few days ago. He draws you in with his resume claims, and then you buy whatever else he says. It must be true, as Pepperdine would have certainly verified those, right? I took his class over 20 years ago, but I have always talked about Dr G.'s working with Presidents Nixon and Ford. It's hard to admit you have been duped for so long, and does not reflect well on Pepperdine and my own gullibility, if his class was the one you remembered so well.

Now I have the same feeling as kid in Boston probably got, when he found out Roger Clemens was a cheater and a liar. In those hearings, Dr G. made you squirm just like Clemens did.

I did send some links to some fellow Pepperdine MBA's, and they too agree if his claims turn out to be false, then Pepperdine should fire him. At minimum, I would like my tuition fee for the class back.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Dr. G and Pepperdine, for those of you who state things such as wanting your tuition back, that's ridiculous. The possible lack of his credentials does not take away from he taught you. Fault him for other things but do not fault him as a teacher. He was one of the best.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Dr. G and Pepperdine, for those of you who state things such as wanting your tuition back, that's ridiculous. The possible lack of his credentials does not take away from what he taught you. Fault him for other things but do not fault him as a teacher. He was one of the best.