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June 4, 2024 62 mins

In recent history more and more analysts have been concerned about the rise of privately-owned, multinational corporations wielding the type of geopolitical power once relegated to states and nations. These concerns usually name drop the best known large companies, such as Nestle, Unilever, Halliburton and so on -- but many more companies operate just as effectively in relative obscurity. Tune in to learn more about the controversies surrounding the prestigious and murky world of the global management consulting group McKinsey and Company, an organization so powerful it's often referred to as, simply, "the Firm".

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
You know, we talk about it occasionally on our show
here the kind of stuff we would be doing if
we weren't doing podcast.

Speaker 2 (00:08):
Yeah, consulting about podcasts.

Speaker 3 (00:13):
Join our new podcast consultancy.

Speaker 2 (00:17):
Which is actually kind of part of our job descriptions,
which is weird.

Speaker 4 (00:21):
Technically is it?

Speaker 1 (00:23):
Technically is we do develop shows? And it's not because
we are some you know, moseses on the mountaintop who
know what, who know everything. It's because we've been around
long enough that if there is a mistake, we have
made that mistake.

Speaker 2 (00:39):
Yeah, we're the idea guys, because we messed up a
lot pretty often.

Speaker 3 (00:45):

Speaker 1 (00:45):
And one of the one of the questions we got
in correspondence several years ago was about consultancy, right, the
idea of being a consultant. It's a heck of a
group term, and it means it can mean a lot
of things.

Speaker 2 (01:03):
I don't want to spoil this one at all, this one,
this episode unfolds. I think we should just let it happen.

Speaker 3 (01:11):
From UFOs to psychic powers and government conspiracies, history is
riddled with unexplained events. You can turn back now or
learn the stuff they don't want you to know.

Speaker 2 (01:35):
Hello, Welcome, back to the show. My name is Matt
Our co host Noel Is on Adventures.

Speaker 4 (01:40):
They call me Ben.

Speaker 1 (01:41):
We are joined with our super producer Paul Mission Control
dec At most importantly, you are you, You are here,
and that makes this stuff they don't want you to know. Matt,
do you ever contemplate alternative timelines or alternate timelines? Do
you ever think of who you might be and what

you might be doing in a universe just to the
left of ours.

Speaker 2 (02:08):
Yes, I have a similar thing to that. It's a
it's a it's a yes but which is a weird thing.
Shouldn't shouldn't do yes butts. But my wife and I
have this theory that we jumped timelines sometime in twenty sixteen,
that all of Earth jumped the timeline, and somehow we've

were in this alternate reality now where where just things
are a little bit off of what they were before,
and we we don't really know because it's that whole
Mandela effect thing where our memories are a little different.
But in this timeline, it's all been this way forever.

Speaker 1 (02:46):
And that's that's an interesting argument. It's more common than
you might think, especially here in the West. Quite a
few people have on an individual level floated something like
that with me. I'm I guess my timeline question for
you and for you listeners today is hinging on these

these sorts of thought experiments that we have, these Walter
Mitti esque moments where we think, you know, what is
my life in this other universe, like where I am
an astronaut or where I am a touring percussionist for
I don't know what. What's a dream band that people
want to play percussion for.

Speaker 2 (03:29):
I always knew that you were going to do that
one day. I knew it. Dave Matthews Man.

Speaker 1 (03:34):
Oh yeah, I met one of their touring drummers, not
the main guy, but I met one of their touring
drummers a while back. Really nice guy. Uh That is
the end of that story. But the reason I ask
is because you met Carter. What's you met Carter?

Speaker 4 (03:50):
No, not the main drummer.

Speaker 3 (03:51):
Oh okay, no, no, one of the like one of
the bongo guys.

Speaker 2 (03:54):
Oh yeah, the percussionist gus Yeah.

Speaker 1 (03:56):
Uh So, way back in a different version of my
own life, I was on track to be an employee
of something very much like the company that we are
examining today. Thankfully, this is just my opinion. Thankfully I

didn't do it, and my thoughts and prayers go out
to whatever Benboland lives in an a version of the
timeline where the cards fell differently.

Speaker 2 (04:29):
And instead we got into this.

Speaker 1 (04:31):
And instead we ended up doing this. Yes, when we
think of global powers, we usually think of nations, right, governments, religions,
huge multinational corporations and so on, and we understand in
a very general way how all of these work. You

don't need to be a president or prime minister to
understand that nations on paper seek to make life better
for their citizens.

Speaker 4 (05:00):
On paper, and you.

Speaker 1 (05:01):
Don't need to or maybe a certain segment of their citizenry.
You don't need to be a priest, a patriarch or
a pope to understand that religions typically strive to make
new converts and spread their teachings, their philosophies and souls
and save souls, yeah, depending on the religion, while a
corporation will work to expand its market share and ultimately

its bottom line. And all of these things are fine
in theory, right, but none of them are inherently good
or evil, which I know can ruffle some feathers, especially
when we talk about religion. We're not talking about a
specific religion, just the concept none are inherently good or evil.
Because some nations might improve life for their citizens or

some percentage of their population by making things worse for
other people in another country, or indeed in the same country.
And some religions may advocate slavery or death for non
believers that may be the best way to save their souls,
according to some teaching or interpretation thereof. And as we know,
some corporations may reak tremendous havoc chasing that bottom line

and even ultimately shoot themselves in the foot, you know
what I mean.

Speaker 2 (06:12):
But today's story is about something else entirely, not a religion,
not a nation, perhaps not even really a corporation, at
least in the way that we would traditionally think about
one of those. Today's episode is about a mysterious consultancy
firm called the McKenzie Group, but to those in the know,
it's simply called the Firm. Ooh, I like that movie

with Tom Cruise, right.

Speaker 1 (06:38):
Yeah, there's also the book, a book The Firm. There's Chrishiam. Yeah,
and there's a documentary about Mackenzie called The Firm. So
let's look at the history first. Here are the facts.
This thing is very, very old. The Mackenzie Group was
founded in nineteen twenty six by a fellow named James O.

Speaker 4 (06:59):

Speaker 1 (07:00):
He was a University of Chicago professor and an expert
on what's known as management accounting. He worked his way
up from the bottom.

Speaker 2 (07:08):
Okay, management accounting, So I guess a manager of sorts?
Mart I guess in this case he is a consultant.

Speaker 1 (07:16):
High level accounting. Right, how do we best understand a
budget for an organization?

Speaker 2 (07:24):

Speaker 1 (07:25):
How do we streamline that budget? How do we grow
certain parts of it?

Speaker 4 (07:28):
And so on.

Speaker 1 (07:30):
He was born way back in eighteen eighty nine. He
grew up in fairly modest means in a three room
house in the Ozarks. And this kind of these kind
of humble beginnings are talking points that a lot of
companies of this nature love to hit, you know what
I mean? Large corporations love to talk about the humble

beginnings and therefore the implied genius of their founder. Right,
this was an extraordinary person, whatever their name is, because
through nothing but their own intellect and gumption they rose
to the top.

Speaker 2 (08:03):
Yeah, his grip on his bootstraps is very strong.

Speaker 1 (08:06):
This is this is very popular. This is this is
an iteration of the American myth, you know what I mean.
So it's no wonder that that's one of the first
things you'll read about the founder in any of the
official literature.

Speaker 2 (08:22):
It is interesting he started as a professor. That that
fascinates me.

Speaker 4 (08:26):
Mm hmmm.

Speaker 2 (08:27):
He's a learned man who's already teaching people something there.
I feel like this may be just completely naivete on
my part, but to be a professor or a teacher
of any kind, I feel like there has to be
a certain amount of selflessness in somebody. But maybe I'm
wrong about that.

Speaker 1 (08:43):
I'm professors are people, Matt. You know, people have a
terrible track record, Okay, but which I mean?

Speaker 2 (08:51):
I'm not.

Speaker 1 (08:52):
I share the same I share the same bias in
many ways because I am one of those people who,
like you, I believe, looks up to professors, people who
dedicate such a large portion of their life to learning
a specific discipline or even a specific subset of a

specific discipline, you know.

Speaker 2 (09:16):
And then not necessarily using all of that hard work
for your own means, you're using it to teach other
people to do what you have learned so much about
I don't know that. To me, it speaks to somebody's
character and I guess at a base level.

Speaker 4 (09:32):
Yeah, yeah, I agree.

Speaker 1 (09:33):
It also brings us to I mean, this may be
a story for a different day, but it brings us
to the idea of academic wars, wars of ideology, which
are fought in the ivory towers as we record this episode.
You know what I mean, what is the nature of humanity?
How does that translate philosophically to the best economic model?

Things like that, right, people have been People still choose
which hill they want.

Speaker 4 (10:04):
To die on in this debate.

Speaker 1 (10:06):
And it can sound dry and academic, but we have
to remember that the same people who are opposing one
another in these sorts of things, anywhere from more political
philosophy to more economic philosophy, these people end up in
the halls of power. They end up making laws, you
know what I mean, or having a very very strong

influence on the laws that are made. So it can
seem dry, but at the end of the day, it
does impact you, and it impacts everyone around you, at
least who lives in that government, and sometimes often people
who at least in the case of the US, people
who don't have anything to do with the US get
impacted by these beliefs. McKenzie's original, I guess breakout single

was the principles of what's called scientific management. It was
an early practitioner this and this will sound very familiar
understandable to all of us. It's just the detailed study
of workflow and the division of labor. So we have
X amount of employees, why amount of task? How do

we translate this into the most efficient process?

Speaker 2 (11:20):

Speaker 1 (11:21):
Which you know we're explaining in a very simple way,
but you can see how this becomes incredibly complicated incredibly quickly.
But it turns out mackenzie was really good at it.
And we all know when we heard that date nineteen
twenty six, we all know that there was a context.
There was a disaster looming on the horizon. Just a

few years after the foundation of the McKenzie group.

Speaker 2 (11:47):
Yeah, it's not really a great time to found something.

Speaker 4 (11:50):
Right, the Great Depression occurred.

Speaker 2 (11:53):
But here's the deal. Under Mackenzie's leadership, this group, this
organization that he created, it didn't just survive the depression.
It didn't just make it through. This sucker thrived When
the founder, James O. McKenzie died in nineteen thirty seven,
a gentleman named Marvin Bauer took the firm, and he
took it basically beyond what James had been able to

take it to some would say glory over the next
thirty years. In part, though, this is part of an
obsession with being quote unquote professional in appearance and tone
and conduct, so really creating an outward image of what
this firm is, what a representative of the McKenzie group

would be.

Speaker 1 (12:40):
And an pretty specific, right and pretty meticulous. One word
that you would use in a corporate boardroom to describe
this would be granular.

Speaker 2 (12:51):
Yeah, so let's talk about some argyle socks. Who gets
to wear them? Who doesn't get to wear them? Argyle?
What's your take, mister, mister Bauer.

Speaker 1 (13:01):
Yeah, mister Bauer once forbade all junior consultants from wearing
argyle socks because he thought they would distract clients, And
the firm's consultants were all required to wear fedoras at
this time. They were all if we were all probably
dudes until President Kennedy stopped wearing them.

Speaker 2 (13:22):
Wow, I see now that I don't know why it
just reminds I do know why. It reminds you of
the peaky blinders. That's what I'm seeing in my head.

Speaker 4 (13:29):

Speaker 1 (13:30):
Also, this is interesting because it feels like the guy's
creating a uniform, right, Yeah, he is creating a uniform,
not just a fabric, but also of minds. Marvin Bauer
Is can be considered the head brand visionary or propagandist
internal propagandist for McKenzie. He's the one who told everybody

to start calling it the firm. He established the terminology, jargon, nomenclature,
or whatever you want to call it that the employees
would use going forward. One example would be the all
employees of a certain type were called partners.

Speaker 4 (14:07):
That was him.

Speaker 1 (14:08):
It gives everybody some prestige, especially from a client basis.
You know, I'm not working with an employee now, I'm
not spending millions of dollars on that.

Speaker 2 (14:16):
I'm working with a partner. That's my partner man.

Speaker 1 (14:19):
And additionally, he is responsible for a corporate culture that
continues by all reports today, you'll hear former mckensey employees
say things like there are only three great institutions remaining
in the world, the Marines, the Catholic Church and mackenzie
and they're serious.

Speaker 4 (14:39):
Whoa they believe it.

Speaker 1 (14:41):
Yeah, this kind of loyalty, fervent loyalty and belief in
the company is baked into every single employee. He also
established a set of rules, rules of engagement and rules of.

Speaker 2 (14:59):
Conduct, and let's just listen, these off consultants should put
the interests of clients before McKenzie's revenues. That's a big change,
at least if you're a corporation that is for profit,
you are basically saying, in a way, the customer is
always right in this situation. But in this case, the
customer is your partner.

Speaker 1 (15:20):
And then he said, of course, Omerta, do not discuss
client affairs. That makes sense absolutely. He also said, tell
the truth as you see it, even if this means
challenging the client's opinion. So let's say that you are
working with a large beverage company and they want to

make a new kind of product that you know, as
McKenzie partner, it's just not going to work. Then it's
your job to instead of just taking their money, it's
your job to tell them that this ranch dressing flavored
soda is a terrible idea.

Speaker 2 (16:00):
But I'm going to stop you there. That is one
of the most disgusting things I've heard in a while.

Speaker 3 (16:06):
It's also a real thing. Oh god, it's a real thing.

Speaker 2 (16:10):
So did you do that in the Natural Flavorings episode?

Speaker 3 (16:14):
No, I was.

Speaker 1 (16:15):
I went to visit our friends Lauren and Annie over
at Savor, Yeah, to do an episode with them about Ranch. Okay,
so check that out if you are, if you are,
like forty percent of the American public, a diehard fan
of Ranch.

Speaker 4 (16:33):
Wow, can you believe.

Speaker 2 (16:34):
That my son's in there? Yeah, I'm definitely not.

Speaker 1 (16:38):
No, neither, I like my buttermilk and mayonnaise separate. Oh
I'm kidding. I mean that's what it was originally. Anyway,
Just you could check out that episode. Another example's let's
say you're a McKinsey partner working for a strong man
or dictator an authoritarian regime, and they say, look, the

best way to subjugate this ethnic minority is to, I
don't know, shoot them all. And then you say, no,
the best way to subjugate this ethnic minority is to
imprison all of them, but call them re education camps

or summer camps. You know, we'll work on the phrasing.
That's the stuff you're supposed to do as a McKenzie consultant.
You're supposed to stick by what you think is the
correct answer, even if your clients, some of whom may
be quite dangerous people will disagree with you. And then
they said, only perform work that is both necessary and

that McKenzie can do.

Speaker 2 (17:45):
Well, Okay, only stuff that's necessary. I wonder, I wonder
why that one is so important. But I guess that's
the idea of we're only going to outwardly show good wine.
So if we don't know that we can perform this
task like to perfection, then we're not even going to

attempt it that way, nothing ever, dings our reputation. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (18:09):
Yeah, there's some self preservation there, right, And it makes
sense when you think about it. The idea of only
doing work that is necessary also also makes sense. It's
a matter of professionalism. You're not doing unneeded work and
then finding the client or giving them a fee for that,
you know what I mean. It's the difference between a

good mechanic and an unscrupulous one.

Speaker 2 (18:33):
Yeah. Absolutely, here's another rule that mackenzie set for itself.
They only work with CEOs and They only work with
clients that the firm itself feels will follow the advice
of the firm, So they're not trying to get somebody
in there that's maybe just wealthy enough, but won't actually
heed their advice. Again, they're so selective with how they're viewed.

I think we keep painting this picture here and so
far since what what was the year nineteen six, it's
just been working for them.

Speaker 1 (19:07):
Yeah, they keep a very very low profile. They did
expand their restriction on CEOs to include CEOs of subsidiaries
and divisions of larger companies.

Speaker 2 (19:20):
Isn't that nice?

Speaker 4 (19:21):
Yeah, so it's a.

Speaker 1 (19:24):
It's a little bit of a bigger pull than it
was originally. But the changes over the years have not
fundamentally changed the rules of engagement or the core values
of the company. And as you said, Matt, this has
been a winning formula.

Speaker 4 (19:43):
There was a profile story on.

Speaker 1 (19:44):
McKenzie in nineteen ninety three and said McKenzie and Company
was quote the most well known, most secretive, most high priced,
most prestigious, most consistently successful, most envied, most trusted, most
disliked management consulting firm on Earth.

Speaker 2 (20:01):
Wow. Love. They threw that most disliked in there right
at the end, I wonder who dislikes it.

Speaker 1 (20:11):
A lot of people, competitors dislike it, victims or I
guess you would say unsatisfied clients, right, or people who
as a result of a project maybe lost their livelihood.

Speaker 2 (20:27):
Yeah. I bet there's some law enforcement agencies that don't
like them so much, just because they're probably so good at,
you know, keeping a face on whatever situation is going on.

Speaker 1 (20:40):
It's true, but they you know, you can't be this
large without having critics as well as fans, right, opponents
as well as supporters.

Speaker 2 (20:52):
Yeah. According to BusinessWeek, the firm is ridiculed, reviled, and
revered depending on one's perspective, which makes complete sense. That's
what we're talking about. If you're on the front lines
with McKenzie, or rather mackenzie is on your front lines,
you're probably liking them a lot because it does seem
like they're pretty accommodating and are going to get whatever

job done you need done.

Speaker 1 (21:15):
There's one quote that I kept seeing float around which
said that amidst the leaders of the business world, I
was just saying that you can't be fired for hiring mackenzie.
Oh so they also seem to be dependable, at least
in certain circles. Let's talk about some of these statistics.
They have over one hundred and twenty offices, they have

a force of fourteen thousand consultants. They've been in business
for almost a century now, ninety plus years. And one
of the key murky pieces of Mackenzie is it's alumni
who are hugely influential, more current and former fortune five

hundred CEOs are alumni of Mackenzie than any other company.
I think they have the highest chance of becoming CEOs
in general. It's like one on six hundred and ninety,
which sounds like tough odds, but that's a hugely favorable number.

Speaker 2 (22:18):
Okay, so two things here. They're they're being consultants and
partners and then they end up becoming CEOs. That's what
we're saying here of these giant corporations. Okay, we're not
talking about like a pod people situation like CIA infiltration
replacing CEOs with Mackenzie are we I don't know.

Speaker 1 (22:41):
I mean, it is a there is a revolving door argument,
but it's not it's not a public private revolution.

Speaker 4 (22:48):
It's private private.

Speaker 2 (22:50):
Yeah, it really is. I geah, that's true.

Speaker 4 (22:52):
So people do. Also, alumni do also go into public service.

Speaker 2 (22:56):
That's what I was gonna say, alumni go into public service.
But then I wonder, I do wonder how many public
servants end up at the McKenzie group as like a
side gig. But it seems like it would be a
very demanding job and not exactly a retirement.

Speaker 1 (23:09):
It's yeah, it's a pretty rigorous system. Internally. They have
a churn of about one fifth of their workforce a
year because they practice something called up or out, which
means that you're either getting promoted or being kicked out.
Dang they know, which is another part of the lens

to their credibility.

Speaker 2 (23:32):
Right yeah, Okay, no dying on the vine there, just
GTFO or you hired and promote it.

Speaker 1 (23:40):
If you search on YouTube now you'll see a lot
of pretty fascinating videos from people who we're talking about
how to get through the mckenzy hiring process. Oh man,
that's Those are the number one hits, more so than
the any idea of a McKenzie cover.

Speaker 2 (23:58):
Up, first step hack person that you're going to be
interviewed by.

Speaker 1 (24:02):
How do you know they haven't already hacked you. How
do you know you weren't already selected?

Speaker 2 (24:06):
You know what I mean.

Speaker 1 (24:08):
So officially, let's look at their official stance. Officially, McKenzie
describes itself as what you said, Matt, a quote, global
management consulting firm that serves a broad mix of private, public,
and social sector institutions. So they're active in nonprofits, they're
active in private corporations, and they're active in mechanisms of

the state. It also it doesn't make a secret of
its alumni actions. It's pretty proud of the work of
its former employees.

Speaker 2 (24:40):
Yeah. According to its own website, quote, alumni number more
than thirty four thousand and work in virtually every business
sector in one hundred and twenty countries. Through formal events
and informal networking, former Mackenzie consultants make and sustain professional relationships.
This dynamic network is a lasting benefit of a Mackenzie career.

Speaker 4 (25:03):
So once you're in, you're in.

Speaker 2 (25:04):

Speaker 1 (25:05):
Yeah, And there's another thing that's weird here. The clients
were not meant to be recruited in like a cold
call situation. As a Mackenzie person, you are expected to
be active in community events beyond the boards of things
go to religious events and religious services and informally become

friends with people people in power obviously, and then build
a relationship from there. So nepotism is nepotism, and informal
social relationships are a huge part of the process of
the workflow, wow, of the management accounting.

Speaker 2 (25:49):
Yeah, do you think we've ever run into somebody from
the Mackenzie group?

Speaker 4 (25:53):
I have.

Speaker 2 (25:53):
Yeah, you have had one of these things from your
past life or your current life.

Speaker 1 (26:00):
So at Firslance, Mackenzie appears to be a powerful multinational company.

Speaker 4 (26:06):

Speaker 1 (26:06):
They have interest in everything from cancer research to nonprofit initiatives,
agricultural and stuff and much much more. This is not
particularly unusual in the modern day. McKenzie is not the
only game in town here. But the thing is, critics
alleged there's much much more to Mackenzie than a shining

public image may lead you to believe.

Speaker 2 (26:30):
And we'll learn about that after a quick word from
our sponsor.

Speaker 4 (26:39):
Our sponsor was the McKenzie.

Speaker 2 (26:42):
Yeah, this episode of stuff they don't want you to
know is brought to you by the firm.

Speaker 1 (26:49):
Here's where it gets crazy. There's a net of nepotism.
That's what we're describing and much of the criticism concerning
Mackenzie comes from the activities of its former employees. We
mentioned that they have a noticeably significantly higher chance of
becoming CEOs of very prestigious companies, but they do end

up having their hands in a lot of pots, their
fingers in a lot of pies. And most of the
time that you hear someone criticizing this organization, they're going
to be talking about one of any number of scandals.
As we explore this, to be absolutely fair, we have

to point out that Mackenzie can make an argument where
they say, well, this was happening because some member of
our company or some group within our company did this,
but the company overall did not know about this.

Speaker 4 (27:50):
We are unaware.

Speaker 2 (27:51):
Yeah, when you have all those tendrolls, fourteen thousand of
them or so, it's hard to point the finger, and
especially if they're a consultant for or somebody else.

Speaker 1 (28:01):
Right, and that that is a valid argument to make.
They'll also say that, look, we just advise these clients,
we don't decide things for them. And while that is true,
it is also true that since for years Mackenzie has

either been directly involved in or closely associated with a
number of huge scandals. Reuters even described these incidents entire
as indicative of not a few bad apples, not a
couple of unscrupulous people in the company, but instead as
a culture of corruption. So we can we can look

through a few of these and.

Speaker 4 (28:49):
We'll give.

Speaker 1 (28:52):
Let's give the bare bones, the one oh one, because
each of these subjects that we're about to mention, each
one is the tip of a much larger iceberg, right,
and then there's a lot going on under the water.

Speaker 2 (29:07):
Let's start with South Africa, is that okay?

Speaker 4 (29:10):

Speaker 2 (29:10):
Talking about Eskom, the power company that was kind of
in dire straits at the.

Speaker 1 (29:14):
Time, and Transnet as well. So the story starts with
the Gupta family, no relation to the former head of McKinzie,
a guy who also had the last name Gupta, totally unrelated.
This Gupta family's a wealthy Indian born South African family

who are best known for owning a business empire that
spans computer equipment, media mining and so on, and it
had close ties to Jacob Zuma during his presidency.

Speaker 4 (29:48):
Here's what happened.

Speaker 1 (29:49):
They found out the Gupta family had strategically placed corrupt
people in various parts of the South African government and
if it's infrastructure and its utility sectors, and the idea
is that McKenzie was complicit in this corruption and they
were using their connection with this family to get consulting

contracts from places like s Com and Transnet, these are
state owned companies. And then they provided they worked with
someone called Trillion Capital Partners tr ll an to provide
like seventy five million dollars worth of services, and then

Trillion got a commission off that for facilitating the business.
And then they were found I don't want to say
caught red handed, but caught pink handed, light red handed
in the midst of acts of bribery and corruption and

payments to the capital partner. And eventually South Africa's government
in early twenty eighteen found that mackenzie and Trillion had
been involved in fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering. So dang, yeah,

so this is this is a big time financial crime,
right if if it's true and the like, Okay, Mackenzie
has hired legal teams to defend them. Surprised they can
afford a ton of lawyers, right.

Speaker 2 (31:37):
I know that they when they were first getting in
bed with a lot of these companies, specifically with the
s Com one, they were looking at a contract for
like seven hundred million dollars for the firm to come
in And that's just one piece of it. Working with
the people that the Gupta family was involved with, Like
the money that was was at stake, and I'm thinking

about that connected up to their values about only doing
things that they know they can do and you know,
telling the client the truth all the time and all
this stuff and not putting the money above everything else.
This feels like maybe this was a slip up where
the money was above everything else.

Speaker 1 (32:16):
Is it a thing where it's not about the money though,
it's about sending a message? Because what if they felt
it was necessary to purposely cripple s Com which is
an electricity provider and Transnet, which is the rail and
pipeline firm. What if they felt it was not only
necessary to do that, but what if they felt they.

Speaker 2 (32:36):
Could do it?

Speaker 4 (32:37):
Well, whoa, you know what I mean.

Speaker 2 (32:40):
So there was an even higher level of the playing
field that was going on.

Speaker 1 (32:43):
Yeah, I don't think they accidentally did this, Matt. At
this level, it's a really tall milkshake to say that
someone just consistently screwed the pooch. Yeah, multiple times at
the perfect time to make things terrible, you.

Speaker 4 (33:02):
Know what I mean.

Speaker 1 (33:03):
Yeah, so maybe that was part of it. But that's
just one example, and we could probably do a whole
episode on that one. There's also the Gallean insider trading scandal.
This is where the different GROUPDA comes in. So there's
a guy named Rajat Gupta who was a former McKenzie
senior executive who was running the ship no relation again

to the Gupta family in South Africa, and a guy
named Aneil Kumar. These two guys and some others were
convicted in a government investigation into insider trading for sharing
inside information with a hedge fund owner. The owner of
a hedge fund called Galian Group a guy named raj
Raja Natrum. Although McKenzie itself the company was not accused

of any wrongdoing, the convictions were incredibly embarrassing for the
firm because it prides itself on not telling its client's
business right on client confidentiality.

Speaker 2 (34:02):
There's the senior partner Anil Kumar, who described or he
has been described as the protege of Gupta. He left
the firm after these allegations started servicing in two thousand
and nine, and then he ended up pleading guilty in
January twenty ten. And it's well, okay, so while this
guy and some of the other partners had been pitching

Mackenzie's like services, they're consulting services to this Gallean group,
Kumar and this Rajaratnam fellow. They reached this, they reached
a private consulting agreement, which I'm interested in. So just
kind of behind closed doors, they reached an agreement that
violated Mackenzie's policies on confidentiality, which, okay, again we see

them kind of maybe breaking their own rules a little bit.

Speaker 3 (34:51):
Yeah, Yeah, that's that's the thing.

Speaker 2 (34:54):
If they really are breaking the rules. If they are
breaking the rules, are the rules just out facing, I
don't know.

Speaker 1 (35:03):
So in October of twenty eleven, Gupta was arrested by
the FBI on criminal charges of sharing insider information from
these confidential board meetings with Rajaratnam. Gupta was convicted in
June of twenty twelve on four counts of conspiracy and
securities fraud, and then was acquitted on two counts. So

he did ultimately get found guilty of some stuff. And
the big questions here are things like how aware was
mackenzie and company of this activity? Were they somehow complicit?

Speaker 3 (35:39):
Were they?

Speaker 1 (35:41):
Was he relying on the network in to some degree?
The answer is probably yes, yeah.

Speaker 2 (35:49):
I would, I would think so. And it's a weird great,
it's not great, but it feels like a gray area here.
Insider trading this idea that if you have these close
connections between the company that is valued at a certain
amount that you're betting on is going to increase in value,
and then you're a hedge fund owner that is placing

those values, and somehow you've got this consultancy group that
perhaps touches both things. I don't know that it puts
tremendous power in that third party that has that connection,
because if you want to, you can pull those strings,
or you can threaten to pull those strings. I don't

know that. Hmm. They just got caught, that's it. They
got caught doing what what? Maybe they're kind.

Speaker 1 (36:43):
Of set up to do Ben, That's the thing. So
insider trading is so atast at least in our country
here in the United States, insider trading is such a
hazy concept.

Speaker 2 (37:00):
Yeah, you know, yeah, because it's not you sharing anything
necessarily in this setup. You know, in a way, it's
a consultancy group, it's a partner that it's connected, but
really not that connected.

Speaker 1 (37:14):
And at this level the laws are pretty rigorous about this,
but they can also be fairly complicated. So insider trading
occurs all the time in the United States. For a while,
for long time, actually, members of the US Congress were

not subject to the same insider trading laws that everybody
else was in theories subject to.

Speaker 2 (37:44):
That checks out. Man. Sure, if you're in the Senate,
you gotta be able to grease those poems somehow, and
if you could do it on your own time, and
it's not somebody else greasing your palm. Wait, nope, it
is somebody else. Oh wait, oh it's corruption. Oh god,
oh no.

Speaker 4 (37:57):
Some of us are more well than others.

Speaker 1 (38:00):
Right, yeah, So let's pause here for a word from
our sponsor and return to some more tales from the
Black Book of the McKenzie Company.

Speaker 2 (38:13):
Get ready for Enron. It's coming.

Speaker 1 (38:22):
We're back in how pressing And yes, you are correct,
my friends, en Ron. So Enron was the creation of
a guy named Jeff's Skilling. Jeff's Skilling was a McKenzie
consultant for twenty one years, and when Enron collapsed, he
actually went to jail. Yes, he did, relatively rare for
a lot of financial crimes. McKenzie reportedly fully endorsed the

dubious accounting methods that caused the company to implode in
two thousand and one, and Enron reportedly used McKenzie for
twenty different projects, and it became a situation where McKenzie
consultants would say, you know what, and Ron is kind
of a sandbox for us. Let's just let's shake things up.

Let's roll the dice, make it interesting. Vegas, baby, Yeah,
let's see what we can do we can get away with.
Does this make money if we just say this or
we just do this. It's pretty brilliant.

Speaker 2 (39:18):
And if you've ever seen the documentary it's called Enron
The Smartest Guys in the Room. I would recommend it highly.
Go check it out if you get a chance. Find
it somewhere. We have we done an Enron episode, I
don't think. I don't know if we have. We've talked
about it a lot. I think it's worth it, like
just taking this, expanding it out in a whole episode,

just because there are a lot of details in here
about the weirdness that occurred there.

Speaker 1 (39:45):
Right, Okay, so the a high level, quick and dirty
look at this. Enron was the largest bankruptcy reorganization in
American history at its time. It was also called the
biggest failure of an audit. The scandal went public in
October two thousand and one. Enron was an energy company

based in Houston, Texas, and it was formed in nineteen
eighty five.

Speaker 2 (40:13):
See, you're doing the whole episode right now. This is
a whole episode, bet Yeah. Sorry, it's like the hero
of the Facts section. Yeah, I can feel it.

Speaker 4 (40:20):
Yeah, Well, a lot of people went to jail.

Speaker 2 (40:25):
It had.

Speaker 1 (40:27):
Until I think until WorldCom went bankrupt the very next year.
Enron was the largest corporate bankruptcy in history because I
think it was valued at sixty three point four billion
dollars and then it all went could put.

Speaker 2 (40:43):
Yeah, just.

Speaker 3 (40:46):
So maybe we'll do an run episode. Yeah, that should
be worth it.

Speaker 2 (40:49):
It might be dry a little bit, but I think
we can pull some stuff out of there, just from
I in the insanity of our financial systems, like as
they were with the energy companies and the actual energy
prices and just all of these the way it's all interconnected.

Speaker 1 (41:07):
Right, the way that sometimes to turn a larger profit.
We will have tankers of oil waiting just off the
coast right. Yes, that's happening before, full of them. I
mean that's you know, during the depression, people were starving
to death in urban areas while farmers were just slaughtering

pigs wholesale and then throwing milk in a creek in
an attempt to raise the prices.

Speaker 2 (41:37):
Burn that wheatfield. Man.

Speaker 1 (41:38):
This is the point where a consultant would come in
and say, hey, we can improve this workflow.

Speaker 4 (41:43):
Oh, and they might be right, you know what I mean.

Speaker 1 (41:45):
There's a reason that the consultancy industry exists.

Speaker 2 (41:49):
If only the peaky blinders excuse me, the McKenzie group
were around back then. Wait not.

Speaker 1 (41:56):
So in two thousand and eight, do you remember the
financial crisis?

Speaker 2 (42:01):
Oh do I You.

Speaker 4 (42:03):
Have a tattoo of it?

Speaker 2 (42:05):
Yeah, yeah, I really do think that just everything that happened,
and there's that's crazy because the tattoo, it's just nothing
because nothing changed. Bleak.

Speaker 4 (42:15):
I love it.

Speaker 1 (42:16):
So McKenzie. Mackenzie gets accused of being a prime mover
in the financial crisis, which because they were allegedly promoting
the securitization of mortgage assets and asking banks to fund

their operations with a lot of debt, and according to
you know, their critics, this led to a poisoning of
the global financial system and created ultimately that two thousand
and eight meltdown. There's a great article on this. There
are several great articles on this, but one that will

mention the financial crisis a little bit more detail is
mackenzie How does it Always get Away with It? By
a guy named Ben Cheu writing for The Independent, And
what the eventually came out in the wash about this
was something incredibly despicable that ties in with their activities

with insurance. So McKenzie and company sold major insurers at
places like Ulstate a new business model that was designed
to turn claims into profits. Their strategy was known as
good hands or boxing gloves, and yeah, this really came

into the public eye during some during Hurricane Katrina.

Speaker 4 (43:49):
The idea was that.

Speaker 1 (43:52):
Internally we would aim to make the process of filing
for claims too difficult for people who were policyhols holders
and too expensive and time consuming for lawyers to want
to take the case leaving insurance firms undisputed as they
delayed or denied claims. Here's how the model worked. This

is incredibly unethical. They would offer a deliberately lower settlement
to any policyholder who files a claim, much lower than
they're actually entitled to according to what their insurance agreement is.
If you accept the lower payment, then boom, your claim
is resolved lickety split. If you say, hey, this says

that I'm supposed to have X amount of cash. Why
did you give me why amount of money, they will
say we have to. If you're denying the settlement, we
have to process this claim, and that will be delayed
and delayed and delayed forever until the policy holders are
finally forced to accept the payment or just give up

all together.

Speaker 2 (44:57):
That's brutal.

Speaker 1 (44:58):
In addition to this, a guy named nov Deep Aurora
was convicted for a legally depleting state farm of over
five hundred thousand dollars over a period of eight years
in cahoots with a state farm employee. So, in addition
to creating this model that says, hey, you're an insurance company,

don't do your job and try to build people out
of it and then pay us for telling you to
do that. Certain employees were also stealing money from the company.

Speaker 2 (45:30):
In addition, God no thank you, Yeah, no thanks.

Speaker 1 (45:36):
They've also been associated with pharmaceutical I don't know if
you call them scandals but controversies. There's a company called Valiant,
a Canadian pharmaceutical company that was investigated by the SEC.
They've been accused of cooking their books and of using
predatory price hikes to boost growth. The Financial Times an

intriguing statement here, Matt. They said Valiant's downfall is not
exactly McKenzie's fault, but its fingerprints are everywhere.

Speaker 2 (46:09):
Geez okay, yeah, I mean what do you do with that?

Speaker 1 (46:14):
Three out of six of the senior execs were recent
McKenzie employees, and the chair of the talent and compensation
committee was also an ex McKenzie.

Speaker 2 (46:25):
It feels like McKenzie has this like part time upright
citizens Brigade gig where they go around like the Move,
like the TV show, not like just the improv group,
where they're just wreaking havoc everywhere in chaos on purpose,
just to see what they can get away with.

Speaker 1 (46:43):
Yeah, it sounds like that, and we have to ask
if we're just hearing about the bad cases that made
it to court.

Speaker 2 (46:51):
We most certainly are, I think that's without a doubt.
But the bad cases are pretty.

Speaker 1 (46:57):
Bad, and would the cases that are can considered successful
for the client and the company be considered successful for
other people where they publicized because this kind of company
can do multiple things. But one of the things a
consultancy is often going to be associated with is quote

unquote streamlining fire the workforce, pay the pay the upper
level management more or give them a sweetheart, golden parachute
walkaway deal kind of thing. And their competitors have also
complained about unfair business practices. There was a court case
in twenty eighteen Mackenzie went to Quart of allegations from

competitors that was purposely misleading or misinforming clients by not
telling the whole truth essentially or as little of the
truth as they could get away with, because it wouldn't
it wouldn't disclose conflict like conflicts of interest, and this

comes into play later, right, So like if you are
what's the easiest way to put it, Okay, let's say that.

Speaker 4 (48:13):
I'm McKenzie group, and.

Speaker 3 (48:18):
You are a.

Speaker 1 (48:21):
Credit here, a financier, and you hire me to bail out.
Let's say Noel has a bankrupt headphone company. The headphone
mill is in trouble and it's bankrupt. You're in charge

of how this bankruptcy happens. You go to me McKenzie
and say, here's a couple mil, here's a cool, cool
few mil. What's the best way to restructure this? How
do we determine who gets paid what? And I say,
all right, I've got the perfect plan, but I don't
tell you that as you and I were cracking this deal,

I went through a different company and bought up a
ton of this debt. So now what I'm doing is saying, well,
you got to pay that or not been incorporated first.

Speaker 4 (49:16):
You know what I mean?

Speaker 2 (49:17):

Speaker 1 (49:17):
And then so like, okay, well you're the expert, and
so you have not been incorporated first. Then on top
of that, cool mill, I've got all this other money
with you know. That's that's a very very very oversimplified
version of how that kind of thing would work. It's
also illegal.

Speaker 2 (49:35):
Then you can see why, yeah it is. I'm just
having this thought here. This is such a rich person's thing,
this idea of a consultant in this way, this type
of partner. And that's why it exists at these higher
levels with only CEOs, only the top levels of the

white collar amongst the world. Here of paying somebody a
lot of money to figure out how you need to
structure your payments for something because you've got this massive
amount of money that needs to go out in these
different places. You've got this massive amount of money that
needs to be shuttled along in some way. But I

don't have time for that with all this money. I'm
going to bring somebody else in to do it. And
no wonder like corruption, even just to the amount we're
discussing here, occurs when you're talking about that level of
money my got, somebody is going to think about themselves.

Speaker 1 (50:36):
And again this is a huge company. So yeah, in
their defense, they're saying, well, look if something happens and
it's illegal or it's incorrect, then we will we will
fix it.

Speaker 2 (50:52):
Yeah. No, absolutely, not speaking against the company. I just
think it's that is human nature when you're dealing with
this kind of thing. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.

Speaker 1 (51:01):
So just for an example, they said that they wanted
to they overhauled their South Africa office apparently after US
dealing such debilitating damage to es Common and Transnet and
then the stories continued. So in the case of the

US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or ICE, mackenzie stopped working
with them after it was disclosed the firm had done
more than twenty million dollars worth of consulting work for
the agency. And this is where we hear an explicit
version of that defense, a managing partner said the contract,
which was not widely known until The New York Times

reported it to people in the company itself. According to them,
he said, it had rightly raised concerns, so they're not
going to do it anymore.

Speaker 2 (51:54):
That is odd for ICE to be having a relationship
with McKenzie.

Speaker 4 (52:00):
Why is it?

Speaker 5 (52:01):
Why PR? They're not a PR firm. It could be workflow,
I guess. So it could be something along the lines
of how do we move the most people?

Speaker 1 (52:15):
How do we uh, oh, that's interesting, like monitoring of
a border or something, or what is our process for
It could be something as innocuous as how do we
handle records?

Speaker 2 (52:28):
You know what I mean? And so any number of things.
It could be and just setting up facilities that kind
of thing. I wonder if that had anything to do
with interesting.

Speaker 4 (52:37):
So one. One other one that we would be.

Speaker 1 (52:43):
Remiss if we didn't touch on is McKenzie's work with
authoritarian regimes and business and policy support for regimes. It
comes in the news every so often, and again, longtime listeners,
you'll recall that regime is the word people use instead
of government when they don't want to, when they don't

want you to think another country's government is legitimate. Yeah,
so North Korea calls the US government the US regime,
and the US calls North Korea the North Korean regime.

Speaker 2 (53:15):

Speaker 1 (53:16):
So if you ever want to know how your country
feels about another country, just see who they see who.

Speaker 4 (53:22):
They call a regime.

Speaker 2 (53:23):
It is.

Speaker 4 (53:24):
It is such.

Speaker 1 (53:26):
A simplistic shortcut, but I guarantee you it works.

Speaker 2 (53:29):
It's very true. And now I'm seeing it in my head.
Oh god.

Speaker 1 (53:35):
It doesn't mean those countries are automatically I legitimate. No,
you know how your rulers feel about them, the Iranian
regime for sure. Right, these are the phrases they get
thrown around. And I'm sure there's plenty of we were
always at war with East Asia kind of stuff going
on there too, But in Mackenzie's case, they popped up

in the news quite recently in Somember of twenty eighteen,
because there was this big company retreat in China and
it was held next to the Chinese government and tournament
camps where thousands of wigers are being detained as we speak.
And we did an episode on this earlier in modern
concentration camps.

Speaker 2 (54:18):
Yeah, that's an odd place to have your lavish retreat. Oh,
and we also have a list here of I guess
some prominent clients that McKenzie's worked for. Let's see the
Saudi Arabia regime. No, I'm just kidding, it's the monarchy there,
Turkey's autocratic leader erdign And let's see, Oh, the president

of Ukraine who was ousted as a former president, Victor Yanokovich.
I believe at Yankovich. That's it. And then several other
Chinese and Russian companies who are under or were under sanctions,
heavy sanctions at the time. People. So mackenzie just sweeps
in and says, you guys need some help. Well, guess

what this hand. It's very helpful.

Speaker 1 (55:02):
And don't worry. It doesn't know what the left hand does, right.

Speaker 2 (55:06):
Or at least it doesn't talk to the left hand.

Speaker 4 (55:08):
Oh, Marita my friends. Yeah, so let's.

Speaker 2 (55:11):
Its say trading. If it's a trading thing, then we
can make something happen.

Speaker 4 (55:14):

Speaker 1 (55:15):
So what we're exploring then, or what we have explored today,
is the story of a company that operates largely out
of the headlines the halls of power. It's it's a
power behind the throne, you know, sort of this corporate
vizier that advises companies, corporations, countries and power, and many

times it comes into conflict with the law, with various
countries legal systems. So the question is are we seeing
just the bad stuff or we are we only hearing
about McKenzie when there's a problem. Well, we are hearing
a lot about McKenzie's problems when they pop up, and

there does seem to be a pattern. Are we being
unfair when we say that this organization is committing crime
or our journalists being unfair when they say that we'd
like to We'd like to hear from you, So let
us know what you think of this in the meantime,
For conclusions, McKenzie is not going away anytime soon. We

are not kicking someone while they're down in any way,
and from their perspective again, they don't actually do these things.
They advise clients, the clients take it from there, but
not everyone's buying this. One last note in January of
twenty nineteen, this month, a bankruptcy case just got reopened

here in the US allegid McKenzie was illegally making money
off bankruptcy cases it became involved with, and more so
than it has established a pattern of doing this, that
this is not a one off thing but something more
akin to a business practice.

Speaker 2 (57:03):
Yeah. Absolutely, I'm just putting this out here. This whole
story reminds me of a movie that I saw way
back well when I say, way back in the day,
over ten years ago, called Michael Clayton that it stars
I want to say, George Clooney and oh god, I
can't remember, I think till the Swinton's in it too.
It's this fantastic movie where there's this what they called

a fixer would come through. And that's what this whole
thing feels like to me. Fixers, that's what it is.
I think, Nah, in my head, that's how I'm choosing
to view mackenzie, which I'm sure is just a shallow
view of what it is and what it actually is.
But that's what it feels like to me, and I
wonder if you feel that same way.

Speaker 1 (57:46):
Let us know, yeah, and art look and also, consultant
firms aren't inherently bad right.

Speaker 2 (57:54):
Now, you're just getting something done efficiently. I think that's it.

Speaker 1 (57:58):
Oh, you're getting someone's opinion. Yeah, that's what I consulted. Like,
here's my opinion based on my experience. This is what
I advise, right, And plenty of people have done consulting
work before. I've done it, not on this level, but
it you know, I just want to emphasize that we're
not saying all these firms are terrible. We're not saying

that everyone involved is a bad guy. But we are
saying that McKenzie has a lot of stuff they don't
want you to know. And it goes way beyond just
who their clients are and what they do for those clients.
It goes into court cases, it goes into collapsing state
sector industries, it goes into tons of dirty money, and

this is you know, at that point, those statements are
not our opinion. They're the opinion of legal systems of courts.
So it's not even us saying it at this point,
you know, what I mean?

Speaker 2 (58:58):
No, all right, well hey find us yeah on social media.

Speaker 1 (59:04):
Yeah, you can find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Meet your fellow listeners and talk about talk about mackenzie
Group until they buy our corporation to shut us down.
Oh here's where it gets crazy. That's our community page
on Facebook. You can find me on Instagram. I'm at them,
Bowlin Ben.

Speaker 2 (59:23):
That's not a f Dora right, No, no, okay, just
make it sure.

Speaker 3 (59:29):
And these are not our gyle socks. These are space socks.

Speaker 2 (59:33):
Those are awesome, dude, I just have boring on eszone
right now. Those are awesome.

Speaker 4 (59:37):
That makes you a better consultant.

Speaker 2 (59:39):
I'm not distracting you.

Speaker 1 (59:41):
This is where we find out that Paul Decad works
for McKenzie.

Speaker 2 (59:46):
Oh. I could totally see Paul doing it. Oh man,
he cleans up, He cleans up so nicely, and he's
just like rolling under the radar when he's in here
as mission control.

Speaker 4 (59:56):
I could see it doing a great job with it too.

Speaker 2 (59:58):

Speaker 1 (59:58):
Also, this has nothing to do with anything other than
maybe ending on a little bit of a lighter note. Paul,
I don't know how you're gonna feel about this, And
fellow listeners, you haven't heard Paul on the air, but
I was watching stand up from one of uh, one
of my favorite comics, John Mullaney.

Speaker 2 (01:00:18):
Dude, I thought Mullaney as you said that.

Speaker 1 (01:00:20):
And super producer Paul Deckett, do you remind me of
John Mullaney in the coolest way?

Speaker 2 (01:00:29):

Speaker 1 (01:00:29):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I could see, I could see.

Speaker 4 (01:00:32):
I could see Paul telling some of those stories.

Speaker 2 (01:00:35):
Oh man, I hope you grew up to be like
his character that he played on the Broadway show that
he did. I hope you. I hope you come into
that one day.

Speaker 3 (01:00:46):
But you're not making the decision for him.

Speaker 4 (01:00:49):
You're advising him, right.

Speaker 1 (01:00:51):
True, So if anything goes wrong with that, it's not
it's not your fault.

Speaker 4 (01:00:55):
Matt, Matt and co.

Speaker 1 (01:00:57):
So thank you so much for Tunian and please do
let us know what your take is on these things.
Are these companies something that should be in the world?

Speaker 2 (01:01:09):
Are they.

Speaker 1 (01:01:11):
Are they criminal organizations? Or are the opponents and critics
just being alarmist? You know, there's definitely stuff they'll once
you know, and everything indicates that several of those secrets
are secrets because they are legal activity. But again, a
few bad apples, there's it a whole bad orchard.

Speaker 2 (01:01:31):
No, no, you can always you can always argue the bad
Apple thing in almost every situation, and you can call us.
And that's the end of this classic episode. If you
have any thoughts or questions about this episode, you can
get into contact with us in a number of different ways.
One of the best is to give us a call.
Our number is one eight three three STDWYTK. If you

don't want to do that, you can send us a
good old fashioned email.

Speaker 3 (01:01:58):
We are conspiracy at iHeartRadio dot com.

Speaker 2 (01:02:02):
Stuff they don't want you to know is a production
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