An exposé about much more than just Suze Orman
From Fraudulent FICO Fables to Corporate Cons, How Suze Orman and Her Crooked Cabal Manipulated the Media, Plundered the Poor, Stole from the Middle Class, Damaged the United States Economy, and Hijacked a Political Party
A Citizen Journalism Public Service Offering
This online multimedia book is based on the documentary film:
How Suze Orman SCAMMED the World (2016)
A comedy, tragedy, and IQ test all in one
Click here to download the free ebook
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Suze Orman SCAMvenger Hunt
1: From Waitress to “Financial Expert”: Orman’s History of Shams and Shenanigans
2: Seducing Corporations, Banks and Billionaires
3: Trumping Up Her Bank Account with a Gold “Pump and Dump” Scheme
4: Distortions of the “Queen Of Crisis”: Damaging the Economy for Personal Gain
5: The “Approved” Card Scam and Media Wide Fraud
6: Capitalizing On The Financial Illiteracy of The Poor, Minorities, and the “Occupy” Movement
7: The Scam-Ridden Card’s Demise and Cover-Up
8: Sociopathology and a Twitter Meltdown
9: And The Scams Go On…
This is an online multimedia book -- throughout the text, you’ll find underlined links to videos, articles, and other supportive documentation.
From Waitress to “Financial Expert,”
Orman’s History of Shams and Shenanigans
“I thought, I know, I can be a broker. They just make you broker.”
—Suze Orman (in many talks and interviews)
Studying Suze Orman's path to extreme fame and fortune as an example of success might be inspiring for someone who is looking to climb to the top at any cost, even if it would mean ruining the lives of many people and damaging the United States economy.
For those who are not interested in being con artists in training, there are still important lessons to be gleaned from Orman’s back-story. For the sake of the well being of society, it is educational and beneficial to look at how someone with neither education nor ethics managed to con her way into being declared a “trusted financial advisor” by some of the biggest names in today’s news and media. This con artist actually has the clout to direct and distort large streams of income, and has used that power to move money from the poor and middle class into her own pockets and those of the many corporations and banks with whom she has forged often-predatory partnerships.
Orman’s thieving nature didn’t just suddenly appear when she stole from millions who were not financially savvy enough to see through her twisted labyrinths of words enough to avoid entering her prepaid card’s minefield of fees and a long list of other schemes that could at minimum be called shady and low integrity, but in reality were closer to corrupt, fraudulent, and criminal.
Just as Orman used her prepaid card scam to steal money directly from the pocketbooks of United States citizens, so young Suze Orman stole money on a regular basis from her struggling father’s wallet, beginning at age eight. Orman described her youthful thievery on Hay House’s webpage: (Link 1-1)
Orman: When I was about eight years old, I asked my mother for a dollar to go to the swimming pool with friends. My mother said, “Suze, I’m sorry. We don’t have a dollar to give you right now, but don’t tell your friends because if they find out they’re not going to like you any more.”
That very night I began to take money from my father’s wallet—$1 or $2 or $5. I took the money, and rather than spend it on myself, I would buy my friends gifts—a comic book, candy, a taffy apple. I did it because I wanted them to like me. And I continued to do that until I was 20 or 30 years old—not stealing money from my father but stealing from myself—taking friends out to lunch or dinner and charging it on my credit card even though I didn’t have the money to pay for it. Buying birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and Hanukah gifts for them even though I didn’t have the money.
While Orman tried to paint her thievery as having an altruistic goal of giving to others, her future behavior of holding on to her millions so tight as to not want to even hire or pay people as promised for serving her bottom line, and her history of indulging in extravagant luxuries even while borrowing money from friends and refusing to pay that money back according to their agreed-upon schedule and later on using her scammed wealth to own five homes, as she brags in our film, casts doubt on that altruistic claim.
A Business Journal article points out whom it was that young Suze Orman was stealing from: (Link 1-2)
Orman grew up in Chicago with a father who ran a poultry shop and a mother who was a secretary. “Daddy was a failed man,” she says. “He had a curse on his head. He succeeded as a businessman, then his [shop] burned down.”
What effect did being poor have on her? “I learned that money was the key to happiness. That's what I learned.”
Orman’s big revelation that the main thing she learned was, “Money is the key to happiness,” is the kind of distorted thinking that would make her regularly compromise her integrity to get more of that all-important money. Her obsession was also behind Orman’s “Courage to be Rich at any cost” meme that has distorted society’s views about money and created a more greedy, miserly, and corrupt world.
Here are some additional details about Orman’s early years from the New York Times: (Link 1-3)
Ms. Orman grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Her father had a store where he killed, plucked and sold chickens. And Ms. Orman, along with two older brothers, helped out.
She remembers riding to school in his truck. “He would put his foot on the brake and the blood of the dead chickens would slosh forward and he would tell me to pick up my feet,” she said. “He had this smell about him because he worked with the chickens. And I would have to jump down from this truck and go to school.”
This photo was taken during the years when Orman first indulged her thief archetype by regularly stealing money from the wallet of her father, a poor deli owner on the South Side of Chicago.
Orman’s relationship with her father seems to be the one in which she learned to say, “Yes Sir,” and be overly obedient to those in power who might want to use her charms to pluck and kill some chickens, or to be a good foot soldier for CEOs of corporations and banks who might like to use Orman’s Oprah-bestowed clout to scam and pluck some retirement accounts and life dreams.
Many times, I saw pre-famous Suze Orman behave in this overly obedient way to people she perceived as powerful. She even did it to me when she was still conning me to help her onto the public stage.
One of Orman’s favorite things was when I’d correct her about some spiritual or philosophical idea or fact she’d put forth, saying, “It’s not like that.” Orman would squeal with glee, repeating, “It’s not like that; I love that,” in the baby talk voice she would use almost exclusively while speaking with some of her friends.
Pre-famous Suze Orman and her lawyer friend would literally speak as though they were toddlers, which gives some insight into her approach to power and fame as a child’s and “mean girls” game. I hadn’t heard this kind of baby talk communication style before, and wondered if it might have some therapeutic effect, based on my earlier studies of psychological approaches that regress patients back into early childhood behaviors to help them re-access and learn stage-specific developments they may have missed.
We’ll get more into Orman’s behavioral issues in an upcoming chapter, but one sign of a sociopath is that, “The sociopath usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet ‘gets by’ by conning others.”
Regarding academic difficulties, Orman has detailed some of her history of academic failings in her biography:
In grammar school on the South Side of Chicago, I had to take reading exams, and would always score among the lowest in the class. One year a teacher decided that he would seat us according to our reading scores. There were my three best friends in the first three seats of the first row, while I was banished to the last seat in the sixth row. If I always secretly felt dumb, it was now officially confirmed for everyone to see. Talk about feeling ashamed.
This feeling that I couldn’t make it scholastically continued to haunt me throughout high school and on into college. I knew I would never amount to anything, so why even bother to try? Nevertheless, in my family and in the families of my friends, it was a given that we’d all go to college. In my case, I knew that I would have to pay for college myself, because my parents were having a hard time with money. The only options for me were community college or a state school.
I applied to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and to my amazement, even though I did not score well on my SATs, I was accepted. When I arrived, I met with a guidance counselor who asked me what I wanted to study. I told him that I wanted to become a brain surgeon. He looked at my grades and said, “I don’t think so. You don’t have what it takes. Why not try something easier?” I did a little investigation and found out that the easiest major was social work, so I signed up for that. Why not take the easy way out? Why try harder?
…I was supposed to graduate in 1973, but my degree was withheld because I hadn’t fulfilled the language requirement. Once again, it was the shame of my grade-school years holding me back. If I had trouble with English, what made me think I could learn a foreign language? I decided to leave school without my degree. I wanted to see America. I wanted to see what a hill looked like… a mountain … the Grand Canyon!
I borrowed $1,500 from my brother to buy a Ford Econoline van and, with the help of my friend Mary Corlin (a great friend to this day), converted the van into a place I could sleep during the drive across country. I convinced three friends—Laurie, Sherry, and Vicky—to come with me; I was way too scared to try this on my own. With $300 and a converted van to my name, we set out to see America.
For years, Orman has turned those two months of youthful camping fun after leaving home to travel across the country in a van with friends into a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story by claiming she was once “homeless and living out of a van.” In our documentary film, you’ll also see pre-famous Suze Orman lying to a group of retirees, telling them she has a master’s degree in social work and geriatrics, and has worked with older people for most of her life. (Watch the clip in our documentary film: Link 1-4)
After moving to San Francisco, Orman worked at the Buttercup Bakery, where she claims to have never received a single raise in seven years, earning only four hundred dollars a month, which works out to less than two dollars and fifty cents an hour. Even if her claim is true, you can be sure she was raking in big bucks by using her charm to get tips and implementing Orman-style con artist schemes like the one this Buttercup Bakery customer recounts in a comment on our YouTube film:
Note how the con game Blanca describes resembles some elements of Orman’s later ploys, such as the “Approved” card scam that also sold people something they didn’t need for a lot more money than they expected to pay.
Orman worked as a waitress for many years, before “inspiring,” or more likely conning her Buttercup Bakery customers into loaning her fifty thousand dollars with no interest or due date, just as she has conned many (including moi) into giving and loaning her resources, using her palette of well-honed manipulative tactics, including extreme flattery, extravagant promises, and woeful begging. In this case, it was woeful begging.
Orman says that she had phoned her parents to ask if they would loan her twenty thousand dollars to open her own restaurant, even though she knew they didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money. Then she went back to the Buttercup Bakery, where customers were used to her chipper charming smiles, and started to noticeably mope around, looking sad and depressed. From Orman’s bio:
The next day at work, a man I had been waiting on for six years, Fred Hasbrook, noticed that I wasn’t my usual cheerful self. “What’s wrong, sunshine? You don’t look happy,” he said.
I told Fred about having asked my parents for a $20,000 loan. Fred ate his breakfast and then talked to some of the other customers I’d been waiting on all those years. Before he left the restaurant, he came up to the counter and handed me a personal check for $2,000, a bunch of other checks and commitments from the other customers that totaled $50,000.
Con artist gold! After convincing her restaurant customers to give her a loan with no interest or due date, Orman’s Merrill Lynch broker lost much of the fifty thousand dollars, after she probably begged him to generate as much as he could from it. Knowing Suze Orman, she most likely pushed him to put her money into risky investments against his better judgment, because Suze Orman thinks she has magical powers—and based on her ability to scam the world, maybe she does.
Although Orman’s story gets fuzzy in places, it appears that she threatened to sue Merrill Lynch for losing her money, but then ended up negotiating a deal where Merrill Lynch would instead give her some free financial training and a six-month position that would bring her a 400% raise in income from her waitress job.
It’s at this point in the narrative that Orman likes to use her oft-repeated line, “I thought, I know! I can be a broker, ‘cause they just make you broker.”
Orman has shared this same story and quote in most talks and interviews for the past fifteen years, but I’ve yet to hear anyone question what it even means, and why making people broker would be her motivation to go into the financial services industry.
Orman has explained that Merrill Lynch only hired her because they had to fill the new women’s quotas laws at that time, which were causing Merrill Lynch a lot of headaches, given an almost total lack of female stockbrokers at that time. That’s why when this woman with zero financial education or experience showed up at their door, the receptionist ushered this waitress into the manager’s office. The manager told Orman he was going to hire her for only six months to fulfill their quota, and after that, she would be fired. Orman agreed to those terms, but of course found a way to scam them too.
During her stint at Merrill Lynch as a barely trained stockbroker, Orman used her deception skills to fake it, and became known for choosing stocks for clients using a crystal pendulum. (Click here to see Orman laugh about giving advice to clients without having any idea what she was doing: Link 1-5)
Due to her well-proven skills of boldness and persuasiveness, Orman surprised Merrill Lynch by bringing in many people she’d meet around town as new clients. These were often lower income workers who had not previously considered investing in stocks, and perhaps some who should not have been doing so, but that mattered not to Orman, who was going to prove herself at all costs.
Just before her six-month employment was about to end, Orman sneakily sued Merrill Lynch, creating a situation where they couldn't legally fire her, as the case sat for the next two years. You can hear Orman gleefully share this story and brag about scamming Merrill Lynch in this clip from a talk at the National Council of La Raza convention. (Link 1-6 )
“So I did the only thing I knew what to do back at that time, and I sued Merrill Lynch while I was working for them…’cause I sued them, they couldn’t fire me.”
Eventually, another manager came to the branch and apparently realized it was worth it for them to pay Orman her the original $50,000 investment plus 18% interest to get rid of her.
After Merrill Lynch, Orman was hired by Prudential-Bache—she has said it was again because they had those new woman’s quotas to fill, with almost no women in the field to fill them. Orman had at least managed to get a simple broker’s license while working at Merrill Lynch, and because Prudential was so desperate to fill their quota, she talked them into giving her a title of “vice president.” What else could they do?
Then came more shenanigans that Orman doesn't include in her oft-told narrative, including conning various financial and political expert devotees of our mutual spiritual path, and convincing me with extravagant false promises to use my Hollywood colleagues to get Orman booked on her first two television shows and to produce, film, and edit the deceptive video that helped Suze Orman get a first book deal after her book proposal had already been turned down by over thirty publishers. Mea culpa.
From the beginning and throughout our two-year association, red flags about Orman’s troubling behaviors were waving all over the place, with alarms blaring, but I was too naïve and “nice” to deal with them properly. I had just moved to Los Angeles after nearly a decade of monastic ashram life, where I had produced and edited hundreds of videos about spiritual wisdom and practices for a worldwide spiritual community. In fact, it was the ashram foundation that had phoned to ask me to produce a video for their worldwide retreat, specifically requesting that I work with a woman devotee in Oakland California who had no filmmaking experience, but would be able to help arrange the logistics.
By the time Suze Orman and I met, I was two years out of the ashram, with a bright, Hollywood career already in bloom, having worked at Disney, Paramount, FOX, and CBS. I’d helped Charlie Rose come up with the idea for his PBS show, edited one of the last “Candid Camera” specials with Alan Funt in his house, and was about to win many local, national, and international awards for my television news editing.
Orman saw that I had media contacts, award-winning video skills, access to studio equipment, and spiritual-based counseling and coaching abilities that gave me an opportunity to help many famous and non-famous people achieve greater success. She knew I could help her get what she wanted, and used all her well-polished manipulation skills to sink her claws in, knowing I had no choice but to keep things friendly enough to work together on what was a wonderful and positive video project to do for our mutual spiritual community.
Orman was already proficient in taking advantage of the trusting ashram devotees and, unbeknownst to me, had a reputation around the local community as a cheat. Orman later told me that she had previously been asked by the ashram head to leave the women devotees alone, due to numerous complaints they had received about her predatory behaviors.
In the next link, you can watch Suze Orman tell Anderson Cooper about her ruthless climb, explaining: “I didn't care what other people thought, because I knew what I wanted and I was going to go after it at all costs, I got what I wanted.” (Link 1-7)
She certainly did get what she wanted, and the costs of Orman’s ruthless ambition for many individuals and the world have been severe.
At the time, I thought I was assisting Orman to publish a book that was going to help people, titled, You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It. Little did I know that the title really should have been, You’ve Earned It, Now Lose It to Me, by Suze Orman.
Orman also used another of her common tactics of manipulation by lavishing praise on me. She would tell me over and over that I was the most brilliant woman she had ever known.
I wasn’t one to be easily swept away by praise, but the high esteem Orman showed gave me some confidence in her frequent reminders that the first money that came in from the book would be used to repay me with a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar video editing system, and her oft-repeated promise that, “If this book takes off, I’ll take care of you for the rest of your life.” Based on her deplorable subsequent actions, she must have meant “take care of you” in a mafiaesque way.
On the very week that her book was completed and at the printer being published, Orman ran one of her scams on me that began with her behaving more abusively than usual and ended with her taking an actual, official vow to never speak to me again, because I had commented on her abusive behavior. How convenient! That was Orman’s way of escaping from keeping her word and paying her debt, so she could move on to con her next victims. She never even bothered to send me a copy of the published book.
A confidence trick (synonyms include confidence game, confidence scheme, scam and stratagem) is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their confidence, used in the classical sense of trust. Confidence tricks exploit characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty, honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, naïveté and greed.
Although it was disappointing to have Orman callously steal from me after two years of helping to start her writing and public speaking career, I wasn’t going to let her theft distract me from moving on with my life.
Some have asked why I didn’t take legal action against Orman to get what had been promised, but that was not my way. Orman specifically targets people who won’t fight back for one reason or another, and who don’t know to get all promised repayments in writing.
At least one person I know of whom Orman used to expand her career did receive compensation through a legal arbitration that surely included signing one of Orman’s ironclad confidentiality agreements. When this woman and I met several years later, we joked that we should have at least gotten “I survived Suze Orman” t-shirts.
Even though I had paid all production expenses for the promotional video I produced, filmed, scripted, and edited that helped Orman get that first book deal, including taking a day off from my job plus airplane fare to fly up north for a day to film her presentation, I wasn’t even going to go after Orman for reimbursement. It was a bitter lesson, but I really just wanted this sociopath out of my life. It was well worth the six-figure loss to be free of Suze Orman’s clutches.
Another reason I didn’t worry too much about going after Orman for the promised pay was because I was still fresh out of nearly a decade of monastic life, where I’d offered my work as service. The freedom from greed in that lifestyle made it easier for me to let go of the stolen money and stay focused on my television career, which by that time involved editing and producing many more shows, including X-Men and The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
Nevertheless, Suze Orman couldn’t just steal from someone without giving some extra kicks at the end. After taking a vow to never speak to me again, Orman spent years using her cronies to destroy my reputation in our worldwide mutual spiritual community, just as I was told she had done to another devotee of the path, Cynthia Oti, the main person who helped to spark Orman’s financial career before I came into the picture.
Oti was a successful stockbroker and host of a popular San Francisco radio show called “Financial Fitness.” From what Orman told me at the time, Oti had helped to educate her about finances, and helped to build Orman’s initial financial platform. Oti also gave Orman her first experiences of being on radio, just as I got Orman booked on her first two television shows. We both also helped with various aspects of Orman’s first book.
After thanking Cynthia Oti in the short list of acknowledgments of her first book, Orman caused serious damage to Cynthia's life, just as she would subsequently do to the lives of many others after using them to spark and expand her career. One of Oti’s friends, a respected church minister and government agency head, told me about some of the troubles Orman had caused for his friend Cynthia Oti, adding, “She (Orman) has damaged so many lives.”
This mutual minister friend told me that one of the ways Orman caused harm to the woman who had seriously helped to begin her career was to start a false rumor campaign about Oti in our mutual spiritual community, just as she did to me.
Years later, after Cynthia Oti died in the plane crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, Orman got one last kick in by denigrating her memory on CNBC.
On that despicable episode of “The Suze Orman Show” on CNBC, Orman was pressuring a guest whose ex-fiancé had committed suicide, encouraging her to say that she felt relieved he was gone.
Orman then described her experience of Cynthia's death, saying, “I didn't feel bad about it, and everybody was saying to me, 'Suze Orman, what is the matter with you?' And I was like, ‘What do you want me to do? I didn't like the person! The person screwed me over! Why should I like this person — I don't care, that's their problem.’”
See it for yourself, with the worst part at the end of this clip: Link 1-8
That is how Orman spoke about a woman who seriously helped create her success. I saw this CNBC clip at a time when I would occasionally record Orman's shows out of curiosity, because she would so often use the forum to publicly insult and trash her ex-lovers and ex-friends (here is one more example: Link 1-9).
In a sense, this presentation, though primarily intended to help protect individuals, the economy, and society from more damage, is also an offering on behalf of Cynthia Oti's memory.
At the time Orman and I met in the early 1990s, Oti was still helping her, and Orman was borrowing massive amounts of money from friends and ex-girlfriends. Soon after we met, I was present as Orman argued on a phone call with a wealthy ex-girlfriend who had loaned her fifty thousand dollars. Orman was arguing that she was not able to pay the money back according to their agreed-upon schedule.
Yet, at the same time that she was claiming to be unable to repay the borrowed money from this friend and others, Orman was spending huge sums of that borrowed money on a long list of ongoing extravagant and unnecessary luxuries, including leasing a BMW, getting weekly maid service at $70 a pop, going for frequent visits to salons for hair frostings, manicures, pedicures, massages, and waxings, purchasing expensive clothes and jewelry, and eating out at expensive restaurants, sometimes several times a day.
Suze Orman has never followed the advice she gives, and like most narcissistic sociopaths, thinks she is better and inherently deserves more than other people. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) describes that characterizing symptom of narcissistic personality disorder in this way: “Has a grandiose feeling of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, talents, overestimates abilities, expects to be treated as special and recognized as superior)…Believes that he or she is “special,” different & unique and can not be understood by “regular” people…Has a sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations, expects others to comply with his/her expectations and becomes furious and puzzled if it doesn’t happen, always expects special treatment…Shows arrogant, patronizing attitudes, overconfident & everknowing behaviors...expects others to bend their backs to help him/her achieve their goals; manipulates and takes advantage, is very likely to enter relationships for the sole purpose of achieving his/her goals or fulfilling their personal selfish needs.”
The only reason Orman got out of her extreme debt in the early 1990s was because PG&E paid her huge sums of money to give some retirement seminars and meetings to encourage their older employees to go through an early retirement process, which I’m guessing was not necessarily something that was going to be beneficial to all those early retirees, based on the extremely high amount of money they were paying barely credentialed Suze Orman to convince their employees to do what the corporation wanted them to do.
Orman got that job in part through my efforts of getting her on her first two television shows, which gave her the prestige of a false but impressive media presence. (Watch an unedited clip of Orman’s first interview in the newsroom of one of the news stations where I was working at the time: Link 1-10)
Orman spoke about her PG&E windfall in this interview with the New York Times Magazine – (Link 1-11):
“As soon as I started to tell the truth, and everyone knew what the situation was”(that she was $250,000 in debt) “the phone rings and it’s Pacific Gas and Electric having another early retirement.” The company hired Orman to advise its employees, and “in one month I got a check for $250,000 and went, ‘Oh, my God,’ and paid off all my debt. I started getting checks like that again, and my whole life turned around.”
I can assure you from personal experience that even though Orman claims in this quote that she had “started to tell the truth,” it was like Jodi Arias saying she had finally started to tell the truth about how her boyfriend was really murdered by two ninjas.
At the time she claims to have started telling the truth, Orman was weaving her usual webs of lies, including having me continue to pay for all the expenses to produce the video that helped start her career. She’d received this secret $250,000 windfall that she never told me about, while using my much smaller resources to produce the video that got Orman her first book deal in a career that has been a series of scams from the beginning.
This is another frequent pattern I’ve heard about from other Orman associates and victims, getting them to spend a lot of money, skills, time and resources to create products that are really meant to benefit Orman, with grand promises of repayment and extravagant benefits that would supposedly be coming to the person she was conning. Eventually Orman would start invoking Oprah Winfrey’s name to promise false repayments, including lying about having the power to get her partners’ products on the coveted list of “Oprah’s Favorite Things.”
Orman’s usual deal is for her business partners to pay all the money and create the products. In exchange for them being able to use her name and face and have Orman’s extreme influence pitching their products, Orman would get fifty percent of the gross proceeds. Assuming Orman had a similar deal in her subsequent association with Fair Isaac Corporation, that would translate into tens of millions of dollars or more going to Suze Orman just for telling people over and over again that their FICO scores were the most important things in their financial lives. Click here to watch Orman’s self-described, “FICO frenzy”: Link 1-12.
More on Orman’s deal with Fair Isaac in Chapter two.
I’m sure one of the most difficult things for Suze Orman is to not brag too much publicly about how much money she has really made by conning the world, although she has enjoyed sharing many videos of herself laughing while yachting around the Cayman Islands that are known for offshore accounts.
In fact, Orman’s main publicity strategist is known for helping corporations move their accounts to the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes in the United States.
In our film, you’ll see Orman brag about having way more than fifty million dollars, but as much as she would love to brag about the real amount, she usually gives the relatively low figure of thirty-five million, to not draw attention that might bring about justice.
Perhaps this book and film will make Orman proud in a narcissistic sociopathic way, as millions who were fooled by her cons wake up and realize they’ve been outsmarted by someone who loves to brag that she never got above a grade of “C” in any college course, and who would barely be able to write even a proper essay on her own, much less many bestselling books.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Orman would prefer to go down in history as a gangster who fooled many of the most trusted journalist, media, and political figures in today’s world, than to be remembered as a sometimes-useful financial advisor.
In the early 1990s, Orman and I had discussed her desire to write a book during our many hours of conversation. She found a ghostwriter who was also an agent, Linda Mead, who agreed to write Orman’s first book, with some input and stories from Orman and Mead’s own financial knowledge and writing experience. Soon after, Orman needed something bigger from me.
More than thirty publishers had already turned down their book proposal, and there was one top-notch publisher they hadn’t yet approached, Newmarket Press, a small but prestigious publisher who specialized in marketing their authors.
Newmarket Press had a rule that they would only consider authors who already had a media presence, but Orman had none. That’s when she asked me to help with my Hollywood contacts and award-winning skills, conning me with all those promises of extravagant repayments.
Even though I would rarely request such favors even to further my own career, with Orman’s prodding, I asked favors from television producer colleagues in different Hollywood studios to get Orman booked on her first two television appearances.
I ended up producing, filming, scripting and editing a professional video presentation of Suze Orman that projected a deceptive image of her financial knowledge and media experience. I can’t claim to have had no idea that we were fudging things a bit, but Suze Orman is an absolute expert in getting good people to push the boundaries of their usual borders of honesty and integrity to help her get what she wants. I have certainly paid a serious price for that lapse of judgment.
Once Newmarket gave Orman her first book deal, I continued to give more assistance toward Orman’s quest to be a published author and speaker, including copyediting, coaching, and requesting endorsements from prominent friends.
During our production of the video that got Orman her first book deal, I flew up to San Francisco for the day to film Orman's PG&E presentation—on my dime, since Orman had hidden from me how much money she was making, and claimed to still be in debt. Since she was promising lavish amounts of her money from the published book, I ended up being one of now millions of people who have lost a lot by investing in Orman’s worthless promises and supporting her deceptive schemes.
Orman’s job was to give the retirees a presentation of whatever information PG&E wanted her to give, and to also give personalized consultations to those who were going to take the early retirement package.
It was an early version of Orman's “price for advice” schemes that would eventually draw a long list of corporations to make use of her willingness to shill and deceive, with passion.
As I recall, part of Orman's deal with PG&E was that she couldn't bill the retirees for their personal consultations, because those consultations were meant to be covered by all those big checks PG&E was sending her way.
PG&E had allowed that if retirees wanted to give Orman a tip on top, that would be allowed, as long as she didn't bill them. So, during the presentation, Orman told these PG&E early retirees that she wouldn't charge them a specific fee for the consultations, without telling them that PG&E was already paying her for them.
With pure con artistry, Orman told these retires, who were already going through enough with this major life change and many decisions to make, that they could decide how much they wanted to pay her for the consultation, but that she wasn’t going to give a specific invoice or charge. These early retirees had no idea that Orman had already been paid $250,000 from PG&E, with more to come, for giving several presentation meetings and the consultations.
Since I was filming that presentation, it appears to be the first Suze Orman con game caught on film. Orman told the retirees that they could pay her as much or as little as they wanted to pay, and that if they didn't want to pay her anything for the two-hour consultation, they could just stiff her, and I guess feel guilty about it, not knowing that Orman had already been paid for their consultation.
Depending on the investments she recommended, she would also receive additional money in commissions, which you can be sure Orman—who was mainly selling insurance at the time—took full advantage of for her pocketbook.
Orman was being paid all the way around with deception all around, a pattern she would repeat time and time again on her way up the ladder of public influence and deceptive corporate deals.
At this next link, you can watch the earliest known recording of con artist Suze Orman in action at the PG&E retirement meeting. You will see her lying about several facts regarding her career history and being confronted by one savvy fellow who could smell the scam and was bold enough to speak up, in spite of being put down by another retiree who had fallen for Orman’s snake oil.
Play the video of the first recorded Suze Orman con here: Link 1-14
Two minutes into the clip, that retiree could clearly tell that Orman was a shyster—it’s not like her shenanigans are that difficult to spot, but that she uses charm, praise, fear-mongering, and other manipulative techniques to bypass people’s usual discernment faculties.
Since Orman was the person PG&E had officially set up for them to consult with, the man was trying to be polite as he persistently asked Orman to tell him how much he should pay her, what range would be appropriate, or how much others have paid her, also asking where does the money go? (Hint: into Orman’s personal checking account)
This “financial advisor” tells the man that she never even knows how much any client pays, because her secretary deposits all the checks anonymously into her checking account, and that she has no idea how much has ever been deposited or any range of what people have paid. It's a bunch of Suze Shenanigans, and that fellow smelled the stinky scam.
In a not surprising additional point, Orman also lied to her Newmarket Press publisher about the fact that her book had already been turned down by over thirty publishers:
(From the New York Times, 2006: Link 1-15)
“Suze never told me the book had already been turned down by 30 publishers,” Ms. Margolis recalled.
I also remember, during our well over one hundred hours of conversation, Orman asking me for information about neuro-linguistic programming and the subconscious mind. I’d been brought up by psychology teachers and was reading Freud and learning about hypnosis by age seven, before studying neuroscience and film in college.
Even all those years later, I had some knowledge about neuro-linguistic techniques, although it was never my nature to use them to manipulate others, a sentiment strengthened by years of monastic life, where an understanding of the universal nature of humanity and life had inspired me to give, share, serve, and certainly strive to never scam anyone. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well — he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.”
Along with regretting my role in producing the deceptive promo video and other assistance that contributed to Suze Orman’s first book getting published, I carry the burden of knowing I gave her psychological and metaphysical information that may have helped her to perfect her manipulative tactics.
One other sign of Orman’s approach to life came in 1992, when I won a Los Angeles Emmy award for my news editing work.
With four nominations that year, I had been hoping to win at least one. Orman flew down to join two other friends and me at the Emmy awards ceremony.
At the after party, Disney’s photographer came around to take official photos of the winners with their Emmy awards. Orman and another friend were standing with me, so I invited them to join in the photo.
As the photographer prepared his camera, Orman took my Emmy award from my hands, saying, “I want to win an Emmy!”
Then she held it up for the photographer, looking proud as can be with crazy eyes, taking credit for my win with the same ease as she has taken credit for the work of so many others since, including the ghostwriters and behind-the-scenes experts who have maintained her “financial expert” façade.
The photographer only took one photo of each winner, so this is my Emmy award photo from Disney:
Crazy eyes much?
Orman's subsequent extreme influence, which twice earned her a seriously concerning spot on Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world, is mainly due to the “Oprah factor.” Oprah Winfrey enthusiastically pushed Suze Orman upon her millions of trusting fans—on her shows, in her magazine, and in other Oprah friendly media venues. Winfrey had Orman on her show fourteen times to publicize her second book, Nine Steps to Financial Freedom.
In 1998, Forbes ran an article, Sizzling Suze, that called Orman out for outright lying in her biographical descriptions in that book. (Link 1-16)
Orman’s bio in 9 Steps says she “heads her own financial planning firm,” Suze Orman Financial Group of Emeryville, Calif. But neither she nor the firm has done any paid financial planning work in years. Besides books and other royalties, Orman’s earned income has come mainly from selling insurance—which gets much more attention in her book than do stocks or bonds.
Also in the bio, she claims a current Commodity Trading Advisor license that actually lapsed in 1990. The jacket of her video says she has “18 years of experience at major Wall Street institutions.” In fact, she has 7. The “nearly 1,000 new clients each year” touted on her publisher’s Web site are simply fans making inquiries by mail.
Little did the Forbes journalist know that even these glaring lies were just tips of a much more troubling and exponentially growing iceberg of deceit.
Nearly every major talk and news-based show joined the Oprah-blessed Suze Orman bandwagon, with millions more viewers believing Orman must have the proper credentials to be giving all that advice, assuming she wrote those best selling books herself, and trusting the many top journalists on various networks who have called Orman all kinds of laudatory terms pushed by Orman and her publicists, such as “expert,” “guru,” and “wizard,” in spite of her serious lack of credentials and almost no official financial education. (Note: When I first wrote this, Orman did not even show up on the search of certified financial planners, but after the film and book were published, she apparently went back and got credentialed, around the same time the Department of Labor exempted her from having to give honest advice because she was an entertainer, not a financial advisor).
I would love to know if Oprah received any percentage cut from the profits of her troubling protégé.
Millions of United States citizens who fell for Orman’s snake oil lost a lot after making important financial and life decisions based on Orman's advice and decrees that mixed basic financial information with her harmful views, personality aberrations, corporate sponsored schemes, PR orchestrated headline blasts, and irresponsible predictions and decrees.
This set Suze Orman up to be a darling of corporations. Like Orman’s agent, who said, “Great. Finally an author who knows she can’t write,” corporations and banks were thrilled to find an influential public figure who was not only easy to buy, but voraciously peddling her Oprah-bestowed influence for big bucks.
Go to Chapter Two:
"Seducing Corporations, Banks and Billionaires"
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