Greg Lindberg Global Growth Story: From 8 Cents an Hour to 8,000 Employees and a Fight for Freedom Against Mike Causey
In legal terms, an allocution is defined as: The formal inquiry by a judge of an accused person, convicted of a crime, as to whether the person has any legal cause to show why judgment should not be pronounced against him or her or as to whether the person has anything to say to the court before being sentenced.
Greg Lindberg is that accused person. He has not yet faced sentencing, but his allocution has been ongoing since a verdict was rendered in The United States of America v. Greg E. Lindberg, et al. These proceedings were held in The United States District Court for The Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division, with a jury verdict rendered against Lindberg in March 2020.
Greg Lindberg is no ordinary citizen. He owns dozens of companies, with 8,000 employees worldwide. Conventional wisdom might dictate that a man with such resources would be protected from erroneous legal attacks.
The trial revealed an entirely different reality: If this can happen to Lindberg, it can happen to you.
American Civil Liberties Union Founder Roger Baldwin once said, “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.”
Lindberg says he was stunned by how a state insurance executive, bringing in the FBI and Justice Department and painting a false picture on the witness stand, threatened to ruin him in business worldwide. But Lindberg was certainly willing to fight for his rights.
To help prevent such a travesty from happening to anyone of lesser means in similar circumstances, he donated one million dollars to a special ACLU fund.
Democracy is constantly spoken of in thousands of American media outlets, but too few people discuss the dangers in today’s world when people – successful or otherwise – are attacked by potentially overwhelming agencies of government.
Greg Lindberg has achieved remarkable success after starting with next to nothing. He is an entrepreneur who built $1.4 billion group of companies from a mere $5,000 investment, starting while still in college.
He is the first Lindberg in his family to graduate from college. His parents were working-class, children of a plumber and auto-mechanic who taught that hard work and discipline were rewarded with success. Lindberg says that as he was growing up, he never saw his dad take a day off. The Lindbergs had meager beginnings. Greg remembers a ledger book that his grandfather kept that showed a salary of 8¢ an hour. Every penny of income and expense was recorded.
Other than adherence to details and hard work, Lindberg’s family offered little advice. “Just do your best” and “love what you do” was their constant encouragement, Lindberg says.
People who build great wealth often keep their business close to the chest. Working 80-hour weeks as he built his companies, Lindberg says he never stopped to consider the idea that one day someone would try everything possible to ruin him because of political spite.
When it happened, it was the single biggest surprise of his career, Lindberg says.
Lindberg started in business with the 1991 launch of Home Care Week, a health insurance compliance and reimbursement newsletter for home health agencies that he put out between college classes. By 1998, the business consisted of 12 people working out of one room full of folding tables and computers, with Lindberg struggling to meet payroll and pay the printing bills.
The company became Eli Global, based in Durham, North Carolina and operating as an information and financial services company. During the 1990s, Eli Global built products in the health care space and did so well they started looking at acquisitions. The first was a $17,000 venture into the travel ticketing space. Unfortunately, that came at the wrong time, just as people began booking online.
That first failed acquisition taught Lindberg quite a bit about how not to acquire companies.
A major adversity came in 1998 when changes in regulations for home care agencies led to the loss of over half of Eli Global’s customers in less than six months. The business almost died that year, but they were able to diversify revenue streams, rebuild cash flow, and maintain a strict discipline in cutting costs as revenues declined.
Sometimes, a near-death experience makes you stronger. By 2002, Lindberg’s conglomerate was able to close a “stretch” acquisition for $8 million and gain a foothold in the medical coding space. So far, so good, and there was major expansion ahead.
In 2006, the company acquired a global health care business with $4.8 million in EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, a measure of a company’s financial performance). Eli Global put in place new management and implemented its core values, using lessons from prior turnarounds. It then launched more than a dozen product lines. 14 years later, the business multiplied its customer base and had EBITDA of more than $74 million.
Eli Global learned to survive, but no one even considered the thought they might make an enemy in government. In 2007, it opened its first offshore office in Faridabad, India. The Indian company became a center for excellence in software development, finance, and leadership. Its profits allowed Eli Global to buy companies under stress, cut costs, yet invest in development at the same time. Lindberg’s business today, now known as Global Growth, has over 1,800 employees in India.
It doesn’t matter how well your business is doing if your health is threatened, however, and Lindberg took a major hit in 2009. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fortunately, he was able to return to work a few days after a successful surgery. He believes his parents’ work ethic helped him recover quickly.
During the 2008-2009 timeframe, Eli Global perfected turn-around expertise that was noticed by banks and lender groups. Lindberg and his associates looked for companies that were stuck in a rut and helped them with a strategy based on core values. At acquisition, the team went into each company and spoke about Eli Global’s unique culture. They offered flexibility, meritocracy, and unlimited opportunity for growth.
In exchange, the team demanded that each employee grow and stretch. A-players would have their roles expanded and C-players needed to go. They wanted each acquired company to be composed only of people who were passionate about what they were doing. This turnaround management expertise blossomed businesses. Eli Global acquired over 100 companies from 2009 to 2019 and today the group is known as Global Growth.
It was only when Lindberg, a political neophyte at the time, naively ventured into political activities, that his troubles began.
During the 2016 general election for North Carolina’s Commissioner of Insurance, Lindberg supported former Commissioner Wayne Goodwin’s campaign. He later donated a great deal of money to Republicans in the state, but Lindberg’s insurance company had a good working relationship with Democrat Goodwin’s Department of Insurance, so he saw no reason to not back the incumbent.
“Wayne Goodwin is an honest and capable public servant and the kind of genuine human being we are lucky to have in public office,” Lindberg says.
As with most elections in recent years, this contest was acrimonious and heated. Lindberg’s support for former Commissioner Goodwin’s campaign got under the skin of Republican Mike Causey, Goodwin’s challenger, and Causey barely won the election, with under 1% of the vote.
Lindberg had no idea Causey envisioned him as a “traitor” to the GOP and thus painted a mental bullseye on his back. Sadly, Causey could not forgive Lindberg for supporting former Commissioner Goodwin for reelection. The new Insurance Commissioner figured he needed to sideline Greg Lindberg in advance of the 2020 elections is what supporters of Lindberg claim.
Causey used his newfound authority as Commissioner to convince the FBI to investigate Lindberg. He convinced the U.S. Dept. of Justice to prosecute, and he convinced a jury – through lies and outright perjury — that Greg Lindberg was a criminal.
To understand why Mike Causey was so angry about the support for Wayne Goodwin, it helps to understand Causey’s life story.
Mike Causey had been for the most part a serial political failure. Caught by regulators making fraudulent representations about his blueberries, this failed farmer was a job hopper, and lost every election he entered in over 20 years. He had failed in four attempts to be elected Insurance Commissioner, and likely only won the 2016 election because Trump voters voted a straight Republican ticket. Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2016 by 3.6%. Despite riding on those coattails, Causey won by less than 1% of the votes.
When Causey finally achieved his 2016 election success, he was 65 years old. Perhaps a lifetime of jealously of other people’s successes had made him angry. Perhaps, in Causey’s mind, Greg Lindberg was the one person who could have killed his chance of winning the election.
Many details about Causey were unknown, including to Lindberg, who was ready to work with him post-election, as any insurance company owner must be ready to do with their domestic insurance commissioner. As always, Lindberg and his companies were devoted to upholding the law.
After winning the election, Mike Causey demanded donations — Lindberg claims when he said, “Hell, I’m the insurance commissioner” when demanding large donations — all to set up his political foe and try to take Lindberg down.
Being a seasoned corporate executive and concerned about Causey’s actions and motives, Lindberg hired the best consultants, lawyers and political advisors. Not one of them raised an objection or had any warning about anything he was doing with Causey. The Insurance Commissioner even agreed on tape that “there was nothing wrong with” the donations he was aggressively and repeatedly demanding from Lindberg.
In fact, Causey once congratulated Lindberg for doing an “outstanding job” answering “hardball questions” from insurance regulators. These comments from Causey were “pure evil and deception” says Lindberg, since at the very same time, Causey was trying to convince the Department of Justice to indict Lindberg.
Causey orchestrated a campaign that knowingly circulated materially false statements about Lindberg and his insurance companies to other state insurance regulators, credit markets, media outlets, and federal law enforcement authorities. Lindberg claims. He then cited the instability caused by these materially what Lindberg says were “false accusations”as justification for taking more radical steps.
When Lindberg met with Causey and asked him to address these false statements, the Insurance Commissioner replied, “What’s in it for me?”
Many months later, Lindberg learned that Causey initiated an FBI investigation claiming, in late 2017 that he had received and returned a $110,000 donation from Lindberg.
The truth? No such donation occurred. When Lindberg learned about this claim, he thought, “This is America. They will see there was no illegal donation and that will be that.”
Lindberg was politically naïve – which can happen to many people who have spent their lives building businesses, not operating in politics. “I never realized the extent to which dishonest politicians like Mike Causey are willing to abuse the power of government for their own personal gain,” says Lindberg.
Lindberg could afford the best legal help. Many people do not have that luxury. Which is why, as his ordeal escalated, he decided to make a crusade of informing everyone who would listen how government officials and politicians can lie, deceive, and entrap, setting people up for political reasons.
Lindberg discovered that once the FBI decides you are a target, nothing will stand in their way of trying to convict you, including conveniently overlooking such things as perjury by so-called informants and countervailing factors like a politically motivated origin of an investigation.
In the Lindberg case, the lead FBI agent admitted in court that he never investigated the motives of Causey, including why Causey was pushing so hard for the FBI to investigate. The agent said he never bothered to check public records showing that Lindberg had been the largest supporter of Causey’s opponent in the bitterly contested 2016 election.
The FBI apparently never investigated allegations already public at the time that showed Causey had allegedly took over an insurer (one not owned by Lindberg or Global Growth). Causey did that at the request of his political supporters, according to allegations in a lawsuit filed in the matter.
The evidence presented at Lindberg’s trial showed that the FBI relentlessly tried to get Lindberg to break the law. The federal agency was involved in orchestrating over 100 recorded calls and meetings in an effort to entrap Lindberg, according to evidence produced at Lindberg’s trial, Lindberg says. The FBI coached Causey, their informant, to isolate Lindberg from his advisors and lawyers so they could try to trick Lindberg into allegedly breaking the law, Lindberg claims.
“I remember having my lawyer on the speakerphone in a conversation with Causey,” Lindberg says, “and Causey directly ordered me to get my lawyer off the line. That was an attempt to entrap me without my lawyer being there to interfere.”
“The FBI coached Causey to try to convince me that what he was proposing I do was legal. In one instance, while wearing a wire, Causey clearly agreed that there was nothing wrong with the donations he repeatedly and aggressively demanded. He emphasized he was a sworn law enforcement officer, the person responsible for enforcing insurance laws in North Carolina.
“I was later surprised to learn that law enforcement officers are not required to be honest, even when advising citizens on the legality of what they are doing,” says Lindberg.
Evidence introduced at trial showed that the lead FBI agent didn’t understand the law he was investigating. He was confused about campaign finance law. If the FBI was confused, how was Lindberg supposed to know the law – particularly after Causey demanded Lindberg not include his lawyer in conversations and agreed that “there was nothing wrong with” the donations he was aggressively and repeatedly demanding?
FBI agents told the jury they believed any legal campaign donation was grounds to open a criminal investigation. Under this theory, every campaign donor whoever communicated in any way, directly or indirectly, with the candidate they donated to, was exposed to the risk of a criminal investigation.
As one might imagine, that is not what the law says. There must be a bribe for an “official” act in this type of situation – not just any act.
Under 18 U.S. Code § 201. Bribery of public officials and witnesses: Section (a) (3) – the term “official act” means any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy, which may at any time be pending, or which may by law be brought before any public official, in such official’s official capacity, or in such official’s place of trust or profit.”
Lindberg claims he never once asked for a result or a favorable ruling from the Insurance Commissioner. He says he never asked for a government contract or money. He simply requested fair and rigorous regulation. He was recorded on FBI tapes with the exact words: “We’re not asking for easy regulation. We’re asking for tough regulatory scrutiny on an unbiased basis.”
What kind of criminal asks for tough regulatory scrutiny when he doesn’t know he is being recorded? At one point, Lindberg even told Causey to subject Global Growth companies to more stringent standards than the law required.
Lindberg says that “I take full responsibility for the fact that, when I was not being treated fairly, I did ask that one regulator who had personal issues with me be recused and another equally capable regulator take over. I am responsible for 8,000 employees. I felt that was only fair.”
Even the prosecution admitted at trial that by requesting this move, Lindberg was “asking for something beneficial…or good…for North Carolina.”
When Causey agreed the regulator could be recused and said there was nothing wrong with the large donation he was demanding, in July 2018 Lindberg acceded to Causey’s demands to donate to his campaign. Lindberg’s only caveat was to repeatedly demand that any donation must be “within the bounds of North Carolina election law.”
An even more curious fact came out at trial. Causey had recused the regulator in February (unbeknownst to Lindberg) before Lindberg’s July request. This made a “bribe” impossible, as what Lindberg was requesting had already happened.
Causey kept it from Lindberg, solely to further his entrapment scheme, the trial transcript shows, Lindberg says.
When dealing with law enforcement and in testifying in court, you are supposed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is what Lindberg did, but it didn’t go both ways, Lindberg says.
Causey did not tell the truth to the FBI and the government, Lindberg says, telling them one of Global Growth’s largest assets was “worthless” – despite numerous audits, valuations, and an audited personal financial statement, all of which was provided to support the asset’s $900 million+ value.
Lindberg says that the FBI took Causey’s statements at face value as well as his statements about Lindberg’s assets – akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – and that cost Global Growth companies hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
In sworn testimony Causey denied the fact that he was the one who demanded the secret meetings, Lindberg claims. The FBI knew Causey was not telling the truth, but they never mentioned Causey perjuring himself, Lindberg says.
The prosecution knew better, too. Not a word about Causey’s conflicting statements were shared by them with the judge or jury, according to trial transcripts.
The trial transcripts also reveal that Causey said “I do not recall” over 100 times when being cross-examined by the defense team. He never once said, “I do not recall” when answering the government’s questions that were favorable to the case he initiated for his own political gain.
“Causey lied to the court about the fact that he was the one who demanded a personal check from me,” Lindberg says. “Which I refused to give him. If I was trying to bribe the guy, why would I refuse to give him a personal check?” Lindberg asks.
The trial transcripts reveal that Causey told the Court that he was “not aware” of Lindberg during the 2016 election – despite the fact that Lindberg’s large donations to Causey’s opponent were mentioned in newspaper articles where Causey himself was quoted.
Causey also denied before the Court that he was obsessed with researching Lindberg at all hours of the day and night – despite evidence entered at trial that shows Causey had over 1,100 communications with the FBI as part of his efforts to induce the FBI to investigate Lindberg.
Causey denied in court that his motives were questionable, even when confronted with a text that he sent to the FBI gleefully reporting that “things are closing in on Greg Lindberg.”
Causey told the Court and the FBI that he was concerned about donations from owners of companies he regulated. At the same time, he was supposedly concerned about alleged donations from Lindberg, Causey received large donations from the owners of the insurer Investors Title, as well as large donations from political action committees of numerous other North Carolina insurance companies, publicly available campaign donation records indicate.
Causey testified in a deposition in October of 2017 that he did not find it inappropriate to receive large donations from companies he regulated. This was the opposite of what he said under oath at the trial.
Lindberg says the best evidence of Causey’s mindset in targeting Lindberg might come from his own words. On the last day of the FBI investigation, Causey sent a celebratory text to the FBI titled: “How to make [people] your bitches.”
If the Judge accepts the verdict in his case, Lindberg says he will appeal. Meanwhile, he is not sitting by, patiently waiting. He reasoned that if Causey could get away with such a blatant abuse of power with impunity, any politician or government official could do the same. This prompted his million-dollar donation to the ACLU to help disadvantaged people who are falsely targeted.
“Not long ago, I sat in a courtroom where a Federal magistrate judge handed out multi-year prison terms every 15 minutes to a line of defendants, all of whom were people of color. I was stunned,” Lindberg says. “Few of the defendants spoke English, and all of them were non-violent offenders. I was sickened, watching people’s lives being destroyed simply because they were disadvantaged and didn’t have the resources to fight in court,” Lindberg says.
People are fed up with an excessively harsh criminal justice policies that result in mass incarceration, over-criminalization, racial injustice, and stand in the way of a fair and equal society, says Lindberg.
Lindberg feels extraordinarily lucky that after nearly three decades of working 80-hour weeks to build a successful business, he has the ability to spend the tens of millions of dollars his battle has cost to date.
He knows all too well that fighting the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice can wipe most people out – emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually. Ruined and defeated afterward, they can’t get a job, start a business, or even open a bank account.
In March of 2020, a jury found Lindberg guilty of public corruption charges based on Causey’s allegations of an illegal bribe for an official act. Lindberg says he respects the jury’s verdict. Their verdict was based, Lindberg says, on the word of this public official who sat on the stand and “did not tell the truth repeatedly to eliminate Lindberg as a political adversary.”
Lindberg feels the U.S. government went along with Causey’s scheme. While he respects the jury’s findings, he intends to appeal the decision if necessary and is optimistic it will be overturned.
“Now that I’ve seen the criminal justice system first-hand,” he says, “I have been gravely disturbed. We call ourselves a free society, but the truth is, the United States has the highest prison and jail population (2,121,600 in adult facilities in 2016), and the highest incarceration rate in the world (655 per 100,000 population in 2016). The U.S. held 21.0% of the world’s prisoners in 2015, even though the U.S. represented only around 4.4% of the world’s population that year.
“I am very lucky that this entire battle has made me stronger. I am sleeping better, losing weight, and working harder and more efficiently than ever. I feel younger and more energized. I am a better father and better friend. Stress and pressure are building my character,” Lindberg says.
“If you ever find yourself in a similar battle, remember – in every adversity there are the seeds of an even greater advantage. You just have to make the choice to welcome adversity for all the wonderful things it can teach you. Resolve to fight for your rights. My donation to the ACLU may end up helping you. The day you stop fighting for freedom, your rights are gone,” Lindberg says.
As Lindberg presses on in his fight for justice, he often quotes William Henley: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul.”
For More information about Greg Lindberg, please visit https://www.greglindberg.com/