Subject: Kim Waring - Misplaced Trust
Up until last week I have been unable to provide details regarding a situation that began to unfold in June this year and which has dominated my life since. Due to a legal action being in progress I was restricted from providing information that would explain the problems I have been encountering with the fan club merchandising service since the beginning of 2004. Problems which have enraged a lot of my fans and badly damaged my business and career in both financial and professional terms.
I was very aware last year of the continuing complaints against our mail order service; complaints which grew in intensity in the summer of 2004 and resulted in a total loss of confidence from our business customers. At the time I was informed by my office manager - Kim Waring - that the problems lay with the postal and courier services and trusted her judgement. I backed her, despite a highly vocal outcry amongst the fans on various web sites and forums and publicly denounced those who were attacking our service. I now find my confidence was not only severely misplaced but in fact cynically betrayed by someone I considered not only a valued employee but also a friend and confidante. I am severely embarrassed by this revelation and would like to extend my sincere apologies to those whom I berated during the period concerned. Up until June this year when Kim Waring handed in her notice I had absolutely no idea of what had been going on behind my back while I was on tour and even while I was working in the studio.
Kim Waring began her employment here at the farm in April 2001. At the time I was undergoing vast changes in my private and professional life. My then wife and I had separated, Tamara taking my daughter to her new home in Berlin. I was also in the midst of a financial crisis, heavily in debt to the bank and in the process of selling my house. It was a very stressful time. Kim successfully interviewed for the recently vacated position of personal secretary and duly arrived together with her husband Steve. She soon became involved in all aspects of my life including helping with the move into the Studio, which was to become my new home, and setting up the current office.
Throughout 2001 and 2002 I was in a process of recovery and rebuilding with particular regard to the fan club and associated mail order merchandising service which had become the mainstay of my income. Mo Warden and Pete Oram had built up our web site and integrated the online ordering system with my bank accounts. They worked closely with Kim in the early days and provided advice on all our computer set ups and programming.
During 2001-02 my finances were still tight as I worked on new projects and paid off outstanding balances.
In 2003 I began working on the new studio album "Field of Crows" and was obviously investing most of my money and resources in that project.
Both Kim and Steve had become trusted friends, Steve sometimes assisting at the Studio as a painter and general handyman when required and Kim growing in stature as an office manager. I depended strongly on her within my set up as an independent musician/businessman as I did not have the resources to carry an extensive bureaucracy here at the office. As my trust in her grew she was given more authority and responsibility and subsequent associated wage rises.
"Field of Crows" was to be the pay back for all my long term investment and represented me moving to another business and financial level that would provide a security I had not experienced for a very long time.
The album was released on mail order in December 2003 and we were overrun with orders. The immediate Christmas post provided expected problems with delivery of orders and in January I was under the impression all was in hand.
Much to my surprise in the months following release we were still experiencing problems and complaints started to come to my attention. I pointed these out to Kim who assured me she was dealing with them. For the next few months I was mainly on tour or away from the Studio, returning to take in only overviews of the accounts. I relied on Kim and my accountant in Edinburgh to keep me informed on the finances and all seemed to be in order. I was making money, the bank accounts appeared to be healthy and so I continued my work outwith the office.
In the summer the complaints about non receipt of orders were becoming a major concern and it was then that I backed Kim publicly on the web site www.fish-thecompany.com in emails that relayed her excuses that it was the postal services to blame. I took complaints myself at the time and passed these on to Kim to deal with. She assured me that there was only a minimum of outstanding orders and that the complaints were in hand. I noticed a sharp drop in orders and was concerned. I brought this to Kim's attention but had to leave this to her as I had other personal and business issues to deal with.
I had been pressing my accountant for up to date accounts in order to assess my tax situation and to plan for the coming year. He complained that he was not getting the information from our office despite continued requests and was struggling to give me figures as he was not receiving the documentation he required.
Again Kim was asked the reasons why this was so and I was told that the information had been sent and was getting lost between departments at the accountant's offices. She assured me the matter would be dealt with and that she would liaise closely with my accountant to resolve the problems.
Looking back on both the above incidents I feel particularly foolish as I should have read the signs but in my defence I have to say that at that time I had no reason to suspect Kim of any improprieties.
In February the accounts were delivered and I informed all concerned that I would not accept a repeat of the situation and that I wanted month by month detailed accounts from then on.
This was just as I was about to begin rehearsals for the "Return to Childhood" tour and once again I found myself divorced from the business environment and heading out on tour.
When I returned from South America at the end of May, Kim presented me with her resignation citing personal grounds and announced she was moving back to the Swindon area to be with her family. I was taken by surprise as she was only giving me 4 weeks notice! To replace a key person in such a short time was nigh impossible. At the same time Kim proposed working the office as a satellite unit, taking all the merchandise operation with her to Swindon and accounting to me monthly. Something did not feel right and I decided against such a move. Kim was disappointed to say the least and questioned my decision. An alarm went off in my mind and I began to feel very uneasy about the situation I was finding myself forced into.
As luck would have it a friend of mine suggested my current office manageress Elspeth Laidlaw, someone I had known locally for a long time. Her credentials fitted the vacancy perfectly and she was introduced to Kim as her replacement. Kim was obviously not happy and seemed to go out her way to be unhelpful or evasive. I asked Kim to work another week to help with the transition to which she agreed but found excuses to take days off due to medical reasons and job interviews down South.
As it later turned out from discussions with Elspeth, little was being achieved during her training and she had to be fully briefed by Mo who had a complete working knowledge of the office and mail order operation.
It appeared Kim was being deliberately misleading and had avoided showing Elspeth areas of the set up where she had her own "methods" of working.
In the last three weeks of her notice I asked Kim for invoices and time sheets for her husband Steve who had been helping to convert one of the sound rooms into a bedroom for my daughter who was returning from Germany in June to live with me and start school here in Haddington. Steve had been involved with painting and decorating the main room and had to "deconstruct" the sound room and paint the area after plasterboard, joinery and electrical work was complete.
I had to ask for invoices a number of times and even then Kim left her employment here without providing me with the paperwork. She admitted paying Steve £1500 which had been originally estimated by a third party at £500 for a week's work. Steve started the job before I went to South America and still hadn't completed the work by the time I got back two weeks later. Kim said she had made a mistake in an overpayment of £450 and said she would sort it out when she got to her new address.
Kim left in the first week of July 2005 leaving no forwarding address and refused to answer any calls or SMS messages to her mobile. My suspicions were more than aroused and I was realising that there was serious questions to be asked of her management of the office and especially the finances.
Kim had been allowed to deal with my online banking since 2003 and had paid band wages and invoices etc. when I was on the road. Again I had had no reason to mistrust her. On investigation of the online banking I was horrified to discover that over a 9 month period she had taken over £10,000 above her wages from my personal account. She had disguised these payments which I thought she was paying toward my credit cards which were in constant use during the tour for flights, hotels etc. I had told her to make sure that she paid at least £1000 per month towards the cards. Kim had erased obvious payment details but after discussions with my bank it became apparent she had been siphoning funds to her own accounts. The credit cards were fully loaded and nothing apart from minimum payments had been made. I was facing huge interest payments on these cards.
I then began investigating other transactions and was spending days going through my bank statements and financial logs including cash that Kim had been given to bank while we were on tour. After discussions with Yatta - my production manager - and Dave Gould - my merchandiser - it transpired that I could not account for a sum of £17,500 that she had been given as part of three cash payments at the end of the 2004 tour. A page in the bank statements was missing but the figures made some sort of sense. It was then I found that £15,000 had been transferred from a "dormant" account into the main account and the page which had been removed contained around 7 transactions including the transfer which covered the missing cash deposit. Again on a simple overview of the figures on the statement available at the time the main account made sense. However, £17,500 tour money which had been accounted for in our tax declarations was missing.
During this entire period, Kim Waring had actively discouraged any office visits by Mo Warden and Pete Oram, who set up the e-commerce system on the office computer and were the only others who fully understood its operation. She set about creating an atmosphere of mistrust and computer problems were regularly blamed on Mo and Pete; in retrospect it's obvious why this was done. Given adequate opportunity, many of the irregularities would have been discovered sooner.
I brought in Mo and Pete in July 2005 to examine the hard drive on the computer as the question over the fan club and merchandise/mail order problems was demanding investigation.
Shortly after Kim left, a number of cheques had arrived in the office for merchandise orders. The cheques were made out to "Kim Waring" and not "Fish Information Services Haddington" or "The Company Scotland".
Mo and Pete then found out that the page on the web site containing the "make cheques payable to" information had been subject to hundreds of changes in the last year suggesting someone had been tampering with the details. Kim Waring was the only person who had access to the office computer and to those pages. Even I didn't have the password to this computer. I didn't need it.
We then found payments made on Western Union and emails from Kim asking fans to make the money orders out to her. We also found emails mentioning PayPal payments from fans - we do not and never have used PayPal as a payment method for merchandise. Finally I was told that at least three people who had been to the office had been asked in person to make cheques and postal orders payable to Kim Waring, none of which could be found in the entries in the petty cash book which, to say the least, was lacking in information for over a year.
On the ordering system we started to find database entries that had not only been deleted but had been digitally erased using an installed scrambler program (since removed). This meant they were unrecoverable. Mo and Pete also discovered hundreds of unanswered emails from fans complaining about missing orders of which there was no record in the system. It appeared that there was a connection but we couldn't work it out as the records had been so badly (or efficiently) damaged.
We got in touch with some of these fans and the orders all fitted in the "over £100" mark.
I then went to Voiceprint and crosschecked the units sent to us against the sales registered on the Actinic program (connected directly to the online ordering system) and existing stock. I could only work on a couple of titles mainly "Field of Crows" and "Curtain Call" as I couldn't work back beyond 2004 without engaging in a logistical nightmare. On "Field of Crows" there was a discrepancy of over 1700 albums unaccounted for and on "Curtain Call" there were 100 units missing. It was nearly impossible to correlate the other titles in the catalogue as all the automatic daily stock checks which should have allowed us to work out how much was missing had been manually deleted.
It is impossible to work out exactly how this was carried this out but in a period of nearly 4 months in early 2004 while I was on tour there were NO cheques presented to the bank. This is impossible. According to the Actinic records, there were nearly 70 orders placed using the "pay by cheque" method during this period. We receive around 5 cheques or postal orders a week at this moment in time, never mind in the heart of a studio album release.
On comparison of the Actinic software records against the banking and mail order information we had, it appeared that there were around 1200 deleted orders, a number which was well above what would be expected under normal circumstances and - working on average amounts - came to a value of around £40,000.
On the other stock we had brought in on recent touring there were around 50 "Childhood" t-shirts, 30 fleeces and other items missing.
There are also many instances of order records being tampered with; Actinic contains info about how many times an order has been changed and the date on which the record was altered. The highest number of updates on one order is 67 (the last update being done six months after the order was marked as shipped and "completed"). 717 records were changed on the last day that Kim Waring was in the Haddington office. We can never know exactly what changes were made.
We discovered that she had also ordered personal items of clothing for herself from our clothing manufacturer and got me to sign cheques under the assumption that they were for the merchandise stock (we found those hidden invoices in drawers together with missing statements and unopened bank and business correspondence including statements from Credit card organisations - a lot of which our accountant had been looking for!). There was also abuse of the office credit cards which she had used for purchases while she was in the Swindon area on personal business. Minor issues in the big picture but all part of the overall equation and the pattern of lies and deceit she had been engaged in while in my employment and while portraying herself as my reliable and trusted office manageress and my friend.
The abuse of the fan club and mail order system was by far the most damaging in both the short and long term. It is now obvious why the fans lost faith in the business and stopped ordering.
Since Elspeth Laidlaw took over we have been trying to repair the damage and have been sending out orders at our own expense to replace missing items. It has been costly for us but worth restoring the faith in our mail order service. It is obvious from recent comments that we are succeeding in this and the delivery times and turnover times have been greatly shortened. It is ironic that Elspeth now works here as a part time office manageress and yet Kim - who worked here full time - could not manage to keep the operation together. I believe she spent more time covering her own tracks than she did in performing the job she was paid for.
I am needless to say devastated by Kim Waring's actions and for a number of weeks after I uncovered her activities I myself couldn't believe what she has done to me personally, my fans and my business. The money she has taken should have enabled me to spend time with my daughter and now I am under more pressure to tour and work away from home which as a single parent is a very difficult situation.
Soon after I discovered her theft and embezzlement I contacted the fraud squad who advised me that a civil action was a better route to take and in the end any criminal action would have to be followed by a civil action if I was to seek damages.
I raised a civil action against Kim Waring after discovering her whereabouts from the hard drive on the office computer which she had used to email the letting agency to rent her accommodation. She has moved to the Swindon area using the name of Kim Park and was served a warrant under both names at her new address to defend herself against the charges at Haddington Sheriff Court.
On the 7th November I was granted a decree in my favour after she failed to lodge a defence against the charges and I am now pursuing her for £68,000 for the missing monies, £100,000 in damages and return of the missing goods granted to me by that decree. I am now in the process of having that decree enforced.
In reality, no money can compensate me for the damage she has done and the hurt she has caused to me and my daughter. I feel foolish and betrayed but a lot wiser for the experience and can only apologise to the fans for having backed this person in the manner in which I did last year.
I hope that after reading this letter that you understand my recent silence and the trials and tribulations I have been put through in recent months. I hope that this revelation will help you understand why the service from my mail order operation was so dreadful last year and hope that you will continue to support me through the current revamped, revitalised and imminently more professional set up that we have now.
I sincerely appreciate and respect your understanding and help in my continuing career and business.
Email 30th November 2005