Whistleblowers are reporting how ADP defrauds customers, employees, and, even, strangers, thanks to ADPFraud.com, an information portal where those wronged by the company are adding their personal information and testimony to build a national database of victims to its crimes.
As bad as the slings suffered by its clients, how ADP’s employees are treated at the company is just as bad, or worse.
ADP’s employees are the forgotten casualty here. More than a hundred have already signed up at ADPFraud.com to add their testimonies to the whistleblower’s arsenal, and let it be known what a “terrible, awful, no good, very bad” place ADP is for anyone considering working there.
Job review site Glassdoor is replete with warnings for potential hires to stay away from ADP: “Do NOT take the bait…. RUN,” is how one colorful and damning review was titled. Employees posting on the job review site describe a chaotic and alcohol-fueled workplace, and mistreatment of workers by management racing to make their sales quota.
For a company focused on growth via its army of salesmen, unfortunately, the incentives (double commission) and petty bribes ($500 a pop) to sign new business before the end of month and quarter, as detailed in the whistleblower’s filing, has led to many workers to become bitter or leave the firm for friendlier pastures.
Most heartbreaking, the self-filmed videos of ADP employees, many in tears or close to breaking down, trying to psyche themselves up to “Sell SIMPLES” — the high-commission IRA product its unlicensed sales reps push hard, but aren’t legally allowed to actually recommend, rather just make available to clients.
Pressure from their managers to drive those sale numbers — basically, “sell SIMPLE, or else” — defines the every day lives of these employees at the end of every month and every quarter. In fact, encouraging its sale is the main topic of managers via text message who offer reps cash bonuses for the final SIMPLEs that help make quota.
Many are pushed near to madness in that culture of drinking and pep rallies to keep their bosses happy. Those who haven’t been unable to sell any SIMPLEs are made to be terrified for losing the jobs. Here are psych-up videos the whistleblower is calling “ADP & Tears.”
The pressure to “sell SIMPLE” is all about ADP increasing monthly cash flow that gets kicked upstairs for the business of bond trading.
The short math is that ADP handles “1-out-of-6” employee paystubs, where 1/3 of each might be withholding of various types, so that’s 1/6 times 1/3, equal to 1/18, or 4% of the country’s aggregate employee salaries. It works out to $26 billion in withholdings each quarter, which, to great Wall Street fanfare, ADP is generating an exciting 2.2% interest from trading bonds, for $550 million or so in extra profit, equal to about a third of its net income.
Another way of looking at that, where the whole company has 58,000 workers to earn $1.5 billion on $13 billion in sales, the trading operation makes half a billion dollars from a few dozen executives in one office.
What the whistleblower has exposed is that the entire company is now angled, like a tail wagging the dog, on increasing that monthly, recurring cash flow to feed the lucrative trading beast, rather than on the core challenge of what its employees are tasked with for their jobs — namely, helping companies deploy business services, providing outsourced human resources management tools and following it all up with attention to customers and strong software to underpin it all. Clearly, based on all the complaints, other than generating that recurring monthly cash flow, ADP is failing at the actual job at hand.
Drilling down into how this plays out, the two items a sales rep can actually sell are the payroll services (where the rush is to “run them” as soon as possible, adding to the monthly fees haul) and the pensions.
Pensions are a big deal for cash flow because it could mean an extra $500 per month coming from an employee’s monthly wages. That’s if it’s a SIMPLE IRA, which deducts automatically.
Of course, ADP also sells something called the SEP IRA, which maybe they should start calling the BETTER IRA: you can pay into once, at the end of the year, it carries greater tax deductions capabilities, and is probably the wiser choice for every small business with fewer than four employees — ie., 90% of ADP’s clients. But, it’s only sold in 10% of the cases.
Meanwhile, ADP’s sales reps aren’t licensed to “sell” pensions at all, but just make them available, and certainly not to recommend one over the other, but that’s all they do; most reps don’t even realize selling the SEP is even an option!
The way the pyramid works at ADP, the financial guys at the top set incentives so the sales reps sell SIMPLE, offering them twice the commission versus the SEP, plus cash bonuses for last minute sign-ups to help push the numbers up to meet quota at the end of every month quarter. Sales rep managers pay out those cash bonuses because their salaries are based 90% on the commissions generated by their crew, and actually have to pay-in when production misses a monthly quota. The pressure on them drives the local sales captains insane and the tactic becomes trying to turn the stress into a fun competition. But for most sales reps, selling even one or two SIMPLEs per month is killer, and many crack up from the pressure.
The greater point here is that while sales growth is important for a company, none of the above has anything do with the actual job at hand, helping business owners with all the back-end work at their companies.
But this whistleblower’s story really begins with how “SIMPLE Saved My Life.”
The reason David Schwartz was the top selling pension salesman nationally for ADP was because he truly believed.
He’s a man who moves on principle and, actually, it was his original faith in the SIMPLE that led him to ADP.
Before joining up, he had been a personal trainer (and remains in top physical shape to this day) and then Sales Director for the nonprofit Healthy Harvest Community Farms (another cause, farming and supporting children and the less fortunate that he also holds dear.) He was also trying to start a family.
But it was sad and complicated. Wife Amber lost their first baby at 19 weeks, and that was followed by an early-term miscarriage. Third time was the charm, though, with miracle baby Scarlett, born three months early, at only 2 lbs, 12 oz, but alive and fighting. They spent the next months — and lots of their savings — in the hospital, then the baby came home.
Soon enough, Amber was pregnant again — with twins — but lost them at 21 weeks. And that was the crisis, emotionally, and physically for her, and financially for them as a family.
Sitting there together in the hospital, talking about how to make the finances work, Amber remembered that she did have something set aside, probably not enough for long, but something until life got back to normal.
Tucked away, years ago, she had paid in $2,000 into a pension product — a SIMPLE IRA, in fact. Lo and behold, when they cashed it out to cover the hospital and the other bills about to come due, it was worth $16,000.
That money saved their family. It saved his life, all of theirs, it bought some time for everyone to get back on their feet.
The SIMPLE IRA was a miracle, Heaven sent, for sure. And right on schedule, exactly when they needed it most. Hallelujah.
Sales is all about belief. When you truly believe that what you have really is the solution — an easy, tax-advantaged way to squirrel away money that when you need it years later — and BOOM — you’re ready for that emergency, the SIMPLE was an easy sell.
Schwartz saw that the deduction was worth as much as the money tucked away, and the ability to pull it out of one’s hat on the eve of an emergency made it a stupid-simple sell that everyone, anyone, could use. And with that approached ADP, was hired, took a few months to take it all in, learn the craft of working with his clients, and then began turning on his enthusiasm for the SIMPLE IRA with a zeal unmatched by any of his competing reps.
The bigger thing he learned at ADP was that, for lots of the smallest businesses, mostly who he was signing up around his home territory of Ft. Myers, Florida, he was the only guy in a tie these people would trust. The business owners of tiny companies — small shoe repair shops, cafes, dry cleaners, corner stores, laundromats, car mechanics — looked to him for real advice on what was the right way to set up their book keeping, the best ways to do payrolls, the best apps (ADP sells hundreds) to manage what they had to manage from their phones, and general questions that would start getting really specific if a tiny company was going in for Small Business Administration loan, and needed to know the right stuff to say to get a bank loan to grow.
His philosophy was to help them the very best he could, and, in doing so, of course, he’d sell the right tools from the ADP product line to get the job done. And, of course, in signing up for payroll, he’d share his enthusiasm over the SIMPLE, and they’d sign up for that, too.
His sales numbers impressed his bosses, and he’d become their top SIMPLE man after his first full year. He was brought to the Roseland, New Jersey, headquarters to expound on how to sell and record training videos to capture his mojo to share with reps in the field.
His book of business grew as he was brought onto pitch bigger companies and in wholesale operations, where ADP provides the back end for giant companies to offer their services internally, lower unit commissions, but tremendous volume. He was on track to be one of the greatest producing salesmen in ADP’s long history.
As for the money making miracle and it all going downhill, with all the pension questions raised above, he seriously did not even know there was such a thing as a SEP.
In his mind, and in all of his colleagues and their managers, the only thing was to “sell SIMPLE.”
Well, what happened was it turned that, yes, selling a pension product was something great, but that, for almost one of his clients, it was really the SEP rather the SIMPLE he should have sold, for half the commission, no bonus, no monthly recurring cashflow for the bosses. He started to ask questions, and people got angry.
Early on in his career there, he’d been encouraged to speed up sign-ups by throwing a fake social security number in — he never did — but when it came up again from a manager later, he questioned their ethics and the company’s liability for making a mistake on purpose. And the people got angry.
And he started looking around at all the crimes of convenience he and his team were guilty of — the signing of client names, without them really ever understanding what they’d be responsible for, and realizing that using the ADP address instead of the actual business meant that a lot of information would get lost if a company every quit ADP.
And where questions from his clients he could answer himself or do the routing of the ADP HQ beast to find out for them, and then report back. He was shocked to see how terrible the customer service experience really was for people calling in on their own, the wonky computer system requiring outdated Internet Explorer for reviewing paystubs, and all the areas where the company had skimped on providing the great back-end service he thought he was selling.
He talked to his bosses, he talked to the lawyers, everyone gave him the run-around, he told them he would report this to the SEC and FINRA, which he did, then they told him he was fired: because one time he used a personal email early on in his time there to access a sign-up doc, while he was sitting with a client and the ADP email was on the fritz and the company had never got around to issuing him an iPad.
It’s called retaliation if they fire you after reporting a federal crime to federal regulators, all that protected by whistleblower laws, meaning ADP is pretty guilty of that one
But the dumbest move was that his bosses gave no thought about the owners of the 250+ tiny, small, medium and large businesses that just got left in the lurch when they fired everybody’s favorite guy.
Some of his clients were national accounts he’d just won for ADP, but most were those small businesses around his home territory of Ft. Myers.
There, Schwartz had built an eco-system of local firms open to collaborating across his network where he introduced companies that complemented each other, and businesses grew.
His way of playing the game was the same as how he did as a short guy playing varsity basketball — pass, pass, pass, include everyone in the game, lead by sharing, cooperation and confound your enemies with teamwork. (The alternative in the anology might be, one salesman drives the ball to the hoop on his own every time to sell the SIMPLE, leaving the rest of the players on the court out of the game, scoring points, but not “winning” as a team.)
When ADP unceremoniously removed him from his job, all these paying customers, hundreds, felt they lost a business partner, a trusted advisor, and a friend.
What they had in common was really a who. Each of these business owners relied on “David Schwartz at ADP” for every HR employment and business process question, ever, and many of their questions about business, in general.
Worth far more to them than the commissions paid to him for ADP products, “The Schwartz” was the behind-the-scene force that had been helping their businesses to be running so smoothly of late.
Now, he was banished from their lives, from one day to the next with no explanation.
Most complained, dozens who could quit ADP in protest and others waited silently for their comeuppance. More than his family or friends or former co-workers, those clients were the ones encouraging him to raise his voice about what’s happened to ADP, launch the website and publicize his claims.
Because who this whistleblower was actually standing up for were the integrity of what he was providing his clients. And his bosses weren’t interested.
They’re certainly paying attention now.
One more note to add here is about ADP and Wall Street.
Nevermind the bond trading biz they run from the back of the shop, the bigger question is how ADP, itself, is a national institution. Started by a former senator, and providing direct data about the country’s employment market — at a time when new job growth is booming — many people even think ADP could be some kind of government arm, itself, because of how often it’s talked about in context of its jobs report.
Well, what we’re really seeing here is that “real” jobs growth is one thing, and how it’s accounted for at ADP, rushing to “run the payrolls” even when they become the “payroll of pain” because ADP doesn’t wait, is something else and should be understood by those who study the data.
That so much money is being made by ADP earning on people’s withholding really doesn’t seem right, considering the money is just in transit to the government and the companies, themselves, already paid ADP to do their payrolls. Rather than ADP shareholders earning that half a billion dollars per year, why isn’t all of that — or even half of it — used for something to benefit the 1-out-of-6 workers in the country who “advance” their salaries to ADP til quarter’s end?
Like maybe throw it all into some job training programs, apprenticeship programs, work-study programs, and all of it coordinated to include all the small, medium and big companies that run their payrolls with ADP, so young and displaced older workers have jobs lined up to go to after completing training courses.
You know what we mean — do it for the workers. Because it’s the heartfelt people here who make America great, not the sleazeballs in the shark suits who lord over us from atop the pyramid.