As a strong gust of wind lifts a toupee, so the Greatest Depression of 2009 reveals fraud. Among the many bald-faced liars the financial crisis has uncovered, many have been very flamboyant. We’ve had a lawyer who used disguises and fake identities as part of a fake investment scheme. An avuncular family man who secretly squandered the fortunes of charities and old people. A mustachioed cricket-playing billionaire who wept on national television, two hedge-funders who attempted to fake their own deaths, and a gentleman farmer from Connecticut whose life’s passion was collecting teddy bears. But none of these stories are as insane as that of Danny Pang, a private-equity executive whose life and business, the Journal tells us mildly, “may not be quite as they appear.” Since his story is really long, we’ve boiled down the salient facts into a timeline so that it’s easier to process.
1966: Pang is born in Taiwan.
1988 to 1989: He’s elected chairman of the Asian Pacific Student & Staff Association at the University of Irvine, California. Which, by the way, only has records of him being a student there for a single summer term, in 1986, and doesn’t show that anyone with his name or Social Security Number ever received the degrees he lists. Asked how someone unenrolled could be a student leader, a university spokeswoman told the Journal, “He could just walk on campus, be Mr. Personality and get elected chairman. How would they know if he was a student?” [By the way: University of Irvine is awesome.]
1993: Pang’s wife, Janie Louise, a former stripper, calls police to their house, saying her husband threatened to kill her. While they are there she mentions that in the past, he broke her nose, stole money from her parents, and once forced her to withdraw $70,000 from the bank, which he spent on “gambling, women, alcohol, etc.”
Early nineties to 1997: Pang becomes a partner at Sky Capital Partners, a venture-capital firm with offices in California and Taiwan. President and CEO Michael Hsu later says that Pang “stole 3 million dollars from an investment escrow account by faking signature of mine and CEO of our investment target.” When confronted, according to Hsu, Pang said he “just needed the money.”
May 1997: Pang’s wife hires a private detective, who observes her husband holding hands with another woman. The next day, per the Journal,
Ms. Pang was scheduled to meet with the investigator at noon. Shortly before that, the doorbell rang at the Pangs’ home. According to court records, the family’s maid heard Ms. Pang, her 5-year-old at her side, answer the door and begin talking to the visitor, who asked if she was “Miss Pang.”
She then began screaming. The maid saw her run through the house, chased by an elegantly dressed man carrying a briefcase and holding a gun. As Ms. Pang cowered in a closet, he shot her dead.
2001: Pang is sued by his stepson (from his wife’s first marriage) over $750,000 in proceeds from his wife’s life insurance.
Early aughts: Pang forms Private Equity Management Group, which included, among other things, “a fund that would buy life-insurance policies from elderly people and collect when they died.” Becomes known around the office as a “consummate liar” and gambler.
2006: Takes money from a fund that is meant to be invested in time-share resorts in the U.S. and uses it to buy a Gulfstream IV jet for the company.
July 12, 2007: Takes a group of women from the office to Las Vegas on said jet. “On the return flight the next day, Mr. Pang, having won at a casino, ‘had a briefcase stuffed with cash and he started throwing money to the girls, stacks of $10,000.’” Takes pictures of said event (below).
2007: When life insurance business fails to pay off (because, according to a coworker, “everybody lived a long time,” Pang decides to remedy matters with a Ponzi scheme, which apparently he was quite open about. According to the employee, “Pang came into his office and said: ‘Nasar, I want you to know we are in a Ponzi scheme.’ He adds that Mr. Pang stated he would fix the problem by doing well on another investment.”
2009: Has lawyer draft an agreement promising to pay said employee $500,000 for telling The Wall Street Journal that his statements were false and that he had made them partly because stress “affected my judgment and mental well-being.” Shuts down company website.