Federal Agents Raid Former Starkey Execs’ Homes
Agents with the FBI and IRS executed search warrants on Wednesday at the Plymouth home of Jerry Ruzicka, the former president of Starkey Hearing Technologies. The federal sting is the latest event to follow Starkey CEO Bill Austin’s move to oust many of the company’s C-suite members, which one executive claimed to be an act of wrongful termination.
Roughly a dozen authority figures entered Ruzicka’s home as part of an ongoing investigation, the Star Tribune reported. Among the items confiscated in the raid were an iMac, boxes full of documents and a Jaguar sedan.
An FBI agent outside of Ruzicka’s house told members of the media that multiple search warrants were being performed, including one at the home of former CFO Scott Nelson.
An attorney representing Starkey released a statement Wednesday evening that claimed the raids were part of an evidence collection “to determine whether Starkey Hearing Technologies has been the victim of criminal activity.”
As federal agents declined to give further detail, John Conard, the attorney representing Ruzicka, told media members outside of his client’s house that he was “happy” to see the federal government’s involvement.
“I don’t suspect if it were simply a competitive issue that the U.S. attorney’s office would be involved,” he said. “We don’t know precisely what [the accusations] are. Of course it’s an ongoing investigation, but obviously it’s in the nature of some kind of a fraud.”
Conard added that he and Ruzicka attempted to “clear up misconceptions created by Bill Austin” by reaching out to the U.S. attorney’s office last week, but they did not receive a response. A civil lawsuit is currently pending against Austin and Starkey over unpaid compensation for Ruzicka that totals “well into the eight figures.”
The reasons behind the departure of Ruzicka and six other Starkey executives have been largely hush-hush. A first glimpse into the case came last month when former operations vice president Keith Guggenberger filed his own wrongful termination suit. In the filing, multiple claims were made against Austin, including that he created “a hostile and vindictive work environment” and that Guggenberger was released in lieu of Ruzicka refusing to promote Austin’s stepson.
Starkey has about 3,600 employees and is the fifth-largest hearing aid company in the world. It is also one of Minnesota’s largest private companies with estimated annual revenue of more than $500 million.