Saturday, June 20, 2009
Trouble Brewing For Rusty Wallace And US Fidelis Sponsor
The Internet is littered with websites, big and small, where Americans are expressing their outrage with a company called US Fidelis. Click here to go directly to the US Fidelis homepage. There you will see some familiar faces.
Rusty Wallace and his son Steven are featured prominently on the mainpage. The reason is simple. US Fidelis sponsors one of the Wallace team cars in the Nationwide Series.
As with most sponsorships, the agreement includes Rusty personally appearing in TV commercials for the company. Wallace promotes US Fidelis as a company that offers an extended warranty on vehicles once the original manufacturer warranty expires.
Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the whole truth. Simply because of the TV commercials, Wallace appears to be right in the middle of the situation.
Click here for a video expose on US Fidelis from the Today Show on NBC. Based in St. Louis, the company is portrayed as nothing more than a wholesale telemarketing scam with no interest whatsoever in following through on the warranties being sold.
In fact, the President of the company with whom Wallace made his sponsorship deal is a convicted felon on both a state and federal level. Now 19 years out of federal prison, Darain Atkinson is only in his mid-forties. Regardless of his past convictions on counterfeiting, burglary, theft and forgery charges, he is now a very wealthy man. US Fidelis is the reason why.
One project Atkinson is currently working on is an 18 million dollar mansion that will cover more than 20 thousand square feet on the banks of Lake St. Louis. It includes a bowling alley, beauty salon and an auto courtyard that features a seven car garage.
Click here for a jaw-dropping story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that presents a sinister profile of the family at the helm of this allegedly corrupt company. It contains a reference to what many believe is the most controversial part of Atkinson's claims. The halo on the company logo shows what Atkinson confirms. In his mind, US Fidelis is a faith-based organization.
"There is an order in the Kingdom of Heaven," Atkinson told the Post-Dispatch. "God has blessed us. Why he has blessed us, I don't know."
Apparently, the criminal justice system cannot figure it out either. At last count, 40 Attorneys General were actively involved in pursuing criminal complaints against US Fidelis. Click here for the information on the class action civil lawsuit filed in April against the company.
All of this puts Wallace in a tough position. On one hand, US Fidelis is paying the bills or the company logo would have been removed from the hood long ago. On the other hand, Wallace himself is a brand and it is being tarnished every time a US Fidelis commercial airs.
ESPN is certainly an issue. Wallace has been trusted by ESPN as a multi-car team owner in the Nationwide Series to remain impartial on the air. Recently, Wallace has been handling the pre-race show and the race analysis as he will in Milwaukee on Saturday. Essentially, what Wallace says to the national TV audience needs to be regarded as honest and the truth.
Finally, these tough economic times have put the financial squeeze on NASCAR teams like never before. 5 Hour Energy Drink and US Fidelis are perhaps not exactly the gold-plated team sponsors that Wallace would like to have for the long run.
It should be interesting with the controversy and pending legal action against US Fidelis to see if Wallace tries to ride-out the season with this tainted brand or walks away to keep his personal and professional reputation intact.
Wallace joins Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty Saturday at 8PM on ESPN2 for the pre-race show. He then moves upstairs with Jerry Punch and Ray Evernham to call the race at 8:30PM. Green flag from Milwaukee is at 8:45PM. TDP will be live blogging this event.
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Additional story references: Click title to view.
CNBC: On The Money Blog from April 27, 2009
StlToday.com: Warranty Sales Skim Top Profit from May 23, 2009
StlToday.com: Florida Man Behind US Fidelis Robo-Calls Had Criminal History from June 15,2009
Consumeraffairs.com: Class Action Lawsit Filed Against US Fidelis from April 10, 2009