Former Facebook, Nike DEI Manager Entrusted With 'Doing The Right Thing' Gets Over 5 Years In Prison For $5M Fraud


A former diversity manager at Facebook and Nike has been sentenced to over five years in prison for orchestrating a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.

What Happened: Barbara Furlow-Smiles, a Georgia resident, was found guilty of wire fraud in December. She was charged with embezzling over $4.9 million from Facebook using a fraudulent vendor scheme, fake invoices, and cash kickbacks, reported CNBC on Thursday.

"After being terminated from Facebook, she brazenly continued the fraud as a DEI leader at Nike, where she stole another six-figure sum from their diversity program," Atlanta U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said in a statement.

She used the stolen money to fund a luxurious lifestyle in California, Georgia, and Oregon. Furlow-Smiles, 38, was a lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement at Facebook, a subsidiary of Meta Platforms Inc.

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Prosecutors revealed that she linked PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App accounts to her Facebook credit cards and used them to pay her friends, relatives, and others for goods and services that were never delivered. The majority of the money was then kicked back to her.

She was sentenced on Monday in Atlanta federal court and ordered to pay restitution of $4.98 million to Facebook and another $121,000 to Nike.

Nike informed prosecutors that she was entrusted as a leader for the company and would embody the value of ‘Doing the Right Thing,’ which is one of NIKE's key maxims, according to the prosecutor’s memo.

Nike further explained that Ms. Furlow-Smiles violated their trust in a severe manner. The fraud she committed not only violated trust but also devastated the employees who managed and worked with her.

Meta’s spokesperson declined to comment and directed attention to the press release issued by prosecutors in the case, as per the report.

Why It Matters: The sentencing of Furlow-Smiles comes at a time when DEI initiatives have been a subject of intense debate. Billionaire investor Bill Ackman faced criticism from Wall Street executives for his anti-DEI stance, which they deemed detrimental to the advancement of women and people of color in the U.S.

Meanwhile, business magnate Mark Cuban has argued that diversity within a company provides a competitive edge, challenging those who consider it a disadvantage. On the other hand, Elon Musk has criticized The Walt Disney Co. for its “DEI Gestapo” policies, attributing the perceived decline in the quality of Disney’s recent content to these policies.

Moreover, former presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy has argued that the U.S. inclusion agenda has created a new form of racism, gaining the approval of hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman.

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Image Via Shutterstock

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