HomeTechnologyHow Dan Price’s Social Media Fame Fueled Abuse Allegations

How Dan Price’s Social Media Fame Fueled Abuse Allegations

Dan Value was applauded for paying a minimal wage of $70,000 at his Seattle firm and criticizing company greed. The adulation helped to cover and allow his conduct.


SEATTLE — Kacie Margis, a mannequin and artist, first realized about Dan Value in 2020 the way in which many individuals do: by means of social media posts that celebrated his progressive politics.

5 years earlier, Mr. Value had propelled himself to an unlikely place for the pinnacle of a 110-person fee processing firm when he informed his workers that he was elevating their minimal pay to $70,000. His announcement was coated by The New York Occasions and NBC Information. Esquire did a photograph shoot. He made appearances on “The Every day Present” and on the Aspen Concepts Competition.

By the point Ms. Margis found him, his popularity and following on-line had grown much more. His self-styled position as a C.E.O. talking reality about company greed resonated with a large viewers. His posts on social media had been favored tens of hundreds of thousands of occasions. He joked with Kelly Clarkson on her daytime discuss present, with Lionel Richie wanting on. He launched Andrew Yang to a Seattle crowd throughout Mr. Yang’s presidential marketing campaign. He video chatted with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who referred to as him “the one moral CEO in America.”

Mr. Value was a younger, good-looking govt whose worldview spoke to her; an actual stay influencer on social media who criticized the excesses and conceitedness of different enterprise leaders. He posted a seemingly infinite stream on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, saying the best issues about inequality. About psychological well being. About ladies.

After Ms. Margis favored one among his Instagram posts in 2020, Mr. Value, who was 35, messaged her: “Blissful Valentine’s Day lovely!”

Ms. Margis, who was 27, ignored the message initially however replied again early final 12 months, after associates in a bunch chat as soon as once more shared one among his tweets.

“You’re great,” she wrote.

Quickly, they had been speaking usually. Mr. Value visited her close to San Diego and flew her to Seattle. However what began as a whirlwind courtship ended three months later with an accusation of rape.

On Monday, the police in Palm Springs, Calif., mentioned they’d referred Ms. Margis’s case to native prosecutors, recommending a cost of rape of a drugged sufferer. Prosecutors in Seattle earlier this 12 months charged Mr. Value with assault in one other incident.

After responding to questions earlier within the day from The New York Occasions, Mr. Value tweeted that he had resigned on Wednesday night as chief govt of his firm, Gravity Funds. He wrote that he had turn into a “distraction” and wanted to “focus full time on combating false allegations made about me.”

There have been warning indicators about Mr. Value, however Ms. Margis didn’t see them. When she did a Google search, lots of the high outcomes for “Dan Value” had been his personal social media accounts, together with flattering tales. Buried was the explanation he had, for a time a number of years in the past, almost vanished from public consideration: An article I wrote in 2015 for Bloomberg Businessweek revealed that his story concerning the pay elevate had notable holes, and that his former spouse had accused him of home violence.

In a single day, the eye largely dried up.

However Mr. Value discovered an antidote to obscurity: Social media. Tweet by tweet, his on-line persona grew again. The unhealthy information light into the background. It was the other of being canceled. Simply as social media can wreck somebody, so can also it — by means of time, persistence and audacity — bury a troubled previous.

Mr. Value’s web fame has enabled a sample of abuse in his private life and hostile conduct at his firm, interviews with greater than 50 individuals, paperwork and police studies present. He has used his movie star to pursue ladies on-line who say he harm them, each bodily and emotionally. Ms. Margis is one among greater than a dozen ladies who spoke to The New York Occasions about predatory encounters with Mr. Value.

“Social permits him to manage the narrative,” mentioned Ryan Pirkle, who spent virtually seven years working advertising and marketing for Mr. Value’s firm.

In his assertion to The Occasions, Mr. Value mentioned he had “by no means bodily or sexually abused anybody,” and that “the opposite accusations of inappropriate conduct in the direction of ladies on this story are merely false.”

Mr. Value added that descriptions of him as a poisonous boss had been inaccurate. “Making Gravity an impressive place to work is my high precedence,” he mentioned, “and I consider I’m reaching that objective.”

Inc. Journal, November 2015.

***

I first met Mr. Value within the fall of 2015, after he and his wage-raising story had been seemingly all over the place. Although his enterprise was obscure — Gravity made a number of million {dollars} a 12 months in earnings processing bank card funds — job functions and clients flooded in.

Mr. Value was a charismatic messenger in a second of rising inequality, however the story he was telling in public didn’t add up. Mr. Value informed the media that his brother, who co-owned Gravity, sued him after the wage improve and implied it was retribution for decreasing their earnings. Court docket paperwork present that Mr. Value’s splashy $70,000 wage announcement came about after the lawsuit was initiated.

Mr. Value informed media retailers that his divorce a number of years earlier was amicable. However his former spouse, Kristie Colón, had given a TEDx discuss in October 2015 wherein she described their relationship as abusive.

“He acquired mad at me for ignoring him and grabbed me and shook me once more,” Ms. Colón learn from her outdated journal. “He began punching me within the abdomen and slapped me throughout the face.” She recalled as soon as locking herself in a automotive, “afraid he was going to body-slam me into the bottom once more or waterboard me in our upstairs lavatory like he had achieved earlier than.”

Mr. Value mentioned these incidents “by no means occurred.”

The video was by no means made public. Mr. Pirkle mentioned that at Mr. Value’s course, he contacted the College of Kentucky, which hosted the TEDx discuss, saying the presentation could possibly be defamatory. The college mentioned it “merely determined to not submit” the video. Mr. Value denied that he directed Mr. Pirkle to contact the college. Mr. Pirkle mentioned he deeply regretted his position in stopping the video from turning into public.

When the Bloomberg Businessweek article ran in December 2015, the response was swift. Mr. Value misplaced a $500,000 e-book contract and the Hollywood expertise company WME dropped him.

Simply as quick as he had risen, he was gone.

Shortly after the article printed, Mr. Value pulled his workers right into a convention room and informed them that he had protected Ms. Colón. He mentioned she was younger and emotional. “There was a time frame the place she simply had quite a lot of hassle and she or he was performing loopy,” he mentioned, in accordance with an audio recording of the assembly. “I’d restrain her, which isn’t proper.”

He had his workers compile an extended file on perceived threats, together with his former spouse, brother and me, in accordance with Mr. Pirkle and three others. (Mr. Value mentioned the file was not his concept.) He finally received the court docket battle together with his brother, and a decide discovered that he didn’t pay himself greater than their shareholder contracts allowed.

Mr. Value briefly returned to the highlight in 2016, when his workers appeared to shock him with a royal blue Tesla. He teared up and mentioned, “Are you kidding me?!”

“That was his concept fully,” mentioned Mr. Pirkle and confirmed by Matt Dho, who labored within the advertising and marketing division for 4 years. Mr. Value mentioned that was not true, and “the concept some persons are attempting to soil this cherished reminiscence is deeply hurtful.”

However Alyssa O’Neal, the then 21-year-old worker who individuals thought had instructed the Tesla reward on the time, mentioned in an interview that one among Mr. Value’s senior lieutenants truly made the suggestion in a small assembly and informed her to take credit score.

The stunt acquired consideration from the mainstream press, nevertheless it shortly light.

Mr. Value later that 12 months summoned a handful of workers to his house so they may watch a documentary concerning the tried comeback of Anthony Weiner, the New York politician caught messaging sexually specific photographs to younger feminine supporters. Mr. Value reclined in mattress, therapeutic from knee surgical procedure, as his workers sat on the bed room ground, in accordance with a number of individuals current. He requested what they realized about drowning out detrimental information.

“He’s undoubtedly obsessive about how seemingly you may simply turn into well-known,” mentioned Mr. Dho, who was there.

Mr. Value turned to social media, the place he might management his message. With every submit about out-of-control C.E.O. pay and stagnant wages, his following grew.

By 2019, America’s finest boss was on his method again. The Wall Road Journal included him in a bunch of “luminaries,” and Nick Kristof profiled him in The New York Occasions Opinion part.

Mr. Value didn’t write most of his posts himself. He employed a ghostwriter: Mike Rosenberg, a former reporter who resigned from The Seattle Occasions after sending sexually specific messages to a feminine reporter in Brooklyn.

“We had workers that had been furious” about his hiring, mentioned Bobby Powers, Gravity’s former head of human assets. Mr. Rosenberg declined to remark.

Mr. Value mentioned he used social media to assist Gravity entice clients and workers, saying that “I recover from 100 direct messages each day,” and that he shared the corporate’s story to encourage others.

In a morning present spot in 2021 revisiting the wage improve, Mr. Value informed CBS mentioned he was “method happier now.” At Gravity, the CBS correspondent added, “it looks as if there’s quite a lot of that going round.”

— Kelly Clarkson, December 2019.

***

Dan Value, the great boss, went viral. However greater than two dozen former workers say the picture fueling his clout, and that attracted his feminine followers, was a mirage.

“You by no means knew which Dan you had been going to get,” mentioned Stefan Bennett, who labored at Gravity for nearly 13 years. He and others mentioned Mr. Value was an unpredictable chief. Small incidents made him snap.

Jen Peck, who held a high position at Gravity, discovered it so troubling, her physician finally wrote a word to Gravity recommending she give up “for her personal bodily and psychological well-being,” calling the atmosphere “hostile.” Ms. Peck is now a director of engineering at the actual property web site Redfin.

However Mr. Value’s profile made leaving the corporate troublesome.

Korinne Ward, who spent virtually 5 years in firm management, mentioned “it felt like part of you was giving up on this factor you had been selling.”

Earlier than he introduced his resignation, Mr. Value instructed 9 Gravity workers I ought to communicate with. Most mentioned they didn’t know him nicely, loved their work on the firm and described him as a boss who had taken suggestions that he could possibly be too forceful.

Favored 185,000 occasions.

***

In April 2021, three months into their relationship, Ms. Margis met Mr. Value in Palm Springs. Alongside the calming rush of Tahquitz Creek, Mr. Value hiked barefoot, usually whipping out his telephone to test his Twitter. His message celebrating the sixth anniversary of the wage improve acquired 180,000 likes, and different media, together with a bit in Folks, shared his story.

The subsequent morning, Mr. Value needed to make a name and demanded that Ms. Margis depart their room, she mentioned. Sporting only a bikini and canopy up, she protested, however he insisted. For hours, she was locked out, killing time by messaging associates.

“Drop hiiiimmm,” one pal wrote again.

“It’s a no from me dawg,” one other agreed.

Mr. Value discovered her by the pool and leaned in for a kiss, she recalled. She rebuffed him. He snapped that she was not listener and didn’t perceive him. “He mentioned it’s so laborious being him on this planet due to his intelligence,” she later recalled.

This account of what occurred subsequent was detailed in interviews with Ms. Margis, a police report, contemporaneous messages with associates and interviews with three individuals she spoke with quickly after.

Ms. Margis returned to Room 423, the place she took a hashish edible to counter insomnia, one thing she’s usually achieved since being on the 2017 mass capturing at a Las Vegas music competition. Mr. Value returned and tried to provoke intercourse.

“No, I simply took an edible and I’m going to mattress,” she would inform the police she mentioned. “We’ll discuss this within the morning.”

As she drifted to sleep, she felt him penetrate her, she informed the police. She pretended to be asleep, anxious he would kill her if she tried to cease him.

After he completed, she waited a couple of minutes then walked to the toilet earlier than confronting him.

“Did you simply rape me?” she informed the police she mentioned. He flatly denied it, she mentioned.

She was “shaking so unhealthy and will hardly communicate,” she would textual content a pal a number of hours later, including that “he seemed me lifeless within the eyes and mentioned what I do know occurred didn’t occur.”

She informed Mr. Value she felt ache, and had semen inside her. He started providing excuses, that he was simply utilizing his fingers, then he mentioned simply the tip of his penis.

“I do know what you probably did,” she responded.

In response to the police report, Mr. Value boasted that nobody had believed Ms. Colón’s allegations of abuse “due to who he’s and that nobody would consider her both.”

Mr. Value retreated to the entrance desk, demanded a brand new room and offered what the supervisor informed the police amounted to a “again story”: that his girlfriend “felt uncomfortable about falling asleep” throughout intercourse, the supervisor recalled, so he “opted to depart her alone within the resort room.”

As soon as the hashish wore off, Ms. Margis fled house. The subsequent morning, her intuition was to battle.

She texted her associates that she may want them as witnesses. She saved her underwear, and filed the police report. Then she referred to as her mom, who waited within the hospital car parking zone whereas Ms. Margis submitted to a rape equipment. Ms. Margis returned to the automotive, and gave her mom one of many small consolation items the hospital offers survivors, a heart-shaped stone, with one phrase etched: “HOPE.”

Favored 179,000 occasions.

***

Two days later, Ms. Colón, Mr. Value’s former spouse, was checking Instagram when she acquired a message. “I’m reaching out and hope this isn’t triggering in any method,” Ms. Margis wrote.

Ms. Margis went on to say that Mr. Value had raped her and that she believed Ms. Colón’s “each allegation.”

It wasn’t the primary time that Ms. Colón had heard from ladies about unhealthy encounters with Mr. Value.

Ms. Colón had relocated throughout the nation and tried to maneuver on. However escaping Mr. Value’s presence was not possible — even her personal therapist had informed her she had seen associates share his posts on LinkedIn.

Ms. Margis mentioned she had thought-about telling her story publicly. “I wish to do all I can to verify he by no means harms one other girl once more in his life,” she wrote, however feared he would “come after me.”

Ultimately, Ms. Colón related Ms. Margis to a person named Doug Forbes, who had been running a blog about Mr. Value for years. Mr. Forbes had needed to make an uplifting documentary about Mr. Value however fixated as an alternative on what he alleged to be fraud. Gravity defended its practices in a Fb submit.

Mr. Forbes printed posts, usually working 1000’s of phrases lengthy, about Mr. Value, and had tried with out success to get greater than 30 information organizations, together with The Occasions, to run them.

But when somebody Googled the best phrases, his weblog would present up. He heard from Ms. Margis, and posted an anonymized model of her account final August.

Mr. Value mentioned on Wednesday that he believed that Mr. Forbes was funded by a competitor, whom he declined to call. Mr. Forbes referred to as the declare “irrefutably false.”

Different ladies discovered the submit based mostly on Ms. Margis’s expertise and contacted Mr. Forbes, who printed extra nameless accounts and launched a number of ladies to one another. That casual group of girls that Mr. Forbes had helped forge additionally contacted me. However there have been much more ladies. In all, greater than a dozen described predatory conduct.

Mr. Value messaged Serena Jowers, a health coach close to Seattle, in December 2020, after she favored a few of his posts on Instagram. On their third date, Ms. Jowers mentioned, he pulled up movies on Pornhub, to indicate her what he favored. After she resisted watching pornography, he pressured her into having intercourse, she mentioned. She realized he was touching her with just one hand, then noticed him holding his telephone. He was recording them.

Ms. Jowers jumped up and grabbed the closest blanket, yelled at him, and fled, she mentioned. The subsequent morning she texted him, saying the filming made her really feel like she was not in command of her personal physique. “I would like you to delete any video/pics you took,” she wrote.

“I’ll do this,” he instantly texted again. Three different ladies, two of whom he additionally first messaged on social media, additionally informed me that they realized Mr. Value secretly filmed them.

One girlfriend, who requested that I not use her identify, mentioned Mr. Value would invite lovely younger ladies he met on Instagram to hitch them on his yacht, the place she felt anticipated to entertain them.

“I’m bored with being the pinnacle of the harem,” she wrote in her journal.

Thrice he had intercourse along with her in the course of the night time with out her consent, she wrote within the journal.

After they argued, she mentioned Mr. Value would seize her hand and put a pulse monitor on her finger tip. His coronary heart price by no means was elevated, so he might make good choices, he would say. Her pulse would race, so he mentioned she was irrational.

The day after she confided in a pal, whom I spoke with, the pal was on a aircraft to assist her seize issues from Mr. Value’s home and yacht, and depart.

Favored 122,000 occasions.

***

Mr. Forbes shared details about the Palm Springs incident with workers at Gravity. The information roiled the workplace.

“That is presupposed to be an organization that holds itself to a better customary,” mentioned Dan Ludwig, who labored there for a 12 months and a half, “nevertheless it kinda reeked.”

Mr. Value took a depart of absence within the fall of 2021. However at an organization assembly final November, Mr. Value, who was the corporate’s sole proprietor and board member, mentioned he was able to return.

Late this January, Mr. Value met Shelby Alexandra Hayne, an artist with whom he first messaged in 2019 on Instagram.

“I enormously admire your adventurous spirit!” he wrote to her. “And also you’re tremendous scorching LOLzzz.” They exchanged messages. Ms. Hayne, then 24, shared that she had not too long ago graduated from faculty. He shared a clip of himself on Fox Enterprise, saying, “Right here’s my morning to this point.”

Mr. Value proposed occasions to fulfill, however Ms. Hayne brushed him off. A couple of months later, he tried once more.

Folks she admired usually reposted objects from Mr. Value, and when she ran throughout Mr. Forbes’s weblog, she questioned, “Is that this just a few individual with a vendetta?”

She mentioned she hoped that Mr. Value might present recommendation and connections to combine activism into her artwork. She and her boyfriend determined it was value assembly him, even when he may anticipate a date.

“You’re doing probably the most spectacular issues,” Ms. Hayne wrote Mr. Value in December.

In January, they’d dinner at a restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, the place she mentioned they mentioned politics. What occurred subsequent was detailed in interviews, a police report and textual content messages.

Because the restaurant closed, her Uber app wasn’t working, and Mr. Value instructed they keep heat in his Tesla as she downloaded it once more.

Sitting within the entrance seats, he tried to kiss her and grabbed her throat, she informed the police.

“He didn’t let go of my throat straight away,” she recalled.

“After I rejected him,” she mentioned, “he reworked.”

Ms. Hayne referred to as her boyfriend, pretending he was her brother, and requested him to hurry and get her. Mr. Value sped north, driving her to a Park N Trip.

She was scared as a result of he was “very drunk,” the police report mentioned.

“Hurryyyyyyy,” she texted her boyfriend.

Mr. Value raced as much as the highest ground of the car parking zone, drove the automotive in doughnut circles and pulled right into a spot, she informed the police. He reached over to kiss her and grabbed her throat once more, his hand pulsing out and in “for minutes,” the police report mentioned.

“SQUEEZING HARD,” she would textual content a pal the subsequent morning.

After which, he let go. “I’m too drunk,” Ms. Hayne recalled him saying, as he went into the again seat to cross out.

As her boyfriend, Jesse Snowden, pulled up subsequent to them, “she jumped in and pointed her fingers ahead and was like GO NOW,” Mr. Snowden recalled.

When she described what simply occurred, Mr. Snowden remembered Mr. Forbes’s weblog. Ms. Hayne wrote him to share her story. Mr. Forbes related her to Ms. Margis, Ms. Colón and several other different ladies.

“I informed her she ought to name the police and file a police report,” her father, Steve Hayne, a felony protection lawyer, informed me.

Ms. Hayne just isn’t the one girl who described Mr. Value’s palms on her neck. Danni Askini, an activist for transgender rights, remembered her first date with Mr. Value a decade in the past, after they met on OkCupid. After a nice time at a bar, he walked her again to her condo constructing, which they entered by means of the storage. When she wouldn’t invite him upstairs, he snapped, she mentioned, and pushed her towards a wall.

“He gripped my neck and kinda choked me,” she mentioned. He put his palms down the again of her skirt and assaulted her, she mentioned, earlier than she might shove him away.

She mentioned he tried to snicker it off. “‘I simply thought that is what ladies like,’” she recalled him saying.

It’s painful, she mentioned, that he “is the poster youngster for this politics that I actually care about.”

***

Mr. Value has gained lots of of 1000’s of followers on-line since Ms. Margis fled Palm Springs final April.

On Monday, the Palm Springs police division submitted its investigation to the Riverside County district lawyer, recommending a cost of rape of a drugged sufferer, in accordance with Lt. Gustavo Araiza. The prosecutors should now determine whether or not to file fees.

Ms. Margis mentioned she feared a backlash on-line if she accused him publicly. She had acquired threats after showing in a Buzzfeed video concerning the Las Vegas capturing. And since she modeled swimsuits, she anxious individuals may say she had requested for what she had not requested for.

However in February, one thing modified that made her suppose she could possibly be believed: prosecutors in Seattle charged Mr. Value in Ms. Hayne’s case.

The town introduced three fees towards him: reckless driving, assault and assault with sexual motivation. The Seattle Occasions reported on the case in April, and Mr. Value went from posting a number of occasions a day to going completely darkish on social media.

Later that month, Ms. Hayne mentioned the prosecutor informed her that the town may drop the costs after seeing that a few of the earlier Instagram messages she exchanged with Mr. Value had been flirtatious. Her father, a lawyer, wrote a stern letter, and Mr. Forbes, the blogger, emailed a number of ladies, urging them to share their tales and Instagram screenshots with the prosecutor. The prosecutor’s workplace declined to remark.

On Might 31, Mr. Value appeared stone-faced, his lengthy hair wanting barely damp, on a court docket video convention. The prosecutor had dropped the cost for assault with sexual motivation, however proceeded with the case for reckless driving and assault.

Mr. Value’s lawyer entered “not responsible” pleas on his behalf, and the decide issued a non-harassment order till a trial scheduled for October.

“I belief the authorized course of, and I’m wanting ahead to presenting my protection and proving my innocence,” Mr. Value mentioned in his assertion to The Occasions.

He started tweeting once more in mid-July. He acquired half 1,000,000 likes in his first week again.

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