An FBI investigation into marketing tech company HubSpot reveals alleged “email hacking” and “extortion,” according to documents seen by Business Insider.
These are new details involving attempts by people no longer with the company to obtain a manuscript of a book about the company.
To recap: Last summer, HubSpot’s chief marketing officer Mike Volpe was “terminated for cause,” content VP Joe Chernof “resigned before the Company could determine whether to terminate him for similar violations,” and CEO Brian Halligan was “sanctioned,” HubSpot said in a press release.
The two executives who left the company had been involved something unethical “in connection with attempts to procure a draft manuscript of a book involving the company,” according to the company’s press release.
The book was a memoir written by journalist and former employee Dan Lyons.
After an internal investigation, the company turned information over to the FBI and US Attorney who looked into the matter and dropped it, with no criminal charges filed.
But Lyons knew very few details about what actually went down.
“The VP who had been my boss resigned before he could be terminated. That was the first I knew about any of this,” Lyons told Business Insider.
The situation has been weighing on his mind. So he and his attorney obtained the FBI’s records of the investigation, which included notes of the interviews that FBI agents conducted, via a Freedom of Information Act and shared the documents with Business Insider.
The documents are heavily redacted. Still, a couple of parts of them jump out.
They confirm that all of this came about because people at the company were afraid that Lyons’ book would “embarrass the company, as well as, individuals who worked there.”
The documents also say that someone involved was allegedly trying to use “tactics such as email hacking and extortion in order to railroad the book” and there were “multiple failed attempts to manipulate and extort people.”
There were “multiple failed attempts to manipulate and extort people.”
The documents mention that someone in California filed a “John Doe” lawsuit claiming extortion, too, though provided no details on that.
The scheme didn’t work, by the way — the book is coming out next month. It’s called “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.”
A HubSpot spokesperson shared this statement from John Kelleher, HubSpot General Counsel, about the situation:
“Following an internal investigation in July 2015, we turned our findings over to the authorities. We haven’t had any additional communication with them since cooperating with the investigation last year but it’s our understanding that they chose not to pursue any criminal charges.”
What was so embarrassing?
Lyons tells Business Insider that while the book depicts some bizarre antics that he experienced at the company, he doesn’t know what the blackmail-worthy information could have been.
The FBI asked him much the same thing.
Lyons told the FBI, for instance, that he didn’t know about people having affairs or other such typical things typically used in blackmail.
Lyons told the FBI that his book focuses on culture stuff, like the day that all employees were told to stop working for the day and “conquer their fears.” So everyone spent the day painting and doing other “fear conquering” activities that Lyons found “silly” and “cult-like.”
Lyons has not given up on trying to find out what really happened, he told Business Insider.
In the meantime, Lyons currently works as a consultant for the HBO comedy show “Silicon Valley.” We wouldn’t be shocked to see this stranger-than-fiction situation wind up as a plot for an upcoming episode.