“Shark Tank” star and founder of the FUBU clothing brand, Daymond John, is calling out the Miami Herald for a report saying his company sold N95 masks — the coveted personal protective equipment (PPE) being used during the coronavirus pandemic — for an extremely high price.
John took to Twitter on Wednesday to denounce the claims by the Herald that his company, Shark Group, sold the masks for “more than three times the market price.” He said the reports of price gouging were just plain wrong.
“Today’s Miami Herald story and subsequent reports are false, inaccurate and shows a complete reckless disregard for the truth,” John said in a statement. “Let me be clear: Proper reporting would have shown I did not set any prices and that my team worked with the State of Florida to: 1. Save lives 2. Help vet the overwhelming amount of incoming PPE offerings based on my manufacturing expertise and guide them how to best do this 3. Play a pivotal role to stop pricing gouging, and successfully identify potential fraud and theft of PPE product to protect taxpayers funds.”
John went on to say that “states were not setup [sic] to vet and operate global supply chains and sourcing” and “many states were forced to blindly wire money to nefarious parties around the world and ultimately never received correct or safe product.”
Therefore, John said, his company acted as “an intermediary” to vet the distributors, 3M, the company that makes the N95 masks. John argued that his company was aiming to “protect Florida taxpayers, while establishing escrow protections that allowed the State to conduct proper due diligence before finalizing its purchase of masks.”
John finished by saying “our system did exactly what it was intended to do. No money was spent and every penny of taxpayers money remained safe. We will continue to work with the proper government agencies in this capacity.”
He also had one more note for the Miami Herald, calling their coverage “a gross distortion of the truth in a blind effort to create splashy headlines to mislead readers.”
Read his full statement below.
The Miami Herald reported on Wednesday that Florida was on the verge of paying John’s company, Shark Group, $7 a piece for 1 million N95 masks. Usually the masks sell for under $2 each.
The Herald reported that mask deals “had been falling through for weeks and Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management, decided the state would pay any price to get them into the hands of desperate healthcare workers in COVID-19 hot zones in Florida.”
Moskowitz said that John told him that he had “connections with factories in China.”
However, according to The Herald, instead of signing a purchase order with the vendor, the state signed a purchase order for an escrow agreement on March 25 with the law firm that was to orchestrate the transaction, Foley & Lardner. The arrangement would reportedly have the state agreeing to pay $7 million to the Shark Group, and the money would be put into an escrow account handled by the law firm. “Also signing the deal was Joe Jacquot, the governor’s general counsel, who came to work for Gov. Ron DeSantis after four years as a partner at Foley & Lardner,” the Herald reported.
The Herald also said other participants named on the deal, which was signed by Moskowitz and John, included Jared Rosenstein, Moskowitz’s legislative affairs director and former legislative aide, Morri Chowaiki, executive vice president for the Shark Group, Larry Fox of the Shark Group, and Kevin Hyde of Foley & Lardner. The Herald initially said attempts to reach The Shark Group for comment were unsuccessful.
Despite the list of signatures, the $7 million no-bid offer fell through on April 13.
It’s now among the deals being slammed by the 3M company. They’ve assembled a team of lawyers in an attempt to file lawsuits across the country, and in Canada, to go after fraud and price gouging of its coveted masks.
“3M is not aware of how the Shark Group would gain access to our respirators as it is not an authorized distributor of 3M products or one of our channel partners,” said Jennifer Ehrlich, spokesperson for 3M in a Wednesday statement. “3M list prices, which are published on our website, are far lower than what appears to have been offered to the State of Florida.” 3M is planning lawsuits even though many of the targeted deals fell through.
“3M is filing lawsuits in cases where third parties use the company’s name, brand or trademark to engage in price gouging of N95 respirators and other illegal and unethical behavior,’’ Ehrlich explained.