Who is Alex Wolf?

   by Christopher Menkin

It is time to change the graphic from a world unplugged to the “energizer bunny,” as the NorVergence problems keep going and going as customers and creditors continue to fight each other over financing of equipment that has very little value ( the best bid on eBay was  $150 for the heart of the equipment lease: the Matrix box.)

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item= 5724172500&category=80226) 

The Texas Attorney General has joined his counterparts in Illinois, New Jersey and Florida, issuing subpoenas to leasing companies involved in the NorVergence class action lawsuit to stop collecting on related leases, warning of legal actions.   The claim is the lessees were had and the leasing companies should have known better, perhaps were even in “cahoots” with NorVergence. Worse, their main concern was making a profit and not protecting their customer, the user of the product.

"We request that you immediately cease all efforts to collect on agreements purchased from NorVergence," stated a letter from Greg Abbott's office. "Continuing to attempt collection efforts on agreements secured by fraud could subject your company to substantial penalties."

First, these are not “orders” as the attorney general does not have this authority for this type of situation.  These are “requests,” and the response is not only up to those served, but also to a court of law to rule upon ( which may be appealed.)

Many lessees have viewed the attorney general announcements incorrectly. They believe they do not have to continue to make lease payments. The publicity seems to have compounded the situation.

The internet has made it much easier to “write letters” and get government officials, and even politicians, involved that the leasing companies created a conspiracy against them.  The latest to join the fray is Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.


Hillary focuses on Norvergence probe


Sen. Hillary Clinton is throwing the weight of her office behind the investigation into the bankrupt telecom Norvergence.

"I am extremely troubled by this situation," Clinton told the Daily News. "My office is currently looking into these serious complaints and has contacted the state Attorney General's office."

A spokesman for Eliot Spitzer confirmed the attorney general's office had received a call from Clinton's office and promised to share the results of the investigation with her.

As first reported Monday in The News, Norvergence - through its matrix box - promised to cut phone bills of small businesses by more than 30%.

When the company went bankrupt this summer, it left 11,000 customers nationwide with no phone service.

And it stuck them with contracts held by leasing companies like Wells Fargo and Commerce Bank for hundreds of dollars a month that they must keep paying.

The leasing companies have been playing hard ball with these small businesses, by suing them or threatening to damage their credit ratings.

"This is jeopardizing small businesses in the city," said Samantha Kahn, a manager at Jacobson Printing, which has been paying Wells Fargo more than $240 a month.

Other states have stepped in on behalf of small businesses.

Texas recently threatened to take legal actions against the leasing companies if they don't back off from the small businesses during the state's investigation.

"I'd like her to act in the same way" other states have acted, said Kahn.

Clinton said she's eager to find "the result of Spitzer's investigation and to working to ensure that justice is served for any business that was wronged


The above appeared in the October 7th edition of the New York Daily News and was sent to us by a reader.

In the meantime, the bankruptcy proceedings may make many of these lawsuits subject and/or part of the out come. Rosemary Gambardella is the United States Bankruptcy Judge. As noted the deadline for filing a proof of claim must be received by the bankruptcy  clerk's office from all creditors (except a governmental unit), November 29,2004.  For a governmental unit, 180 days from the date of relief.  Several hearings October 4th hearing were postponed until October 5th, but it appears more information is being assembled and matters are now scheduled for 10/19/2004 at 10:00 AM at Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Court House - Courtroom 3E, Newark, New Jersey.

Judge Gambardella granted Forma Holt & Eliades, LLC “...an extension of time for the Trustee to assume or reject certain leases; and the court having considered the papers submitted...Ordered that the time within which the Trustee may assume or reject the Debtor's unexpired leases for the rental of telephone equipment utilized by the Debtor's former customers in connection with telecommunication services provided by the Debtor be and hereby is extended through and including December 31,2004, pursuant to 11 U.S.C-365(d).”

There are other such rulings and documents on file. This is brought to readers attention that it appears any preliminary readings will be made after the first of the year.  Among the 111 debtors listed, many are small, expecting “immediate” relief.

Here are some of the filings: »www.thedigest.com/docs/norvergence/

Leasing News has printed the intentions of the class action suits, who have sent the names and addresses of all the state attorney generals to those with complaints, or have legal action in their state.  Expect to see more announcements from other state's attorney general public information officers.

As posted in Leasing News on, the Telecom Agents Association suggests lessees to continue to make leasing payments:

“First, whatever the amount of money that needs to be paid per month by an ex-Norvergence customer to avoid getting sued by the leasing company is much less than the cost of being sued by the leasing company from a distant state."

"Second, to have a judge decide that the whole Norvergence situation really was a "Ponzi scheme" such that the leasing agreements are invalid, the "whole Norvergence story" must be told in a courtroom where the judge is actually interested in the whole story - not just the small part of the story the leasing company wants to tell in their "nuisance lawsuit". To get an objective hearing of the "whole story" both legal co-ops have endorsed the idea of "going on the offense" by suing the leasing companies as a group through one of several group legal actions that have formed - see www.NorvergenceClassAction.com. "

In the defense of Robert J. Fine, Director of Bank Relations, for NorVergence, it is said that NorVergence Capital, in which he was allegedly the president, did not book any leases.  It is also said the man in charge of the day-to-day operations, who previous employees and others tell Leasing News, was the one they reported to,  not either of the Salzano brothers.  While the two brothers were in the office almost every day, they delegated control to Alexander L. Wolf, chief operating officer. Department heads reported to him. In all the press releases we have seen or reviewed, he was the spokesman quoted for the company.

Leasing News was told Robert J. Fine reported to Mr. Wolf, his direct boss, who explained that what they were leasing was “standard” and the “procedure in the telecom industry.”  He had come from Nortel, one of the providers, and was an expert in telecommunication service and sales. Fine was the respected banker entree, more a “public relations” man than involved in funding, sales, or operation of the company, Leasing News was told.  Insiders say he is getting the notoriety because he was president of the Eastern Association of Equipment Lessors.  There is in reality no connection between the two as they did not do business, except he was an employee of the company. He worked his way up from committee, to director, and then to position of president of a trade association.

These allegedly were the  NorVergence officers:







A memo from the public relations firm handing the account, sent this out as a background for Mr. Wolf. 

“Chief Operating Officer: Mr. Alexander L. Wolf.

“Formerly of Nortel Networks, (2000-2001) Mr. Wolf was a Senior Executive within Nortel Networks' Emerging Markets Group. Mr. Wolf's areas of responsibilities within that Nortel Division have included Business and Market Planning, Operational Planning & Realization,Carrier Product Portfolio Development & Deployment, and Operational Support System Planning & Implementation. While at Nortel, Mr. Wolf also played a major role in helping emerging companies develop comprehensive business & financial plans to support Seed and Stage A operations. Due to the close relationship between Nortel and NorVergence, Executive Management allowed Mr. Wolf to join NorVergence in October 2001. This has facilitated interaction between the two firms based on previous roles and relationships.

“Before joining Nortel Networks, Mr. Wolf was Head of Northeast Sales Operations for Payback Training Systems, Inc., (1999) and pioneer in the E-Learning industry that grew to $10 million in revenues before his departure for Nortel. Mr. Wolf has more than 7 years of experience within the Telecommunications and Data-Communications industries.

Previously, Mr. Wolf held leadership positions with Datatec (1998) managing the sub-contractor relationship to the IBM account, and Siemens, (1995-1998) where he developed and implemented cutting-edge technology solutions for some of the largest Global 100 firms.”


From the Fall edition of Muhlenberg College “Class Notes” 

“'Alexander L. Wolf sends the following update: “My start-up company has gone from business plan to cash flow positive in its first full month of sales/operations (January 2002). We are growing very quickly!! I already have 90-plus employees in Newark, N.J. (Check out www.norvergence.com for details.)' He also reports that he and wife Jenifer recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary, “'but it will be a few years before kids'.”

Before the bankruptcy of NorVergence, here is their Dun and Bradstreet report, showing chain of command, plus financial statements and credit ratings: 


Telecom Agents Association Review of NorVergence, Inc. by Dan Baldwin, TAA Editor-at-Large, December 3, 2003, explains how the program works, including the separate service agreement, and gives indication that the lessees were aware of the dual roles in the NorVergence program: 


A press release from NorVergence explains a new program:

At this time, many of those who looked at the program, considered it a “scam:”http://www.leasingnews.org/items/Telecom.doc

The value of the equipment as per eBay bids:

Here is the 15 page NorVergence training manual on how to sell the product and use equipment leasing:

Here is how the story is being printed in the media today:

Leasing News for over a year and a half before the bankruptcy filings was hearing “alarms” from users, lessees, and funders.  As predicted last June, this is going to steam role into one of the largest leasing company public relations failures of modern times, and while early predictions have said there would be more than $3 million in losses, the ultimate, including costs will be a minimum of $100 million, and some believe it may wind up at $250 million.

There is no doubt this publicity has been one of the worst in recent years, perhaps turning more businesses away from entering into equipment leasing of any kind.  It certainly has gotten the attention of Hillary Clinton and other politicians, which may include state attorney generals who run for office every four years, or often seek higher positions.

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