SSE CEO Creates Job for and Hires Girlfriend, Accused of Incompetence

The Fountain Hopper is Stanford’s irregular, independent and irreverent campus newsletter. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe at fountainhopper.com, or read the full issue here.


Update, 9/3/16, 2pm PST: We have gotten word that Frederik Groce has resigned from his position as CEO of SSE. His resignation letter is attached below. #impact


WHAT WE KNOW

  • Frederik Groce ’14, SSE CEO, created a job for and subsequently hired his current girlfriend Jasmine “Jazzi” Mason with $70k salary of (your) student money.
  • Jazzi, graduate of Nevada School of Massage Therapy, accused of “dire incompetency”
  • Groce tops up his full-time job’s comp of $147k (of student money) by working part-time with VC Firm Storm Ventures, without SSE Board Approval, often skips work
  • Documents obtained by FoHo show Ateeq Suria, chair of SSE Board, expressed concerns about Groce and Mason’s job performance back in 2015
  • External consultants brought in to evaluate “toxic workplace”
  • Groce accused of gross conflict of interest by current and former employees, board members
  • FoHo calls for resignation or dismissal of Groce

BACKGROUND

You’ve heard of the ASSU. What you might not have known is that they’re actually very rich. So rich, in fact, that back in 1994 ASSU created an entity called Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE, for short), with the mission [pdf] of “Guarantee[ing] the long term financial viability of the ASSU”.

Fast forward two decades, and ASSU/SSE has combined assets of over $18m, most of which is leftover student activities fees from past years. Very broadly speaking, SSE exists to manage and invest this endowment. Some is invested in portfolios managed by student employees. More is spent supporting SSE’s various “business units”, including “Advertising” (read: the people that put Wells Fargo flyers in your bathroom), Cardinal Ventures, and the Student Store. A 14-person Board comprising of students, university administrators and outside members oversees SSE’s work, and is responsible for hiring and firing the CEO.

It’s important to note that SSE is part of the ASSU — that is, it’s owned by the student body (so, like, you), manages the money of the student body (your money), and is fundamentally accountable to you.

With that in mind, here’s what we know:

CONFLICT OF INTEREST AS CEO CREATES JOB FOR GIRLFRIEND

TL; DR: CEO hires girlfriend to do ‘office design’ for SSE part-time, hires her full-time in October ’15, requests post-factum Board approval in November, sets her compensation at over $70k.

Sometime in the summer of 2015, Groce (annual compensation, not including hefty bonus: $147k) [aside: isn’t that sort of insane?] hired Jasmine “Jazzi” Mason to work part-time on redesigning the SSE offices (on the first floor of Old Union).

A few months after, in October, Groce hired her full-time into a newly created operations role, which, according to the job description, includes the job of “assist[ing] the executive leadership of the ASSU/SSE”.

In November, Groce sent a letter [pdf] to the Board informing them that he had hired an “individual” into the newly created role of “SSE Operations Manager & AP Accountant”. The letter neglected to mention the obvious conflict of interest in hiring your girlfriend to come work in “assisting” you then paying her a salary bankrolled by Stanford students, but ho hum.

According to two independent tipsters affiliated with SSE, Jazzi’s compensation was set at over $70k annual, with the opportunity for a large bonus at the end of the year.

Tipsters tell FoHo that Groce and Jazzi have been a couple since the middle of 2015. While verifying, we actually found out Fred and Jazzi go way back to 2009 [Facebook pic], when Groce and Jazzi both attended the same high school in Portland.

While Groce was at Stanford, Facebook and LinkedIn show Jazzi attended the Nevada School of Massage Therapy (“Graduate in just 7.5 months!”), moved to South Carolina (and got engaged), and began working for Multi Level Marketing cosmetics company Mary Kay.

In June of 2015, Groce posted a link on his Facebook timeline [imgur] supporting Jazzi’s “Support our Troops” GoFundMe (urging friends to buy Mary Kay products), calling her “a close friend.” By November (a few days after Groce informed the Board of Jazzi’s hire), Groce was Jazzi’s “love” [imgur].

According to tipsters familiar with the situation, the conflict of interest surrounding Groce’s hiring of Jazzi came to the attention of the Board of SSE only in December, some six months after her initial part-time employment. Tipsters tell us the Board was “furious”.

We’re also told that Rick Moyer [bio], Stanford’s AVP for Audit, Compliance and Privacy and member of the SSE Board, was both aware of and appalled at the level of malfeasance within SSE. In addition, several high-ranking Stanford administrators who also serve on SSE’s board requested names of alternatives to replace Groce as CEO.

To illustrate the extent of impropriety, we turn to the example of Stanford’s voluminous HR policy, which forbids the employment of “related persons” without authorization at the Vice Provost level, and states that “under no circumstances may a supervisor hire or approve any compensation action” for such persons.

Not only did Groce neglect to inform the Board of this conflict of interest, he also continues to oversee Jazzi’s SSE compensation, which, again, is paid for with your money.

ALLEGATIONS OF INCOMPETENCE, CONSULTANTS CALLED IN

From what we can understand, Jazzi is not very good at her job. One SSE employee told FoHo that she was initially “invisible” around the office and was “unreliable.” Emails obtained by FoHo detail numerous allegations of basic workplace incompetence, including absenteeism, watching Netflix at work, ignoring time-sensitive emails, and “forgetting” operational tasks assigned to her. Additionally, SSE employees have told FoHo that Jazzi still works for Mary Kay.

Other SSE employees took their complaints about Jazzi to SSE’s board. As far as we can tell, no action was taken.

In fact, the situation got so bad that external consultants (ACT consulting) were brought in to produce a report on SSE’s general organizational health amidst allegations of a “toxic culture.” Last Tuesday, FoHo filed a public records request with the ASSU requesting documents that we believe will let us know more about SSE/ASSU malfeasance, but have yet to receive a substantive reply.

We’re told Groce is very concerned for his job with Storm Ventures, where he took a part time job several months ago and expects to work after his two-year term as SSE CEO expires in June. (We should add: as far as we can gather, the Board did not approve Fred’s work with Storm while he was still employed full-time by SSE. Also, Storm works in the same business area as one of SSE’s projects — Cardinal Ventures — creating yet another very obvious conflict of interest).

Three separate sources within SSE have told us that Groce is regularly absent from the office during business hours, presumably while spending time on his other job [because $147k isn’t enough]).

Jasmine Mason and Fred Groce did not respond to multiple requests for comment, nor did Ateeq Suria, chair of the SSE Board and theoretically the person responsible for hiring and firing the CEO of SSE. FoHo’s sources requested anonymity due to ongoing employment with SSE.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

It’s your student union, and its your money!

Do you really want north of $217k (plus bonus!) of ASSU’s endowment and Student Fees to be paid to a couple accused of gross conflict of interest, incompetence, favoritism and unprofessionalism?

For context, that’s $31 per student (if we count just undergrads), or $14ish (if we include grads).

We care enough to call for the immediate resignation or dismissal of Fred Groce as CEO of SSE.

We also call for the pro-rated return of Groce’s salary and bonus for FY15 and FY14 to account for days not worked and office absenteeism.

Additionally, we call for a full and public apology from Groce for misleading the student body.

People that fuck around with student money don’t deserve to be paid $147k, period. Please don’t.


Update, 3/9/2016, 2pm PST: Frederik Groce has resigned as SSE CEO.

PS: Full SSE Board contact details here, in case you want to drop them an email.

The Fountain Hopper is Stanford’s irregular, independent and irreverent campus newsletter. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe at fountainhopper.com, or read the full issue here.