Follow The Funding

March 25, 2016:

Pepper and JARVIS have made a breakthrough on Purifier Funding. She calls X-Red.

Stark Tower - New York





Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It'd taken Pepper and Jarvis some time but they had eventually made some headway tracing down the Purifier's financials. They have some fairly hefty financial backers, some of whom are more intelligent than others. Between the two of them they've about a dozen companies, several of whom are definitely engaging in financial and material support of the movement and others of which are probably doing so.

Of those there's only four of them that are doing something provable in court. The rest… well, there may be a creative solution for that. These are corporate actors for the most part. And if there's one person who knows who to engage in corporate warfare…

The call had come in late in the day, so Bobby swing by the deli in the building next door and is bringing Pepper up a ruben and some matzo ball soup.

Pepper Potts doesn't have the heart to tell Bobby that Reuben sandwiches are almost at the bottom of her preferred list, but she most definitely won't say no to some matzo ball soup. She's got all of the collected data neatly organized and waiting, and has just had JARVIS set the TV to play music softly. She leaves word with the front desk to have Bobby come straight up when he arrives.

Brin had been out of the office when that call came in, but Bobby left a message for her and she's joined him at Stark Towers. Being directed straight up to Peppers office, she stops at the door "Hello Pepper. May we come in?"

There's a suppressed air of anticipation about the brunette. This is something they've been chasing for a while and that Pepper might have something that can break the Purifiers supply… it's important.

Bobby sets the food down as they come into the office. He's got a new belt. It's a bit techy and every once in a while it makes his watch beep. Fortunately it also seems to keep him from randomly flash freezing rooms so, you know, a few beeps are worth the price.

Jervis already has the holo-readouts prepared. The list is a bit surprising. Some of the companies have obvious ties to Pro-Friends of Humanity political or business figures. A number of them are based right in this region. Others, though? LLC's representing only a small handful of individuals (usually lawyers or other kinds of professional), a few of which were actually considered rather mutant friendly.

The amount of money on the table is also rather staggering. Pepper has the figures but the aid going to the purifiers over the last several years could have funded Stark Industires several times over. No wonder they're so well trained and well equipped. Money talks.

"Hello Pepper. We came as quick as we could. Sounded important."

Pepper Potts smiles as they enter her office, and she moves to close the door. Not something she usually does, but the data she and JARVIS have gathered is … potentially illegal. "It is. I've got news. And you might not like some of it." She gestures for them to sit, then lets them start looking over the holo readouts. "Once we knew what to start looking for, we found quite a lot." She gestures to one list. "There's everything from small law firms to truly major corporations listed there. Helzerg. Dinoco. Connect Cable. The list goes on. It's enough to make me even more paranoid than I already am." Scattered amongst the list of companies are several that are highlighted in red.

Taking a seat, watching Bobby put the food out, Brin finally turns her attention to Pepper and the holo list. As Pepper expounds, the small brunettes eyes widen at the list of companies. "We suspected but …" she might look a little green around the gills as the extent of what Pepper's uncovered becomes obvious.

"Bobby, this goes deeper and wider than I ever imagined… Eyes scanning the list of companies "The ones in red, are here in the Tri City region… "

Bobby nods. "Though not all of them." He's also scanningthe list. There's… a lot of them. "All of these are supporting the Purifiers in some way." It's enough to make the X-Red mutant think that they haven't made any difference at all. One thing he does note is that he doesn't see any X-Red clients. Which at least avoids some rather thorny financial problems.

"Well it's a start. What do you have on these guys specifically?"

"It varies. A few, I have enough to turn them in to authorities like the FBI, because JARVIS uncovered a LOT more dirt than just supporting the Purifiers. Like Suisun here." Pepper touches the name on the list, and the holo image expands to show details. Lots and lots of numbers. "We found proof that they purchased weapons from illegal sources and had them shipped into the country alongside their usual imports."

Brin listens as Pepper explains, nodding in grim satisfaction. "Well that will keep some of them busy for a little while. But what about the rest?" The list is extensive "What have you found on those? That's a lot of numbers associated with this, any ties to the Irish Mob or similar?"

Bobby takes out his own tablet and after a moment of getting permissions from Jarvis, links to Peppers. "Okay… yeah I'm getting it now. There's four here we can actually go directly to some regulatory or law enforcement agency here too… Suisun… that's a lot of weapons. Yeah, FBI and DEA will want in on that."

Bobby does a quick tabulation. "That's still only about twenty percent of the funding represented though." Twenty percent is a big hit, but it's not enough to shut them down. Enough to make them mad but not much more.

"There's got to be more we can do about that." Bobby, though, doens't have much a business mind. Well, more of one than he used to but that's really Brin and Pepper's baliwick.

Pepper Potts taps at the screen, and a handful of businesses are highlighted in yellow. "I was dismayed when JARVIS pointed these out. Stark Industries has contracts with them, but I've already got Legal working on terminating those contracts and replacing them with other companies. Just hearing that we're dropping them will likely make other companies drop them as well. So that might kill most of them." Sadly, she can't have them outright shut down for any sort of violations, because if SIis anything, it's VERY diligent about making sure all affiliates follow OSHA safety regulations strictly and consistently.

Brin has been reviewing the list as Bobby and Pepper talk. Terminating contracts is one thing "Bobby, can you run those companies against our suppliers too? If there's any there, we can take our business elsewhere." There's likely one or two which is nothing in the scheme of things.

"JARVIS, what do we know about the individuals behind the larger of these corporations? Anything we might be able to leverage?" Brin knows they're likely going to have to dig deeper but … well, that's a lot of money, right?

Bobby nods. He's already thinking. As is JARVIS but thinking is JARVIS' job. It's all he does. "The manner of information you are requesting is not of the sort commonly available on public sources, Miss Meyers." The AI informs the mutant. Which is to say, someone more directly related to the company, like Pepper, has to ask him before he tries hacking anything. Since JARVIS is highly connected to Stark, he doesn't hack things willy-nilly.

Then Bobby speaks up. "Some of these companies are competitors. And some aren't… but are in some similar businesses…" He considers a bit more. "I wonder, just, you know, how much it would take Stark to devalue them enough to cause them to go under or… cut expenses. You know. Announce projects similar to what they're working on or… take them over." He doesn't know how much business sense that makes but economic warfare is a thing. In fact it's a thing they're trying to do.

"Well, we can to some degree, but we've never really been in the habit of conducting hostile takeovers." Pepper sits back in her chair. "Muscling some of them out of business by making their products only better isn't a surefire thing either. SI would have to be careful. We can't spread our resources out too thin, or if we try and fail…" Business ventures are never a sure thing.

Brins eyes light at that suggestion and she starts looking through the list "Not just hostile takeovers, Pepper. There's a number of things that could be done."

"For example Millenial Dynamics, VisionTech and DynamiVision have all posted losses for the last three quarters." Brins been following corporate news "They're now stuck with having to raise prices or decrease expenses, or a combination of both, to stay afloat. And I know they create similar products to SI. All it would take is a slight drop in the retail price of your products, combined with a little marketing, and they'll hurt bad."

Bobby nods at Pepper's commentary. "Too crude, right. But if…" And then Brin's on it.

"Right Brin. These aren't Purifier fronts. They are actual businesses. They have to make money for there to be money for side projects. All accounts suggest that the Purifiers are aggressively recruiting and so far they have the cash to give military training and weaponry to their members. If we dry that well up a bit…" People don't have to go out of business, they just have to back off their support.

Pepper Potts raises her eyebrows at Brin's rather astute suggestion. "Now that we can do." And even a small dip in retail prices would increase sales and thus make up for any potentially lost revenues. "JARVIS, please advised Financial and Marketing. Let's really put the hurt on these companies."

There's still more they can do, or at least Brin thinks. "These companies, Pepper, if I remember correctly from when I was helping you recently…" another five or six, maybe more "… all use the same suppliers for base materials. What if SI was to do a mass purchase? Dry up the market for a while?" beat "Didn't you say there were other projects about to launch that used these materials anyway?"

That should leave the other companies flailing a little, but what can they do about it?

Bobby get's a grin, that was intuitive. "Bobby, could you ask Cypher and Shadowcat to start working out who's behind the other organisations? Maybe we can dig up some dirt on them."

"I'll pass the request on." Might also be something to take to their allies. Bobby is not a believer in handling these problems 'in house'. In his mind the X-Men's traditional insularity is one of the things that makes them the most vulnerable. If no one knows or cares about you, if you isolate yourself from people who want to help… well, then that's what you'll get.

JARVIS is already on it. "I have sent a message to Mister Goulet in Marketing and Miss Sterns in Financial. Are we advancing the timetable on any of our upcoming releases Miss Potts?"

Of the companies on this list, Lobotech is suspiciously absent. Well, maybe they're smarter than to be in business like this.

"If it's feasible, JARVIS. I don't want to force a product out onto the market before it's truly ready." Pepper looks at the others. "That should put a few good dents in these companies, but I don't want it to be too glaringly obvious who we're targeting, or they'll wise up." She looks at the list again. "That still leaves a LOT of ground not covered."

Brin thinks she knows what Bobby is thinking and she nods. She doesn't disagree. In fact she's gone to developing a contact network with their allies for just this sort of thing.

"We could target their supply network, drive the cost of their materials up. Where legal, stop supply to some of the companies. Some of these will be clients of SI, I'm sure."

Judging by what she's seeing from the numbers JARVIS is showing "That will target another 15. 35 of the suppliers to The Purifiers hurt? We'll see things change. Companies may get sloppy then, and give us more of an opening.

"Lobotech's not listed here. Not that I expected. Are there any Lobotech subsidiaries, JARVIS?"

"Three affiliates, no direct subsidiaries." JARVIS answers. Not quite enough to hurt Lobo directly. And most of his business is defense subcontracting. Difficult to target.

"Thirty five percent is a good start. I'd like to get it up to fifty if we can…" Bobby looks over the list again. "Okay, well… how many of these people do you think are died in the wool Purifiers supporters? What if Stark were to give them a better deal? I'll bet if some of these companies had a chance to partner with Stark they'd clean their acts up."

"Maybe. But if they don't, they could be construed as dragging SI through the mud with them." Though it would have to be some pretty impressive mud. Pepper checks the list again. "There are several corporations here that SI would have absolutely no reason to be invovled with. And it would likely raise suspicions if we tried. Maybe…" She pauses briefly. "I do have a friend in the IRS. Do any of these look like enough to have an audit triggered?"

"Yes." Brin nods to Pepper at that last question. Audits take time and money. Even if nothing is found, which is doubtful, it will still cost the company and tie up resources.

""Affiliates of Lobotech?" Brins thoughtful for a moment "We know that one of Lobotechs old subsidiaries has ended up in the hands of Organised Crime. There has to be something that ties the affiliates to Lobotech, to give us a reason to look deeper, legally."

"What about targetting the accountants and lawyers for the bigger companies? Do an 'untouchables' on them. Get them for things like Tax Evasion, Mail Fraud etc." Going back to good old techniques.

"Well, if we have reasonable suspicion we can prove it, that's not a bad thought." Bobby says. "And the IRS will probably do it. But otherwise… I mean using the legal system to harrass your enemies is great but it can get turned back on you. We want to make sure whatever we drop on the Purifier's supporters doensn't bite us later." There's a pause as the ice nerd thinks a bit more.

"If… X-Red or Stark were to be on some of the same projects as Lobotech that might give us a reason to dig deeper without hitching our wagon to theirs. But we shouldn't get too focused. Lobotech, if they're providing aid, isn't providing enough on their own to run the organization by themselves. If we take out 40 to 50 of their funding, we'll see a sharp decline in the number and quality of murderers and terrorists we're dealing with."

Pepper Potts nods at Bobby's words. "Involving the government is very delicate. We can't just say, "I think they're evil!". In fact, pointing a finger at any company other than my own would be looked at with a lot of suspicion. Now, if there were a way to get one or more of their own employees to raise concerns, that's a whole different story."

"Pareto Principle says that 80 of the funding will be done by 20 of the companies. Target half of those and we make our goal." Brin murmurs "We've addressed retail pricing and supply of goods, which will hurt many businesses. What's left? Those that provide to services to them, their reputation … " which is what she had meant by the larger companies.

"Getting their employees' to step forward would be good, Pepper, but I can't help but feel that's a steep hill to climb."

"Odds are good that a lot of them won't know if there's something going on too." Bobby murmurs. "Still, it's a game plan." A lot of it is in Brin and Pepper's court, but it's a game plan. "I'll work with the cops for the ones stupid enough do be doing something actually criminal. Anything you two will need from me?"

"I'm sure I'll be able to use an extra pair of eyes and hands, but I can't say for certain, just what it will be." Brin offers Bobby a small smile, he knows how she operates "But for now, let's start with what we have and dig a little deeper into the rest - something will present itself, I'm sure. And we'll step softly."

"Thank Pepper and JARVIS." the brunette offers a smile to both. "Now, if you'll excuse me, my evenings not done, I've a little more to see to. Can you give me a ride, Bobby?"

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