The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is taking bold new steps to address its alleged mishandling of abuse, and yesterday voted to set up a task force to deal with the issue. At the same time, a leading abuse advocate is raising serious concerns about the firm the SBC Executive Committee has hired to investigate abuse issues—Guidepost Solutions.
In a series of recent tweets, author and seminary professor, Wade Mullen revealed several instances where Guidepost Solutions has not represented the best interests of victims, but instead has protected powerful clients. And as Mullen warned, if an investigation isn’t conducted properly, the result can be worse than the initial situation.
“Churches and ministries in need of independent investigations must take great care when making decisions because their next steps can either bring much needed light, and perhaps healing, or bring more darkness, and worsen the suffering,” Mullen tweeted.
It has not yet been determined whether the SBC’s new task force will take over the Executive Committee’s investigation headed by Guidepost Solutions, or will set up a separate review, potentially with another company.
Ostensibly, the SBC investigation(s) will be designed to listen to the voices of victims, who allegedly have been silenced or minimized by SBC leaders. And well-respected abuse advocate Rachel Denhollander has called Guidepost Solutions a “highly qualified firm” that is capable of reviewing the Executive Committee’s actions and advising SBC leaders.
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Yet Mullen noted that Guidepost Solutions has historically served wealthy individuals and corporations.
They have historically served wealthy individuals and corporations. Here's an interview where one of their leaders discusses how they address "delicate matters" like abuse allegations.https://t.co/SypgzmtzIr
— Wade Mullen (@wademullen) June 14, 2021
Guidepost also advertises itself as tackling private investigations “with the objective of providing the information required to . . . solve problems and protect assets.”
In a 2014 interview with Private Wealth magazine, a Guidepost executive described its “private client protection program” as a combination of investigation, risk mitigation and crisis management “tailored to the needs of high-net-worth and high-profile” individuals or offices. The executive, then-CEO Andrew O’Connell, said Guidepost’s clients are often “already in crisis mode and they just want their problem to go away.”
O’Connell added: “We’re very good at making the problems go away with the least amount of repercussions for the client.”
One of Guidepost’s highest-profile clients is former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Strauss-Kahn was initially charged in New York with multiple charges, including attempted rape, after a hotel maid said he had sexually assaulted her.
In 2011, Strauss-Kahn hired Guidepost to probe the background of the hotel maid.
According to O’Connell, the charges against Strauss-Kahn were dropped, “(b)ased in part on the evidence Guidepost gathered.” The case was settled out of court, but the hotel maid told a French magazine she felt “tricked and betrayed” afterward.
Strauss-Kahn was later accused by a New York journalist of attempted rape in a case prosecutors dropped. He also has been charged and acquitted of allegations he was involved with a prostitution ring.
Guidepost’s connection with the former IMF head “is a major problem,” tweeted Boz Tchividjian, founder of G.R.A.C.E., Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, and a lawyer specializing in defending sexual abuse victims.
— Boz Tchividjian (@BozT) June 14, 2021
Guidepost Solutions also was the firm to which convicted rapist, Harvey Weinstein, turned in 2020 to investigate people Weinstein thought were talking to media about his sexual conduct with women.
In his testimony at Weinstein’s trial, Sam Anson, an investigator for Guidepost Solutions, confirmed that Weinstein had called him seeking an investigation. Anson said he had also received an email directly from Weinstein that included specific actions Weinstein wanted Anson to take.
The email reportedly included a list of names, including Annabella Sciorra, one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of rape. Anson said that in the email, Weinstein advised Anson, “The red flags are the first to call,” with Sciorra’s name in red.
Anson said he didn’t proceed with the investigation “because he didn’t receive instructions to do so.”
Also concerning are allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Guidepost Solutions’ founder, Bart Schwartz, has engaged in misconduct.
In 2017, the SEC accused Schwartz of failing to disclose a conflict of interest when acting as a court-appointed receiver in a case involving a hedge fund called Platinum Management. As receiver, Schwartz was responsible to disperse what was left of Platinum’s funds to victimized investors.
According to The City, the SEC discovered after Schwartz had been appointed receiver that Schwartz had previously been hired by a law firm, Milberg Weiss, to defend a $6.5 million loan Platinum had made to the firm. This meant Milberg Weiss was a significant debtor in the Platinum case. Yet Schwartz reportedly never disclosed the conflict of interest.
The City also reported that the SEC accused Schwartz of racking up bills. According to a June 2017 filing with the court, the receivership had run up $26.2 million in “operational expenses” from what had started as a $609 million fund.
In addition to hiring outside law firms and accountants, Schwartz also reportedly brought in eight other lawyers and staff from Guidepost Solutions and asked that his requests for fees be kept under seal. (According to a 2011 article in Macleans, Guidepost Solutions normally charges about $700 an hour per investigator.)
Schwartz disputed the allegations by the SEC, but eventually withdrew as a receiver “to assist in an orderly transition.”
Guidepost’s investigation of Loritts raises more red flags
Guidepost Solutions also was the firm hired by the Summit Church, following allegations the church’s executive pastor, Bryan Loritts, had covered up sex crimes at a former church.
Guidepost’s investigation failed to answer key questions about the case like what happened to the phone containing evidence that Loritts’ brother-in-law had secretly recorded women, and potentially minors, in bathrooms.
Loritts first claimed he gave the phone to elders at his church, Fellowship Memphis. But he later changed his story and said he gave the phone to a Fellowship Memphis pastor. That pastor, Bill Garner, refused to participate in Guidepost’s investigation and no one has taken responsibility for the missing phone.
In addition, a victim of Loritts’ brother-in-law and Greg Selby, a former insider at Fellowship Memphis, told Guidepost that Loritts and other pastors engaged in a cover-up.
Yet in its report, Guidepost Solutions effectively exonerated Loritts, stating, “Through our interviews, reviews of documents and reviews of communications, we found no convincing evidence that Loritts was involved in a cover up.”
When Guidepost’s report published, Selby told The Roys Report that he believed Guidepost found only what they were looking for.
“They had a very narrow scope of what they were interested in,” Selby said of the investigators he spoke with. “I don’t think they were trying.”
He added that investigators told him weeks before the investigation concluded that “nobody was going to be happy with this report” and that the firm wouldn’t find any conclusive evidence.
“So, I felt like it was a foregone conclusion,” Selby said.
Another Christian organization that has recently hired Guidepost Solutions is Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).
After Miller & Martin delivered its devastating report, showing not only that Ravi Zacharias had abused multiple women, but that RZIM leaders had silenced whistleblowers, RZIM announced that Guideposts would “conduct a thorough evaluation of RZIM.”
That was in February. To date, there have been no updates on Guidepost’s investigation. RZIM also has been unwilling to state whether Guidepost’s report, once complete, will be made public.
Sarah Einselen contributed to this report.