Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Record Co. Exec Gets Three Years For Fiddling Over £660K

Guilty: Schwier After His Plea

The former head of global production at record label giant Universal Music was jailed for three years today for stealing over £660,000 from the company, which he claims was mostly given away to his staff and to charity.

Duncan Schwier, 52, of Clifden Road, Twickenham left behind a paper trail when promoted, which revealed multiple invoice payments to non-existent companies for over a decade, which had been set-up by him.

The American-based French-owned multinational is the largest music corporation in the world and its artists include U2, Eminem, 50 Cent and Jennifer Lopez.

He pleaded guilty to one count of stealing £643,697.35 between December 31, 2001 and December 31, last year from his Kensington-based employers.

Prosecutor Mr. Olu Phillips told Isleworth Crown Court: "The defendant had in fact been employed by 'Atmosphere' music company going back to 1984 and over a series of acquisitions and name changes that company came to be the Universal Music Group.

"In that company, at at the end of June 2013, the defendant was the global head of production with Universal Music Group.

'He was promoted or moved from that position in early 2013 and another member of staff took over that position and that member of staff, seeking to familiarise himself with the financial system came across what appeared to be suspect invoices.

"There followed an enquiry and investigation and over that period the defendant had stolen £643,697.35p and that was by way of him submitting to the company invoices in the name of Bar Music and FF Music.

"These companies were fictitious and once the transactions were authorised the payments were made and funds went into one of his bank accounts."

There were three in-house interviews between Schwier and his bosses from July. "He straight away made admissions that it was him. He had created these companies and he had authorised and and arranged these invoices and taken payment."

Schwier Minutes After Pleading Guilty
Married Schwier, who has at least one daughter, put his six-bedroom detached Edwardian house on the market for £1.75m on August 1, last year, has repaid the stolen money in full.

He claims to have given away, due to his medical condition, £400,000 on his own staff in gifts and bonuses and £100,000 to various charities.

The court heard Schwier was unaware he had autoimmune condition Graves disease, plus other ailments, including a cancer scare, and stole to combat stress and worsening relationship with his staff.    

His lawyer, Mr. Lawrence Selby said: "He makes no criticism of Universal. They were completely in the dark as to his medical condition.

"Mr. Schwier himself was almost unaware of the medical condition he was suffering from, it took a considerable time to diagnose. He was unaware his behaviour had changed so dramatically.

"The person who behaved the way he did is not the Duncan Schwier people liked, respected and loved and that is a real tragedy.

"You have heard a large portion of the money stolen from Universal Music was for charity. That was a misguided sense of what was right and wrong at the time.

Schwier Worked At Beaumont House, Kensington Village
"He did glean some comfort from being in a position to assist others at the time he was suffering and enduring."

A music executive colleague at Zomba music described Schwier as having: "mood swings that were frequent and unpalatable" and that his: "behaviour, judgment and decision-making were impaired."

"Throughout this he was working in a pressure-cooker industry," added Mr. Selby. "Unable to cry for help and these thefts offered respite for his depression and suffering."

The first staff gift was an expensive guitar for a colleague who was leaving and the bonuses, parties and dinners followed.

He continued to drive his 15 year-old Volvo, which broke down as the weekend, the court heard and there was no evidence of an "extravagant" lifestyle and his daughter is now suffering one of his conditions.

"It's dishonesty over a period longer than a decade, dishonestly partly to reward your staff, but there was also significant financial gain for yourself," Judge Aidan Marron QC told the first-time offender.

"I accept throughout this period you were suffering serious medical difficulties that effected your judgement and predictability. I'm afraid a custodial sentence is inevitable."

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