Browne Backs Blacker in Face of SEC Allegations

In a March 29 court filing, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged illegal activity by eight former StarMedia executives including current Telemundo senior VP of digital media Peter Blacker. The filing has prompted little media coverage. Blacker is accused of helping illegally inflate sales revenues by $990,000 in 2000 while working at StarMedia as senior VP of global sales strategy and partnerships.

When asked directly about the SEC accusations during a May 16 conference call with journalists to talk about Telemundo's new programming lineup, Telemundo president Don Browne responded, "Peter Blacker has enjoyed an excellent industry reputation [and] has been very forthcoming. He has reiterated he is absolutely innocent … It is important not to make judgment prior to the conclusion of the investigation."

Blacker is responsible for interactive media at Telemundo, mun2 and will also head the content operations at the new Yahoo! Telemundo site. An additional written statement provided last week by a Telemundo spokesperson makes clear that Blacker "has no financial reporting responsibilities, and we are confident that all appropriate financial and accounting controls are in place at Telemundo. We will continue to monitor closely all developments in the case. Peter Blacker is a valued employee of Telemundo."

Blacker declined an interview request made through a Telemundo spokesperson.
In its filing with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, the SEC accuses Blacker, along with StarMedia’s former CEO Fernando Espuelas, former President Jack Chen, former CFO Steven J. Heller and four other former StarMedia executives of violating a range of securities laws and regulations. Heller has already agreed to pay a civil penalty of $100,000 and not serve as an officer or director of any public company for five years. Blacker's alleged role is summarized in paragraphs 34-38 of the filing [hyperlink to].
Arguably, the most damaging accusation against Blacker is that in 2000 he, "in consultation with [former senior VP of global sales and president of StarMedia de México Adrianna] Kampfner and under pressure from [senior VP for strategic development Betsy] Scolnick, negotiated a bogus transaction with Groupe Danone."

Blacker allegedly "offered Danone $500,000 of internet services at no charge," as an incentive for Danone to select StarMedia for a large Latin American project. According to the filing, he "told Danone's media buyer that StarMedia required a signed insertion order to reserve space on StarMedia's delivery schedule." The government claims the order was presented to the finance department "at Blacker's direction" without any mention that the advertising was being provided for free. "