The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded a $55 million contract for N95s this month to Panthera Worldwide LLC, which is in the business of tactical training. One of its owners said last year that Panthera’s parent company had not had any employees since May 2018, according to sworn testimony.
It also has no history of manufacturing or procuring medical equipment, according to a review of records produced as a result of legal disputes involving the company and its affiliates.
Panthera Worldwide’s parent company filed for bankruptcy last fall, and the LLC is no longer recognized in Virginia — where it has its main office — following nonpayment of fees, which according to Virginia code results in “the existence of a limited liability company” being “automatically canceled.”
James V. Punelli, one of the company’s executives, said he is working his military contacts to obtain the masks.
“We’ve done DoD medical training over the years and through those contacts with that community were brought sources of supply in order to assist in the COVID-19 response,” Punelli said in a text message to The Washington Post, referring to the Defense Department. “We made the connection with FEMA and offered these supplies to them.”
Asked about the delivery of the masks, Punelli said: “We will provide these masks before May 1 for certain, in full and with a very high-quality product.” He said the company is registered as an LLC in Delaware and allowed its Virginia registration to lapse “because we’re not doing business in Virginia.”
Also, a company in Virginia filed suit against them. In a complaint filed in Virginia’s Hanover County Circuit Court, Starer alleges that the two men misrepresented “estimated revenue” as “actual cash payments . . . based on existing contracts,” causing him to suffer cash losses in 2018 and 2019. Punelli and Jones have not responded to the lawsuit, according to an attorney who represents Starer.
MSN and Business Insider were more negative and dramatic in their reporting. The headline read, “The Trump administration paid a bankrupt company with zero employees $55 million for N95 masks,” which they say it has never manufactured. They left out qualifying information and only included a company response at the end of the articles after enumerating all the bad stuff.
The articles are aimed at embarrassing the administration. Basically, a company exec is getting the masks from a military contact he has and it is probably why it costs a little more.
The company is set to deliver the masks on August 23rd.