Hummingbird Group denies allegations of fraud
by Herman Manson (@marklives) Hummingbird Media Investments — the holding company of production companies Pollen and Hey!Fever (not currently trading, according to its website), digital content firms Apiary and Hive, and content creation and production agency Brave — has denied allegations made on social media platforms that it is guilty of corruption or no longer trading.
The allegations surfaced over the course of September 2015, primarily through anonymous Twitter account, @VisionThief. The account made a number of allegations, including that staff at Hummingbird Media companies have not been paid for several months, that it is unable to repay loans, that clients had been defrauded (specifically the DTI and SETA), and that its managing director, Bridget Scarr, had fled the country alongside her boyfriend.
Tweets from @VisionThief making allegations against The Hummingbird Group and its MD:
Graeme Carr distances himself
Following the allegations being made on social media, Graeme Carr, co-founder of Pollen, emailed both MarkLives and BizCommunity, distancing himself from events at Pollen and inviting journalists to approach him for comment. Carr had left Pollen earlier this year.
Carr would not comment on the record and later sent a letter to MarkLives requesting his name not be mentioned in any articles on the matter. [MarkLives notes that his initial letter was CCed to several media publications simultaneously, and has played a role in our decision to approach Hummingbird Group for comment.]
Statement by Bridget Scarr, The Hummingbird Group
Scarr, meanwhile, has issued a statement of her own through PR agency Meropa, denying that the company is no longer operational, that it had defrauded clients or that she had fled the country. Scarr did admit to cash flow issues at the company and that it has been downsizing operations, adding that “performance reviews for non-performing staff” were under way.
Statement in full:
The Hummingbird Group is currently under attack by one or two disgruntled former employees, who are conducting a baseless and malicious smear campaign against the organisation, and me, as its Managing Director. Some of our clients and service providers are also being sent untrue, defamatory information and emails, in an effort to case malicious damage to the Hummingbird Group. The Hummingbird Group would like to categorically state that:
- We are 100% operational;
- We do experience occasional cash flow challenges, and have the normal operational challenges that affect all South African business when it comes to securing payment from clients, from both public and private sector clients/funders.
- Notwithstanding the incredibly high costs of doing business in the film and television industry; recent delayed payments to the Hummingbird Group have resulted in cash flow management processes being implemented to ensure that there is business liquidity;
- To manage cash flow challenges we have taken steps to downsize our operations over the past few months. Steps have included scaling back on staff, performance reviews for non-performing staff and an imminent move to smaller offices; these are standard business practices when faced with persistent cash flow challenges and non-payment from clients/funders;
- I am currently travelling in Europe to have meetings ahead of MIPCOM [a television industry trade show]; an event which I have attended annually without fail over the past five years; and which I will be attending again this year, as planned. I am returning to South Africa after MIPCOM; I have not fled the country, and all outstanding payments will be honoured in accordance with agreements already in place with staff and service providers;
- No funds have been stolen from the DTI, as alleged by the campaigners.
- This campaign could endanger Hummingbird Group, which has a proud, eight year history of service and delivery to our vast number of clients and to the film and television industry in South Africa. It can impact on the good work we do, the projects we run and the people we employ.
Our attorneys and the appropriate authorities are presently dealing with these issues.It is my duty, as Hummingbird Group’s Managing Director, to take its mission forward with integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency.I take this responsibility very seriously, with the best interests of the organisation and the industry at heart –to this end we are pursuing a legal route and the investigation into this matter is ongoing, and will take its course. We will update all stakeholders accordingly.
MIPCOM takes place in Cannes, France, 5–8 October 2015.
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Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com. He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.
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