SEC Interview Describes Firmage Ventures in Disarray
By Jack Brewer and Erica Lukes
A 2017 transcript of an interview with a
former employee of the Joseph Firmage-operated ManyOne corporation, conducted as part of an investigation launched by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), tells a story of perpetual financial deficiency, questionable methods of managing capital, and off-the-cuff figures given to prospective investors. The transcript was obtained as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed with the SEC and FBI by Expanding Frontiers Research (EFR). Records were sought pertaining to corporations maintained by Firmage, known for his longtime antics within the UFO subculture and more recent announcement as a candidate for president of the United States.
The name of the former ManyOne employee, who was accompanied by legal counsel during the interview, was withheld as exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. The witness indicated they worked for ManyOne approximately 18 months beginning in June 2012. The interviewer, whose name was also redacted, conducted the examination on behalf of the SEC Salt Lake Regional Office.
A March 2018 post made at the apparent LinkedIn account of Joseph Firmage indicated the SEC informed him an investigation into ManyOne, LLC was completed and no enforcement action would be recommended. A subsequent FOIA request obtained the January 2018 “no enforcement action” letter and confirmed the LinkedIn post to be correct.
The 2017 SEC interview and 2018 "no enforcement action" letter obtained through the FOIA:
EFR reached out to Joseph Firmage and offered him an opportunity to comment for potential inclusion in this blogpost. He did not immediately respond.
The July 2022 SEC initial FOIA response advised of the existence of a voluminous amount of records potentially responsive to an investigation of ManyOne, LLC. The SEC notified EFR of the equivalent of some 138 boxes of hard copy and electronically maintained records. It was estimated up to 1500 hours might be required to search and process the material. EFR subsequently reduced the scope of the request to transcripts of interviews conducted during the course of the investigation and any resulting reports. The scope reduction led to obtaining the interview transcript, released in an SEC January 30, 2023, interim response, which stated it was “still consulting with other SEC staff regarding additional information that may be responsive to your request.”
ManyOne was an LLC incorporated in 2011 and operated by Joseph Firmage. It was often thought to be working to develop internet technology in some capacity. A more accurate description, however, might point out ManyOne was part of a complex network of corporations, the purposes of which were often somewhat ambiguous.
Among the numerous companies was ManyOne Networks, Inc., incorporated in Delaware in January 2002. Another entity by the name of ManyOne Foundation was launched with Corporations Canada in August 2002. Directors included Joseph Firmage. ManyOne, LLC was incorporated in Utah in 2011. It reportedly conducted business and sought investors out of Salt Lake City.
Circular jargon was employed to not-so-clearly explain what kind of work was done at the many different companies, ultimately producing little that could be discerned about practical products or services. As one journalist put it in 1999, “To listen to Firmage is to hear of the Casimir effect and zero-point energy and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and quantum foam and the Roswell incident and the MJ-12 documents. Science, pseudo-science, truth and fiction, God and electromagnetism: It's all there, a thick and pungent stew.”
The 1999 observation refers to tendencies Firmage had to discuss his Mormon upbringing and belief in UFO-friendly narratives. He claimed openly to believe he encountered what might be described as a nonhuman intelligence. A book Firmage wrote titled The Truth informs readers of his related philosophies and an awe-inspiring future in which humankind knows a cosmic intelligence - a future he declared was upon us over 20 years ago. While Joseph Firmage often uses words to invoke Arthur C. Clarke-like imagery among those who will listen, the FOIA process reflects much less mystical chains of events.
Records obtained from the FBI demonstrate its San Jose office interviewed at least one, possibly two, ManyOne Networks employees in December 2008 and January 2009. The heavily redacted records, provided below, withhold the name(s) of the individual(s) interviewed and do not clarify the nature of the FBI inquiries. The Bureau advised some 18 additional responsive pages were withheld in full. EFR appealed the redactions and withheld pages but the initial ruling was upheld.
Firmage had his sights set on a number of rather sensational projects – or at least purported to repeatedly believe grandiose outcomes were obtainable – and bounced from one company and idea to another. What moving parts could be identified often overlapped from one instance to the next. This is further reflected in the statements of the interviewee examined by the SEC, who referenced Firmage concerns such as “Academy of Science and Arts” and Motion Sciences. Those ventures are typically perceived to have been busts pertaining to anti-gravity research and related subject matter. Nonetheless, Firmage numbers among those in UFO circles who boastfully cite decades of work on projects framed as impressive, though little can be found of anything particularly relevant actually achieved.
A Firmage-connected company called InterNASA was launched in 2016 and bore intriguing resemblances to the questionable To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences. The latter was an entertainment-slash-science-slash-spook hangout popularized by Tom DeLonge and an effective public relations campaign. Firmage's version was actually incorporated as the National Academy of Science and Arts, LLC, doing business as InterNASA. As with To The Stars, Firmage likewise had intelligence officer connections and “scientists” making careers out of what might generously be termed maverick science. Some of the same players were involved at To The Stars. InterNASA had not yet been formally created at the time the witness was employed from 2012-13, though they testified investments were sought for such sci-fi-like ventures.
In 2019, former InterNASA employee Robert Kiviat filed a lawsuit against Joseph P. Firmage, InterNASA, Ronald Pandolfi, David Daniel Marriott, and others. The suit alleged a variety of circumstances were misrepresented to Kiviat, ranging from the amount of funds secured to the purported interest of the intelligence community in developing an alleged anti-gravity device. Kiviat claimed he was promised compensation never received, among other grievances. The suit was ultimately dismissed. Kiviat's allegations may be reviewed in detail in the document below, obtained from Superior Court of California.
From the complaint filed by Kiviat:
As people would be brought in for employment, the witness explained to the SEC, “[redacted] would often offer huge salaries of over $100,000 for tasks or skills that traditionally paid much less than that...”
Did those people get paid?
“No, not consistently.”
The witness described a plan undertaken to sell domain names which would be elevated to the first three pages of any internet search engine. This was reportedly linked to a “huge computer program,” presumably related to one of Firmage's web ventures, and involving the ongoing purchase of a rather enormous number of domains.
“Yeah, [redacted] did not sell the domain names,” the witness explained. “He bought them. And he bought them throughout his lifetime, from the time that he left U.S. Web, he had been purchasing these internet domain names... I think it was probably close to in the tens of thousands of internet domain names.”
A client would purchase a package that would have their business connected into the network of domain names. The service somewhat worked for a while, the witness added, but was very difficult to sustain.
“You'd purchase them for a year at a time, so those were always coming due in big blocks of domain names. And the funding for those, at a minimum, was $10 per domain name.
“And so we would limp along and be okay, and then it would require a huge amount of funds to re-register or to keep the ownership of those domain names.”
The interviewer asked if the “zero gravity device” worked.
“No. It never worked while I was there.” Consistent results were never produced.
Was the witness there when they tried to run it?
“Yes, I was.”
And they didn't see it working consistently?
“Not consistently, ever.”
The witness told the SEC they personally kept notes on investors, as well as composed what were termed intelligence summaries, which were described as background checks on persons or entities that might involve surveillance in addition to general research. They specifically mentioned Motion Sciences in this capacity, adding that “partners of Motion Sciences in Provo”, Utah, tried to take over the company.
Notes were kept by the witness on who invested funds in Academy of Science and Arts, but not the amounts, and even though the witness was not employed with them, but a different corporation, ManyOne – at least in theory. In actuality, they were rarely paid, and this was described as the norm, even though Firmage reportedly made big promises in order to get people on board. Afterward, the witness indicated, an “employee” might be assigned more of a title to impress potential investors than fill any prestigious executive position. They might also be urged to sell products that were not yet functionally complete, something the witness claimed they personally refused to do.
The witness further described questionable management tactics, such as promising equity in the corporations or institutes, yet averting from putting the commitments in writing. The attorney for the witness asked, of all of the institutes, did any of them actually function?
“No. So they were great ideas, a lot of great ideas.” It was further stated there were some five “institutes” in all.
Investors were remarkably promised 40 times the amount of funding in return. To the best of the witness's knowledge, those returns were never paid. When new investors were secured, minimal payments would be made to the squeakiest wheels, so to speak, chronically creating more wheels in need of oil.
“I did find out that [redacted] was using those funds to repay people who had previously loaned him money, and that became another very sore spot between [redacted] and I, because I would be told, for operational purposes, that we had funding coming, and a certain amount of funding. And I was told to let everybody know that funding was coming.”
The witness would then get on the phone and say funding was on the way, only for it to eventually be significantly less than promised. There was never enough money to pay employees and support personnel what was committed to them.
A couple of specific redacted and prioritized investors were believed to have made millions, or at the least hundreds of thousands of dollars, over the years. The two were reportedly referred to as loan sharks, but ManyOne leadership expressed it “went to where they needed to get the funding.”
Sometimes investments would be in “small increments,” such as $10,000 or $20,000. “People involved” would then receive $500 or $1,000 apiece, usually less. When larger amounts were obtained, say $30,000, about half would be gone right off the top, presumably to former investors and bills deemed mandatory.
Payments to those owed funds were often made in cash. Explaining why that was the case, the witness indicated the investments arrived in cash. Also, people who were owed money refused to accept checks. Certain payments made by check, such as a property lease, would frequently bounce.
The witness indicated prospects were pitched ideas for investments, often along with creative urgency that suggested ManyOne either needed to get over the next hurdle or it was at a particularly critical point in its research. “I do know that [redacted] often discussed the amount of money that would be made and provided facts and figures off [the top] of his head,” it was stated. A lot of potential investors walked away because there was nothing committed in writing.
Asked in closing if there was anything the witness wanted to add that they were not asked about, they explained they had knowledge of people who were going to align their business with Academy of Arts and Science and suffered tremendous financial losses because of it. Due to one particular company out of Denmark, the witness “could never look at [redacted] the same way because of the things he promised them.”
“These were just people who believed in what [redacted] promised. He promised to buy their company at a huge profit. And I think he made – might have made one payment towards that, and the agreed-to funds never came. And they had banked everything on that...”