Rick Smith. Photo Credit: Jim Poulin, Phoenix Business Journal

You are probably aware of the complete mess that Axon put itself in recently with its outrageous plan to dramatically alter zoning laws in order to put up some 2,000 apartments in an area that doesn’t want them and can’t support them (get up to date here). While on its face this attempt is bad enough, a recent bombshell report demonstrates how locals should be even more skeptical of Axon’s plans, if that’s even possible.

So what is the real Axon? According to this report by Reuters, we just don’t know. Reuters alleges a consistent pattern of questionable remarks coming from Axon CEO Rick Smith, starting with the very story of its founding. The origin story of the firm may have been invented according to its report, purportedly erroneously invoking a tragedy as the reason for the firm’s founding, stating that he was very close to those who died when in reality he seemed to have known them in passing, at best. It caused a family member of one of the dead to say, “He’s making money off of being a great liar.” Ouch.

But it does not stop there, far from it. The firm repeatedly told the public that its executive compensation would be near its corporate peers, but a digging by Reuters showed that it handsomely rewarded its corporate officers in a way that would put it near the top of corporate America regarding compensation. Instead, Smith was one of the highest paid corporate officers in all of America in 2018.

This is in addition to luxury cars, platters of cash, and the hiring of relatives, none of which were reported to the SEC, but all of which should have according to Reuters. In a blatant and egregious example of questionable practices, the compensation committee for the company seems to be stacked with Smith’s fraternity brothers.

The most clear takeaway from this bombshell report is an apparent consistent history of misleading statements, lack of disclosure, and obfuscation.

It begs the question: can we believe any positive promises that Axon makes with regards to its absurd housing plans in the city? It is clear that it may say whatever it takes to win in the moment. We don’t need that attitude, nor its 2,000 apartments.