I’ve been asked a handful of times why have I occasionally written about The Lampo Group, Inc. (d/b/a Ramsey Solutions)? Why use this space to talk about a previous employer?
A quick disclaimer: views expressed below are my, Dan Watt’s, own. The domain name should make that obvious.
I think the problem is the assumption that this was just an employer. Some on the outside, including some of my family, call it a cult. Others have called it a high control group. Some outsiders I’ve met think it is trying to become a church, like Focus on the Family did.
Whatever it is, it was a place that some of us were unequally yoked to and unnecessarily entangled our faith with.
I’ve been writing, and hope this can be the last time I write, because many former employees have been harmed by the organization. Friends of mine have been needlessly harmed. And harming, messing with someone’s psychology, is something my former department head has talked about publicly (admittedly a year after the events below).
There have been several long-form stories in recent months about “Christian” organizations that have harmed their people. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Gangster Capitalism Season 3 (Liberty University and its leadership), and the ongoing untangling of faith and Lampo by my friend Amy all come to mind. Another story of a religious-based self-help group just up the street from Lampo also recently came out, The Way Down (Remnant Fellowship).
The biggest theme these have in common is long list of people who have been harmed by all of these organizations. These are organizations that claim to follow Christ. Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill) even admitted that there was a “pile of bodies behind the Mars Hill bus.”
Most of these organizations are still thriving. Plenty of people still want to work at Lampo. Students keep attending Liberty. New churches sprung up out of what was Mars Hill. Remnant is the outlier with much of their leadership dying in a plane crash earlier this year.
As Christians, we know that outward appearances of growth and good works are not all that should matter. Those who cared about appearances received some pretty harsh admonishment from Jesus:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.Matthew 23:25-28 (NKJV)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
All of these organizations likely would deflect from these negative stories with something to the effect of “Look at all of the good we have done”. They would be right: they have done good in their respective marketplaces. But they have harmed people as well. The Bible calls us as Christians to be different.
When I hear people urge us to just to talk about all the good the came out of Mars Hill, asking why we can’t just focus on the redemptive aspects of the story, I want to invite them to sit with Levi or Mike Anderson, or Lindsay, or Michelle [people who had stories of harm], and ask them the same question. I want to remind them that Jesus leaves the ninety nine for the one, which means that these stories of loss and disorientation and shattered faith matter just as much as the encouraging stories we can tell about the churches planted in the aftermath. And sometimes, to be honest, if I’m in a particularly dark mood, I’ll tell them that they sound like Job’s friends, and encourage them to talk less, join those who are sitting in the ashes, and just weep.The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Aftermath, 1:44:05
When I resigned in May of 2020, I could have just left “quietly”. But, I wanted to do my part to fulfill Matthew 18:16, as this is a passage the CEO likes to use. Melissa and others would have fulfilled v15, and at least two others did their v16 part.
I thought I would just be saying “To be consistent with the values that I signed up for, I can’t continue to work here” and that would be it. I made the mistake of mentioning who had verified the information that informed my decision to leave.
A few days after that, the Ramsey Solutions Senior Technology Officer, Brendan Wovchko, threatened the new employer for Jeff, Nathan, and Greg. Some or all of those men were disparaged in front of 100 or more employees at the Lampo office by Dave Ramsey himself. Based on what people who were in attendance related to me and others, very little, if any of it, was true.
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.Proverbs 6:16-19
A week or so later, another employee brought up in his exit interview that how Greg was treated was not right. The response from one of the board members was “that was just a shot across the bow.”
Some time in June or July I had lunch with my former boss, Jim E. His description of what happened to those four men was a “big misunderstanding.” If that was the case, if the things that were said were either not true or based on bad information, harm was still done. Where was the apology?
But, then again, Dave has this quote, or one like it, in at least two of his books:
I have heard it said that if you tell a lie often enough, loudly enough, and long enough, the myth will become accepted as a fact. Repetition, volume, and longevity will twist and turn a myth, or a lie, into a commonly accepted way of doing things. Entire populations have been lulled into the approval of ghastly deeds and even participation in them by gradually moving from the truth to a lie. Throughout history, twisted logic, rationalization, and incremental changes have allowed normally intelligent people to be party to ridiculous things. Propaganda, in particular, played a big part in allowing these things to happen.The Total Money Makeover, chapter 3
I had been told something that was not true about two people I worked with in 2019. What had been said about the others after my departure seemed to be untrue. It made me wonder what else might not be true.
I started to reach out to people I had once worked with who had moved on, people who were “raptured” so to speak [a term used unofficially by employees inside the company]. Gradually over 2020 and 2021 I reconnected with about 75 people who once worked at Lampo. Some I worked with directly, others were well known, including some caught up in “Twittergate”.
About a third of them had neutral or positive experiences, leaving on “good terms”. Greg was in this group until the company came after him.
Two-thirds had negative experiences. A few of those quietly admitted they were under an NDA, and could not talk about their experience. Several that were on my immediate team had very different stories about their departures compared to what leadership had told us. And there were many stories of personal harm, “messing with one’s psychology”, that have not been made very public.
The saddest, at least to me, were the two people I’ve encountered who have lost their faith. Lampo was not completely to blame for that, but how they were treated and saw others treated contributed to it.
Just like Greg closed out his story with emotional courage, trying one more time to reach out to the person who had caused him harm, there is so much I wish I could have the opportunity to say. This would be said to an audience who doesn’t want to listen. Years of being told in staff meetings that outside pressure won’t work teach you that. Men with more impact and influence than I have tried. One sent a lengthy from-the-heart email to the CEO, only to get a couple of short, snarky replies back.
To my former peers – the best large development team I have ever been a part of. I hope that if you have no idea what I am talking about, that you can continue to remain that innocent. Maybe listen to Untangled Faith, or read the stories of former employees with fresh eyes. No former employees I have talked to want to tear the place down, form a coup, or take your job away. They want to see kindness and repentance. Or, if you know someone who was “raptured”, check in with them, see how they are doing, and see if what was told about them was true.
One person who still works there did call me earlier this year to see how I was doing. He is still there, but he at least wanted to learn the truth. Maybe he has seen things get better – I could hope that is true.
When you see something that does not seem right, or a story of someone who left seems off, “Break Things, Fix Things, Make Your Mark.” (see below) Examine the truth. Darkness hates the light (John 3:20).
Have your fully-funded emergency fund in place in case “make your mark” involves you leaving. Or, be ready to accept a 3-month severance (give or take) with a non-expiring “non-disparagement” attached to it, binding you and your spouse to never say anything negative about the company, its officers, its owner, its employees, or affiliates. Please have an attorney review it before signing it. I know one who has seen several Lampo separation agreements and I will even happily pay his consultation fee if you can’t afford it.
As for the people in power, I just wish honesty, transparency, kindness and mercy would prevail.
It’s right there in the core values.
I’ve attached the most “detailed” description of those below from the notebook leadership gave us in 2018. I believe it’s still being handed out to new employees, I’ve seen it or something like it on photos that HR have posted on LinkedIn recently.
Righteous Living. We believe character matters. All the time. Who you are is more important than what you do. We aren’t perfect, but we want to get better. No cheating, stealing or lying. Goal #1 is to be men and women of integrity.New Team Member Journal (for the lack of a better name) from 2018
I am far from perfect, and I know Lampo and its leadership is not either. I want to get better. Someone at Lampo wrote they wanted to as well (see first image). “We aren’t aspiring to these values. We’re living them.”
Going in front of hundreds of current employees to disparage former employees, how is that righteous? It sounds a lot more like gossip by “passing negatives down”.
How is disparaging three of these men to their new employer righteous? How is that consistent with “The Bible clearly says that when we have a problem with our brother we are to go to them and try to resolve the situation“? At least one of these men has been trying to get in touch with the person who caused this harm, to no avail.
Or, when firing someone for spousal gossip, telling their team “they left to work on their marriage”, and then later embellishing every detail about that account in front of thousands at Liberty University – how is that righteous?
One of the other core values is Colossians 3:23.
Colossians 3:23. We do our work as unto the Lord. We believe this verse is a directive from the Owner. It’s not a suggestion from a distant apathetic sky fairy. God cares about this place and each of us. Everything we do, we do for Him.New Team Member Journal
Earlier in that same chapter, some verses seem to fit with the Righteous Living core value, though none of these are enumerated in that value. At least one of these “members which are on earth”, the first one, is apparently a fireable offense.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy [other trans. slander], filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,Colossians 3:5-9 (NKJV)
Leadership knows who has been harmed (not hurt). Some of them have been crying out “you harmed me”. You could reach out to them, listen to them, and find room to apologize. This includes people like Melissa, Greg, Nathan, Jeff, Jon, and Abby. There are many more.
Leadership also knows who is under non-disparagement agreements. These are people who could otherwise say true things, not slander, that had been done to them. Those things, whatever they are, are probably the things that need the most work.
Jack Galloway actually connected with me a few months ago on LinkedIn. He seems to be the one person who appears to be stopping to offer to listen. We had a brief e-mail exchange, and I hope I was clear that others have been harmed far more than I might have been.
Jack asked that I pass along that he was willing to listen, which I did. Nobody that I passed this along to wanted to. Why? There is no belief this is being done in good faith. The last time this happened (the Boscos meeting), the few people in attendance categorized it as gaslighting. They felt they were being told “here is how you are wrong,” and did not leave with the impression that it was an attempt at actual reconciliation.
Jack, I hope you are on a journey to actually help people and not just whitewash the company image. Former employees will be more willing to talk if they have assurances you are doing this in good faith. Apologize to some people. Release some from their non-disparagement agreements (clause #8?) so they can talk freely. Word of that would spread fast. None of these people are hard to find or reach.
A small update after publication that I meant to add.
The Lampo “General Release and Employment Resignation” states, in part:
8. Non-disparagement, Non-harassment and Non-retaliation: Employee further agrees neither [he/she], [his/her] family members, nor [his/her] agents shall disparage, retaliate against or otherwise harass Lampo, Dave Ramsey and the Released Parties. This promise specifically contemplates, but is not limited to, disparagement, harassment, and /or retaliation through in person, telephonic, digital or other electronic means. Employee shall be responsible for any breach of this Section by any of the foregoing individuals as if the Employee had breached the Section [him/her]self.
I am obviously not a lawyer. The few people I know who admitted that they were going to sign an agreement like this, or the people who did years ago, did so shortly after they had been told they could no longer work there. Two of them were let go because of “spousal gossip.” Their world came crashing down. They didn’t have an income anymore, unless they signed the agreement for 3 or so months of severance.
If I were under such an agreement, as worded above, even if I wanted to reach out and say “you are my brother, I want to reconcile”, I might be afraid of doing so because it might be viewed as harassment.
One of the other things I have done over the past 18 months in my “deconstruction” is to re-read some of the books I was required to read. We found a first edition of Financial Peace. That was an interesting read. We would not have “joined the program” if we had read that edition, primarily due to the overt misogyny.
I have spent more time re-reading EntreLeadership. There were so many times that the printed word didn’t match the “audio or video.” Reading it again away from the reality distortion field was a very different experience.
When we have mercy and give kindness to our team member who is legitimately hurting, we build huge loyalty with the rest of the team. Companies that treat people like a commodity create an “us against them” culture.
Regardless of the reason for the release, treat people right and with kindness. You are in control and you still have a job; they have neither, so be kind.EntreLeadership, ch. 7
It has been my near-daily prayer after all of the unkindness, disparagement, lies, and threats of May 2020, that hearts would be softened and reconciliation could happen.
I hope that a few years from now a story similar to Mars Hill, Liberty, or Remnant isn’t told about Lampo. I hope that the number of lives changed for the better increases and the lives that are harmed decrease (and not because more have been hidden by non-disparagement agreements).
A story about reconciliation and forgiveness? A lot of us would rather tune in to that.
That picture at the top of this post? That is from Lampo’s HQ atrium. Matthew 5:14-15. The company likes that so much that the land underneath the building is incorporated as MATT 5:14-16 LLC. Please, let your light shine, but don’t do so at the expense of hiding in the darkness the people you have harmed.
One final thought. I hope more do not lose their faith because of how they were treated by people they considered to be brothers and sisters, only to find they were actually “Spiritual Gangsters.”
That excerpt from RFMH at the top of this page references Matthew 18:12. This was the story about leaving the 99 to save the 1. Verse 6 in the same chapter concerns the two or more who have lost their faith. As people of faith we should be very concerned about our actions causing someone to lose their faith.
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.Matthew 18:6, NKJV
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
NKJV was used because of Lampo’s affinity for this particular translation in its published materials.
Update After the Roy’s Report
In January of 2022, Julie Roys published an article about Ramsey Solutions. Several people, including myself, supplied her with information to aid in the reporting.
- I was aware that Julie’s article was in the works when I originally published this post in December, 2021. I did not know what it was going to say, only that it was being worked on and likely would be about Chris Hogan, even though at this point he is old news.
- She reached out to me. I am guessing someone told her that I had this recording that would be relevant, as several people knew I had it. Ramseys attorneys, if they had been paying attention in their depositions of my friends in the O’Connor case, knew it existed.
- I do not make a habit of recording meetings on my Apple Watch, but I knew that my exit “interview” might mess with my head, so I made the recording (TN being a one party state) for my own memory and figuring out what was true.
- I do not know who gave Julie the recording from the “Thoroughbred” meeting – it was not me, and I do not have a recording of that meeting. That meeting happened when I still trusted the integrity of the leadership at Lampo. Julie obviously has other sources. Considering there have been leaked recordings from late 2020 and 2021, it could be a current employee for all I know. Whoever you are, kudos for keeping the receipts.