Field Reports1 Oct, 2007 By: Thomas Haire, Courtney Beth Pugatch Response
Long-Time Industry Leader Rollie Froehlig, 65
LEBANON, Tenn.— Rollie Froehlig, president, CEO and chairman of National Fulfillment — a long-time presence in direct response marketing — was found dead by in his office company employees on the afternoon of Sept. 19. Local police said that Froehlig, 65, died from a single gunshot wound but do not suspect foul play.
Rollie Froehlig was interviewed in Response as a member of ERA's nominating committee in 2004.
News of Froehlig's death stunned the direct response industry. Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) chairman Rick Petry released a statement in the days following Froehlig's death, saying, "On behalf of the members, board and staff, it is with tremendous sadness that we mourn the passing of long time ERA member, Rollie Froehlig, with National Fulfillment Inc. Rollie was a leader in the direct response industry and served on ERA's Board of Directors from 2000-2003 and on its Nominating Committee in 2003. As soon as information becomes available about how the industry can best express its condolences to Rollie's family we will communicate it to you. He will be greatly missed."
During the past seven months, Froehlig had been under intense scrutiny after Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr., filed a civil suit on Feb. 16 against him, alleging that Froehlig, Ted Howes (the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer), National Fulfillment Inc., and sister company Entertainment America Inc., violated the state's Identity Theft Deterrence Act of 1999 and Consumer Protection Act of 1977 "by their unlawful scheme of engaging in identity theft by misappropriating credit card, debit card and other financial document information and personally identifiable information in their possession."
In the suit, the attorney general contended that the defendants (Entertainment America "acts as a broker house for National Fulfillment's clients to obtain payment and order processing" and "is located within the warehouse owned, and primarily used, by National Fulfillment," according to the suit) were successful in billing 30,000 consumers — and may have attempted to bill 300,000 consumers, if not for employees who noticed inconsistencies in the persons being billed —"$19.90 each for a product that never existed under a phony account known as 'EmTech.'"
The allegations resulted in Chancellor Robert E. Lee Davies entering an order granting the state's request for a temporary injunction and $300,000 asset freeze against the defendants on March 2.
At the time of the case's filing, Froehlig told Response, "We strongly disagree with [the attorney general's] position in the action against us. The action against our company by the Attorney General's Office involves an exercise product sold and shipped by one of our clients 85 If any consumer contested the charge, we refunded the charge, no questions asked. We continue to be committed to making sure that any consumer who has any problem with the transaction will be made whole, and we will make sure that all concerns about this transaction are alleviated."
Since March, the case had moved slowly, but was still in ongoing litigation. On Sept. 19, a spokesperson for the Tennessee attorney general's office told the Lebanon Democrat that the office would determine the status of the ongoing litigation "at the appropriate time" and said that the assets of his companies remained frozen.
At press time, National Fulfillment continues to do business, even with the asset freeze potentially straining the company's operations. A new leader for the company will be determined by investors.
On Sept. 21, National Fulfillment attorney David Webster, of Nashville law firm Ortale Kelley Herbert & Crawford, told the Nashville City Paper Web site, "[Froehlig] was a good friend and good man, and I certainly don't believe the allegations."