Pulte Group exec fired after founder’s grandson alleges online attacks

Company says investigation showed Brandon Jones violated ethics code

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

PulteGroup has fired one of its top executives after the grandson of the company’s founder charged him with creating online aliases and bots to attack him and the Pulte family.

Brandon Jones, a senior vice president who had been named chief operating officer in October, was terminated after an investigation determined he had violated the company’s code of ethical business conduct, according to a terse statement from the Atlanta-based firm Friday morning.

The company, the nation’s third-largest builder, did not offer details. In response to phone, text and email messages from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, company spokesman Jim Zeumer texted only, “We issued our statement on Brandon this morning.”

In a written statement sent by Jones, his attorney Mark Raymond said that Pulte’s lawsuit contains “many falsehoods and inaccuracies.”

Jones did not use “bots” online, Raymond said in his statement. “Unfortunately, Bill Pulte’s far-fetched claims have had their desired effect, causing Mr. Jones’ termination from the job that he loved, and public humiliation at the hands of Mr. Pulte’s relentless and uncaring media machine.”

But William J. Pulte, the namesake of the company’s founder, said he had informed the board of directors on Monday that Jones had been carrying out an online campaign — mainly on Twitter — using stolen identities and aliases to accuse Pulte and his family of arson, elder abuse and violations of securities law.

On Wednesday, Pulte filed a lawsuit in a Florida court asking that Jones be stopped from further use of online platforms to attack the family and be forced pay up to $75,000.

“My grandfather spent 68 years of his life making sure the company was secure, so I view this as a spiritual mission,” Pulte told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I love this company and the majority of the employees are awesome. But I think you have the potential of some rogue executives that maybe convinced themselves that the rules didn’t apply to them.”

Pulte’s attorneys have also notified the company’s general counsel, Todd Sheldon, to preserve documents related to Sheldon’s personal Twitter account, which was deleted after Pulte contacted the board of directors this week, Pulte said. “That deletion was very odd.”

The suit was filed in a Florida court because Pulte lives in Palm Beach, according to the complaint.

Pulte cites tweets that were ostensibly by laid-off employees and others, all he said, actually composed by Jones. At least one post implicitly charged Pulte with manipulating his grandfather. Another suggested that he suspected his father of setting a fire that burned down a country club.

None of these things were true, Pulte said.

The company his grandfather founded in Michigan in 1950 had revenues of $15.4 billion during the past four fiscal quarters. Pulte was a member of the company’s board for about four years, leaving in 2020.

During his tenure, he had lobbied to replace the then-chief executive, who he felt had made choices that undermined the company’s business value. But then, the new CEO, Ryan Marshall, had wanted to make Jones chief operating officer.

Jones — who was then running the company’s Michigan division — was not qualified for a top role, Pulte said.

It was not a question of personalities, Pulte said. “I would describe my relationship with him as non-existent. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked with him in my life.”

During the past year, a series of attacks on Pulte began online, some of them using identities of deceased persons. He hired “a credible third-party forensics” expert, who investigated and concluded that Jones was behind the campaign.

Pulte said Jones committed many of these actions while at work and while using company computers. He has asked for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission as to whether regulations or laws have been broken. He has not sued the company, but he did not rule that out.

“I am looking forward to getting some answers,” he said.

Credit: cus

Credit: cus

Credit: cus

Credit: cus