A recent report from WTXL, a local news affiliate in Florida, has shed light on fresh information concerning the fraudulent $237 million donation to FAMU. The donation was purportedly made by the Issac Batterson Family 7th Trust and the CEO, Gregory Gerami. The substantial donation to the university was abruptly halted shortly after its receipt, amidst significant doubts about its legitimacy. An investigation is currently underway to scrutinize the donation further.

Internal emails recently released show that the university received an email from Gerami’s bank stating that the large donation may not be legitimate weeks before he presented a large check at the commencement ceremony. These emails were released by the university to The Sun News. The university was made aware by a Raymond James Financial Services executive that the previous assurances they provided regarding the balance of Gerami’s account were not accurate.

“On February 1 and March 1, 2024, Raymond James issued a letter to client, Gregory Gerami, reflecting the balance in his account,” Kirk Bell, a senior vice president at Raymond James, wrote on April 12. “Effective April 10th, 2024, Raymond James will no longer provide a value for the securities in Mr. Gerami’s account and no longer stand by the verification of deposit letter you may have received…To the extent that Mr. Gerami has or does provide you with official account statements from Raymond James, we do not believe the pricing of certain securities was accurate.”

Gerami’s gift to FAMU was swiftly met with skepticism, especially after it was reported that Gerami was the anonymous donor whose $95 million donation to Coastal Carolina University fell apart quickly in 2020. This situation has caused a major scandal for the university.

How has this impacted Florida A&M?

In a meeting last month, the Florida A&M Board of Trustees held a meeting to address the $237 million scandal. University president Larry Robinson accepted responsibility for the incident.

“Let me begin by stating that as president of Florida A&M University, I take full responsibility for this matter and the ensuing call out. I apologize to this board, the foundation board of directors, our students, and their families. Our faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who have worked so hard with us over the past several years to elevate Florida A&M University to its current status as the number one public HBCU and the rank of 91 in national public institutions in America according to U. S. News & World Report.”

He added, “Please know that FAMU is still a sure bet when it comes to stewardship”.

Since the situation has occurred Florida A&M Vice President of Advancement Shawnta Frida-Stroud resigned from her position last month due to her role in accepting the questionable donation. She returned to her previous position as Dean of the School of Business and Industry.

The email about the status of Gerami’s account was sent to both Stroud and Audrey Simmons-Smith, director of development for the FAMU Foundation. Stroud resigned from the position as Vice President of Advancement just hours before the pivotal meeting with the Board of Trustees took place last month.

Amid the controversy, Gerami has been standing by the validity of his donation since the drama unfolded last month. In an interview with The Sun News, Gerami claims that he never received any “clarity” on why the letter was sent by Raymond James and that university officials never asked him about it except to tell him they received it.

Gerami stated that Raymond James held private stocks in Batterson Farm Corp that he planned to donate to Florida A&M. He explained that the letters sent by the bank to the university in February and March were intended to confirm the value of those stocks in his account at that time.

The Issac Batterson Family 7th Trust transferred 15 million shares of Batterson Farms Corp to the FAMU Foundation on April 15, as per the emails. The stock certificate indicated a value of $15.85 per share, leading the university to estimate the donation's worth to be over $237 million.

Gerami revealed to The Sun News that no third-party valuation has been completed. An internal valuation is what Raymond James accepted to determine the value of the stocks in his account.

Based on the calculations of the internal valuation done by Gerami’s company, Batterson Farms Corp is valued at more than $1.5 billion. C. Zachary Meyers, a certified valuation analyst from West Virginia, reviewed the report presented by Gerami and determined that it fell short of being a valuation or even a calculation of value.

“Even if a qualified person typed this up, there is no semblance of credibility because the end result is an assumed share price multiplied by the number of shares,” Meyers said. “There would be no level of assurance with the value being pontificated.”

Additional internal emails from Florida A&M reveal multiple individuals who had prior interactions with Gerami had attempted to alert university officials about the likely fraudulent nature of the donation. Stroud was informed via email by Erich Horner, a gift officer at North Carolina State University, that he was aware of five other institutions, including the University of Mississippi, where Gerami had made similar commitments, all of which had ultimately fallen through. Horner had been employed at the University of Mississippi when Gerami had attempted to contribute to the institution.

“I believe him to be a fraud and I’m happy to discuss further,” Horner wrote, adding that he hopes he’s wrong.

Ron Overton, the president of a church in Arlington, Texas, reached out to Florida A&M regarding Gerami. Overton sent several emails to President Robinson, emphasizing that he has known Gerami since childhood and asserting that his life is built on a complete fabrication.

The inquiry regarding the donation is scheduled for completion by August 30th. The Board of Trustees enlisted the services of the law firm Buchanon, Ingersoll, and Rooney to carry out the investigation, incurring a cost of $52,000 for the university.