Benji Rogers opted to return to PledgeMusic as financial issues started worsening. During the turbulent rescue effort, the situation featured frozen contributions, SEC stock fraud charges against a majority shareholder, and most recently, a decision to enter bankruptcy.
People familiar with the situation have repeatedly exonerated Rogers while pointing to earlier ‘bad actors’ like former CEO Dominic Pandiscia, who left the company last year. But regardless of his guilt (or lack thereof), Rogers may be subject to intense scrutiny if criminal charges or litigation arises.
Rogers himself announced the company’s bankruptcy, while initially promising to pay artists back. Those promises were quickly scrubbed from the announcement, however.
Given the cloud of accusations and uncertainty, Rogers opted to remove himself as a leading member of the American Mechanical Licensing Collective, or AMLC, a group vying against significant music publishers to oversee the Mechanical Licensing Coalition.
We’re not clear exactly when Rogers bowed out, though AMLC board member Jeff Price confirmed the withdrawal. According to Price, Rogers felt the PledgeMusic debacle would distract from the AMLC’s ability to compete against the major publishers’ bid successfully.
Indeed, the NMPA — which is aggressively leading a self-declared ‘industry consensus’ proposal — would likely have pounced on the Rogers situation. It looks like Rogers was trying to save a seriously messy situation, though anything associated with PledgeMusic at this stage is probably toxic.
David Israelite, who heads the NMPA, has been accused of orchestrating a shady ‘black box’ royalty-claiming scheme, one that would funnel more than a billion dollars of unclaimed funds into the bank accounts of NMPA member publishers via the MLC.
That could shift this matter from a simple bankruptcy proceeding to a criminal investigation, with executives, cofounders, shareholders, and other stakeholders potentially complicit in a financial scheme that defrauded fans and artists out of potentially millions of dollars.