The former CEO of education software business Symplicity was pardoned by President Donald Trump this week, almost six years after the suit admitted hacking into two rivals’ computer systems.
In May 2014, Ariel Friedler 'fessed up to the FBI that he, and two coworkers, had cracked the account passwords of their former customers. Between 2007 and 2011 he used the Tor network to mask his identity while he accessed his rivals’ systems using those credentials to harvest their contacts database as well as snoop on their software design and features.
Friedler later wrote a letter to customers admitting his guilt in which he apologized for having “let my competitiveness get the best of me.” He went on: “I wanted to see what my competitors’ products looked like but I did it in a way that was just plain wrong. I realize that my actions were foolish, immature and arrogant, and I am deeply sorry.”
He and his co-conspirators were nailed by the Feds following an in-depth investigation that was triggered when one of the two targeted companies, Maxient – the other being PAVE Systems – tipped off agents.
“These actions caused significant harm to their competitors and ultimately gave Symplicity an unfair business advantage,” the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation said at the time.
Friedler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization, and served a severe sentence of two whole months in the clink.
Christmas thanks to Chris Christie
Crucially, Friedler also had a pal in former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, it seems. According to Jersey local media, the President called Christie on Friday, and they discussed a pardon that Christie had put forward a year ago.
“Are you convinced he’s a really good guy?" Trump apparently asked Christie, who said he responded: "Yes, Mr President. He got treated wrong and you can help right it.”
According to Christie: “It was a complete overreaction by the US attorney’s office. He acknowledged that he did something wrong but he didn’t deserve to be a federal felon and now he’s not a federal felon because of the president.”
Which is heartwarming, although “acknowledging you did something wrong” is not normally sufficient grounds for clemency. In the official notice from the White House, Friedler’s reputation is given a determined deep-clean and buff.
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“Ariel Friedler was a successful entrepreneur, and built a successful technology company that employed more than 150 people and served more than 41 million students, staff, employers, and government constituents worldwide,” the praiseful text begins. “In 2014, while serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr Friedler pled guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization and served 2 months in prison.
“As a result of this incident, he was forced to sell the company that he had dedicated his life to building. During the investigation, his time in prison, and after his release, Mr Friedler expressed deep remorse for his actions. Since his release, Mr Friedler has volunteered his time and expertise to promoting veterans issues and helping former prisoners re-enter and rejoin society.”
Amazingly, Friedler will also get his law licence back.
What’s is striking about Friedler in this context however is that he is probably the least corrupt of the men that Trump decided to pardon today.
Our particular favorite is Michael Milken, a man renowned for issuing junk bonds and causing untold financial damage through insider dealing. In Trump World, however, Milken goes from lifelong financial criminal to “one of America’s greatest financiers,” and his junk bonds were, in fact, an incredible innovation. Milken apparently “pioneered the use of high-yield bonds in corporate finance [and] his innovative work greatly expanded access to capital for emerging companies.”
Talk about Milken the system, eh? ®