$4 Million Dollar Man
A lawsuit brought by the state and Bhajan religious leaders challenges salaries at food company Golden Temple
By Sherri Buri McDonald, The Register-Guard
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 | 03:11 pm
Big bump after yogi died
Last year, Kartar Khalsa and the five other managers in the Golden Temple Management ownership group received a payout from the company totaling at least $5 million, Golden Temple CFO Karam Singh Khalsa testified in a deposition. That was on top of their regular corporate salaries and bonuses, state attorney Daniel Rosenhouse said in court papers.
The $5 million was separate from the cereal business sale proceeds that are being held in escrow.
The six members of Golden Temple Management are CEO Kartar Khalsa, CFO Karam Khalsa, operations director Ajeet Singh Khalsa, research and development director Guru Hari Singh Khalsa, sales manager Gurudhan Singh Khalsa and marketing manager Robert Ziehl. They still run the Yogi Tea operations of Golden Temple, which has 50 employees in Springfield and 100 employees in Europe.
The salary of operations manager Ajeet Khalsa almost tripled between 2001 and 2006. It rose from $71,650 in 2001 to $204,000 in 2006, state attorney Susan Miller said at an April 22 hearing. The biggest bump occurred after the yogi died in 2004. Sales manager Gurudhan Khalsa’s salary started at $66,000 and rose to $202,000 in 2006, she said.
CFO Karam Khalsa’s salary was $47,000 when he started in 1995 and was $228,000 in 2006, Miller said.
Karam Khalsa testified in depositions that his 2009 salary was $197,000, plus a bonus of more than $200,000.
Three of the yogi’s longtime personal assistants, Peraim Khalsa, Siri Karm Khalsa and Sopurkh Khalsa, who sit on the Unto Infinity board with Kartar Khalsa, generally saw their six-figure incomes rise, but by a smaller percentage than the Golden Temple executives, court records show.
Peraim Khalsa received salary and bonus of $161,396 in 2007, $192,827 in 2008 and $185,568 in 2009, according to court documents submitted by McGrory, the religious leaders’ attorney.
Siri Karm Khalsa received $197,100 in 2007, $209,200 in 2008 and $220,144 in 2009, McGrory said.
Sopurkh Khalsa received $204,345 in 2007, $205,250 in 2008 and $200,598 in 2009, McGrory said.
All three of them received a bonus of $15,000 in 2007 from Akal Security for their services as Akal board members, McGrory said. Akal is the Bhajan community’s New Mexico company that provides security for courts and military bases nationwide.
The bonuses were made just a couple of months after Siri Karm Khalsa and Sopurkh Khalsa approved the 2007 restructuring of Golden Temple, he said.
Akal also provided the three women with leased cars, Siri Karm Khalsa testified in a deposition. The Akal board approved a plan to award cash bonuses to the three so they could purchase their cars, she said.
At the same time these three Unto Infinity board members were receiving six-figure salaries and giving themselves bonuses, they also had determined that Golden Temple and Akal couldn’t provide sufficient funding to the Bhajan community’s nonprofits, and they were concerned that a multimillion dollar claim against Akal by the U.S. Justice Department might force Akal out of business, McGrory said in court documents.
Donations from Akal and Golden Temple to the Bhajan community nonprofits dropped 85 percent, from $1.2 million in 2006 to $174,931 in 2007, McGrory said.
“As directors of (Unto Infinity) and Akal, defendants Sopurkh, Siri Karm and Peraim had a fiduciary duty to ensure that the nonprofits were getting sufficient funding,” McGrory said. “Instead of fulfilling this duty, they took income from the trust assets for themselves through salaries, bonuses and cars.”
The excessive compensation continued through 2008 and 2009, McGrory said in court documents. All three received a $17,500 bonus in 2008 and a $50,000 bonus in 2009 from Akal for their service as board members, he said.
Published with permission from The Register-Guard.
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