After laying off most of its workforce last week, right-wing media group Project Veritas is considering cost-cutting measures like going fully remote and bringing in an outside firm to produce its content.
Project Veritas laid off 25 employees last week, citing financial difficulties. The company has struggled to fundraise after the departure of its founder James O’Keefe earlier this year. By the time of his departure, O’Keefe had become controversial within Project Veritas, with some employees accusing him of being “a power-drunk tyrant” who allegedly squandered company funds on lavish personal expenses. After the layoffs—which employees previously characterized as slashing Project Veritas from 43 to 18 staffers—the company is seeking a profitable path forward, according to sources. And it won’t be easy, management has suggested in a exact conversation.
In post-layoff conversations with staff, Project Veritas board president Joseph Barton has indicated that the company plans to work remotely and part ways with its Mamaroneck, New York, headquarters, people familiar with the talks told The Daily Beast.
Barton, who did not return requests for comment, also indicated that Veritas hopes to cut costs by outsourcing its production to a third-party firm.
Ex-Project Veritas Staffer Claims James O’Keefe’s Party Guests Pooped on the Floor
Production costs were also a concern in a post-layoffs meeting on Friday, during which remaining leadership discussed saving money by “pre-producing” some of the company’s content. Near the end of the meeting, leadership held a “moment of silence” for the workers who’d been laid off the previous day.
CEO Hannah Giles, who assumed leadership of Project Veritas after O’Keefe’s departure this year, told The Daily Beast that the company is considering a number of options to keep it solvent.
“I am streamlining and considering many cost-cutting measures to maintain the long-term sustainability of Project Veritas,” Giles told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Our internal team will continue to produce the nation’s best investigative journalism.”
Giles did not immediately clarify whether Project Veritas would outsource any of its content creation.
“Project Veritas is in a tough situation,” Giles said. “It was made tough by O’Keefe leaving, and made doubly challenging by mismanagement before I was hired. I wish we could have kept everyone on and grown the organization but I’ve been put in the situation where I have to cut and refocus so we can get to growth. I’m not going to fight in the press over complaints from laid off staffers, I’m going to keep doing the work to rebuild this organization from the mess it was left in.”
In a exact conversation with staff, however, Barton claimed Project Veritas was still not operating sustainably. According to people familiar with the conversation, Barton complained that Giles had been unwilling to lay off as many people as he believed necessary to keep the company’s expenses under control.
Financial concerns have loomed large for Project Veritas under multiple sets of leadership. O’Keefe is accused of spending company funds on dubious personal expenses like chartered cars, helicopter flights, and musical theater productions. Project Veritas is currently suing O’Keefe over this alleged spending, as well as allegations that he used Project Veritas’s donor list to solicit funds for a rival media group after his departure this year. But O’Keefe also served as Project Veritas’s public face during his tenure with the company, and employees told The Daily Beast that the group struggled to fundraise in his absence.
“We all had high hopes for Hannah, so it’s just unfortunate the way things turned out,” former Project Veritas senior investigative reporter James Lalino told The Daily Beast.
Laid-off Project Veritas employees previously alleged to The Daily Beast that the company’s pre-layoff operations were frustratingly opaque, with staffers struggling to obtain information from management about the company’s future.
One of those now-former employees, senior investigative reporter Christian Hartsock, served as the company’s board ombudsman, a role intended to provide staffers greater insight into the board’s discussions.
But Hartsock told The Daily Beast that he was blocked from some of those proceedings after Barton, the board president, started classifying meetings as “special board meetings,” from which Hartsock was barred.
Layoffs Gut Project Veritas: ‘What the F*ck Happened Here?’
“I later found out (second-hand) that those ‘matters discussed’ that night were removing indemnification from journalists (current and former) against criminal and civil litigation as a result of work assigned to them in the field,” Hartsock told The Daily Beast of the first “special board meeting” from which he was excluded.
The Daily Beast reviewed text messages between Hartsock and Barton from Aug. 16. (Project Veritas laid off employees earlier that week on Aug. 14 and again on Aug. 17.) In the texts, Hartsock informed Barton that he hadn’t been invited to a board meeting.
“No shit,” Barton wrote back.
“Can you forward me the invite?” Hartsock asked.
“No,” wrote Barton, who went on to characterize the meeting as “special” and inform Hartsock that “You re not invited.”
Other exact communications from exact employees show them voicing layoff concerns in a company-wide group chat, where Giles was a member. (“Once the sloppily executed layoffs happened, the chat became a firing squad aimed directly at Hannah,” a laid-off employee told The Daily Beast.)
“Lmao. who is making the stories now. Hannah cant figure out Twitter let alone final cut,” one ex-staffer wrote to the group, in reference to the production software Final Cut.
Elsewhere in the chat, Lalino tagged Giles and accused her of telling him the previous day that he would not be laid off.
“Thanks for lying to me yesterday and telling me I wasn’t getting laid off,” he wrote. “Awesome working with you. Thanks for giving it to me straight when I asked, you taught me a valuable lesson about dealing with snakes.”
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