Lynn Tilton tells Brunswick’s Ellen Moskowitz about her ultimately successful effort to defend herself against SEC accusations of fraud
As a businesswoman, I have a long history of fighting for achievement in territories typically reserved for men. None of that prepared me for my recent battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In 2015, the SEC sued me for fraud. The accusation stung in all sorts of ways, not least because of how I was raised. My three siblings and I grew up in a loving home committed to hard work and appreciation. We were taught that we are best defined by how we touch the lives of others. We call this “our father’s values.” My siblings all made public service their lives’ work.
My parents are first-generation Americans; their parents, Russian immigrants. I was raised in the Bronx, then Teaneck, New Jersey, where I played competitive tennis, achieving national recognition before attending Yale University, where I played on the varsity team.
During my sophomore year in college, my father was diagnosed with brain cancer and died. Feeling the need to care for my mother and younger brother, I married during my junior year and upon graduation headed to a coveted analyst role at Morgan Stanley.
I hadn’t planned a career in business. But what is by design temporary becomes permanent by necessity. By 23, I was the single mother of a beautiful daughter, working 100-hour weeks in Mergers & Acquisitions. During the next decade, as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Kidder Peabody, I scrambled in fear to meet the relentless demands of male-dominated Wall Street while fulfilling my responsibilities as a mother.
In 2000, I realized that I could combine my Wall Street experience with my “father’s values.” Back when he passed, I learned first hand the devastation that a working parent’s death wreaks upon a family. Now I decided to dedicate my life’s work to saving other families from what mine had experienced. The “dignity of work” became my passion, drive and mission. I set out to design a business model where value would be built for investors while improving life for workers. Patriarch Partners, named to honor my father’s values, was born.
I invented a patented financial model that allowed Patriarch to raise funds to buy deeply distressed companies. Once we acquired them, we worked tirelessly to restructure and reignite them, attempting to save jobs and build value. Over 17 years, we have restructured 243 companies, saving 700,000 jobs. Of this, I am most proud.