What's the difference between a public company and a piggybank? Apparently not much, if you are InfoGroup's ( IUSA) former CEO Vinod Gupta. Gupta, who also founded the database provider, agreed Monday to pay more than $7.3 million to settle federal regulators' charges he embezzled nearly $9.5 million from the company to finance a lifestyle that included private jet travel (with and without ex-President Clinton), multiple vacation homes and nearly two dozen fancy automobiles. Unsurprisingly, the formerly jet-setting CEO agreed to the settlement announced by the Securities and Exchange Commission without admitting or denying the agency's allegations, but did agree to refrain from future violations of securities laws. Gupta served as CEO and chairman of the company from 1992 through August 2008, when he resigned to settle a shareholder lawsuit alleging the company misspent millions of dollars on domestic and international air travel for Clinton and his wife, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bill Clinton had a six-year, $3.3 million consulting contract with the company, ostensibly to open doors for Gupta and Omaha, Neb-based InfoGroup. (Either that, or Bill has mad tech skills we don't know about.)
According to the SEC's civil lawsuit against Gupta, however, it was Gupta who was constantly opening doors. The door to his private jets, to his 80-foot yacht, to his five vacation homes, to his 28 country clubs, etc. The key to all those doors being shareholder dollars he allegedly sucked from InfoGroup's coffers. Now that Gupta is barred from serving as an officer or director of any public company, it seems the SEC has finally changed the lock on him. Dumb-o-meter score: 75 -- Gupta gave over $1 million to Bill Clinton's presidential library in Arkansas, so if he wants to read up on corporate governance, that's a good place for him to get some peace and quiet.