INDIANAPOLIS — David Colby was one of corporate America’s most admired executives before he was abruptly fired last spring for what was vaguely described at the time as misconduct of a “non-business nature.” Now details about his personal life are spilling out, and it’s clear he was more than just Wall Street’s darling.
In a cluster of lawsuits gathered up by The Associated Press, the former chief financial officer of health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. is depicted as a corporate Casanova — a world-class, love-’em-and-leave-’em sort of guy who romanced dozens of women around the country simultaneously, made them extravagant promises and then went back on his word with all the compassion of a health insurance company denying a claim.
One woman says Colby got her pregnant and harangued her via text message (“ABORT!!”) to terminate the pregnancy. He also allegedly gave some of his girlfriends sexually transmitted diseases, and proposed to at least 12 women since 2005.
The allegations are contained in lawsuits filed before and after Colby’s departure by three women who say they were ill-used by the businessman.
Colby and his attorneys have refused to comment, though in court papers he has disputed some of the allegations, and one of the lawsuits was thrown out a few months ago by a judge who found insufficient grounds for legal action.
By all accounts, the 54-year-old Colby — a pudgy, bespectacled figure with salt-and-pepper hair — charmed attractive women by showering them with compliments and gifts. While at least one of his accusers was a WellPoint underling, it appears he met many of the other women outside of work, via online dating sites, and he has not been accused of workplace sexual harassment.
“I’m not surprised that there are women who would come forward with the same story, because that appears to be Dave’s modus operandi,” said Mark Hathaway, a lawyer for two of the women who sued. “We’ve been contacted by a number of women.”
His ouster is the latest, and perhaps the most lurid, in a string of cases in which corporate chieftains were bounced for alleged misbehavior outside the boardroom.
Last year, HBO’s chief executive was forced out after being charged with throttling his girlfriend. Before that, a Boeing CEO lost his job after admitting to an affair with a female underling.
“There’s no question companies are much more sensitive to ethical conduct on the part of their executives,” W. Michael Hoffman, executive director for the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., said after Colby’s ouster.
It was Colby who helped put together the $16.4 billion deal that created Indianapolis-based WellPoint in 2004. He was named best CFO in managed care for four years in a row by Institutional Investor magazine. Stockholders and Wall Street professionals saw the Columbia University graduate as someone who “gave it to you straight,” said stock analyst Thomas Carroll.
“He would give you the good news along with the bad news,” Carroll said. “If he said something, you could really hang your hat on it.”
After the company passed him over for its CEO last February, it gave Colby thousands of stock options to stick around. But three months later, to Wall Street’s surprise, he was out. All WellPoint has ever said was that he was ousted over a nonbusiness violation of the company code of conduct.
Days before Colby was fired, a California woman, Rita DiCarlo, sued him for possession of a $4.4 million house in exclusive Lake Sherwood, Calif., that she said he had promised her. (He has denied making such a promise.)
Exactly what his marital status was at the time of some of the alleged romances is unclear, but as of last month, he was going through a divorce from wife No. 2.
Some of the allegations of his philandering began surfacing in the months after his ouster, but the extent of his alleged womanizing and the details of how he supposedly wooed his girlfriends are only now coming out.
DiCarlo and the other women suing him tell similar stories of aggressive courtship, big promises and broken hearts.
They say that Colby was carrying on with more than 30 women in the last half of 2007 alone and that he would tell them all the time them how beautiful they were or how much he loved them. “You forever!” read one text message, included in court files. “I chose you! Goodnight!” another message read.
Colby would supplement such declarations with gifts such as jewelry or trips, the women say. DiCarlo says in court papers that he gave her $100,000 “to make me feel more secure” three days after she found out he wasn’t divorced.
Another lawsuit was filed last month by Elizabeth Cook, a Los Angeles woman who met Colby in 2006 at a function for a California school their children attended.
A single mother with two children, she says in court papers that she dodged his initial advances but relented under a bombardment of calls, texts and e-mails, many of them containing sexually explicit propositions.
She says she soon broke her lease at his urging, with plans to move into his Lake Sherwood home. She says she stopped searching for ways to afford the brain surgery her severely epileptic 6-year-old son needed after Colby promised to pay. Then, she says, she got pregnant, and the text messages abruptly changed tone.
“ABORT!!” Colby allegedly told her in flurry of text messages included in the lawsuit. “Get rid of it. Have an abortion and we can be together.”
(Her attorney would not comment on the case. According to court papers, Cook was still pregnant as of Dec. 31.)
Cook accuses Colby of infecting her and other women with STDs, including herpes and chlamydia. She also accuses him of breach of contract over the surgery she says he never paid for. She never moved into the multimillion-dollar home — which DiCarlo still occupies.
As for DiCarlo, she says that she met Colby through Match.com and that he proposed the first time they met in person. An engagement announcement for the couple ran in The Indianapolis Star in February 2006. But the two never wed. DiCarlo says she discovered he was living a “secret life,” with multiple fiancees.
She also accuses him of stopping payment on her health insurance even though she had a kidney removed for donation last fall.
Another woman, Sarah Waugh of Ventura County, Calif., sued Colby last June, accusing him of causing her emotional distress and exposing her to sexually transmitted diseases by sleeping with others.
Waugh says her relationship with Colby started with office shoulder rubs and offers for dinner in 2001 when she was a 22-year-old employee and he a 48-year-old married executive at California’s WellPoint Health Networks Inc. Waugh says Colby promised monthly support and private school for the children of his many other girlfriends.
Late last year, U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner threw out the lawsuit.
“Although Colby’s conduct may be ungallant, it simply does not rise to the level of being ‘utterly intolerable in a civilized community,”’ Klausner wrote, referring to Waugh’s claim of emotional distress.
Still, Hollywood producer Larry Garrison thinks there’s an audience for the lurid stories. Garrison, president of SilverCreek Entertainment, said he plans to put together a book and movie deal.
At WellPoint, Colby was paid more than $700,000 in salary and received a $1.1 million bonus in 2006. He left with a severance payment of $666,190 and later bought a $4.7 million home in Scottsdale, Ariz. His Indianapolis home, which he shared with a woman who identified herself as Angela Colby, is on the market for $1.6 million.
A former neighbor, Chad Christensen, said the couple were “very nice people, very down to earth and open.” He also recalled an awkward moment at a neighborhood picnic last summer, a few months after Colby’s romantic entanglements first became public.
A magician who was entertaining children asked the kids to reach into a bag and pull out some scarves. Then he turned to Colby.
“David reaches in and what he pulls out is some panties,” Christensen said. “I’m just thinking, ‘How uncomfortable does he feel right now?”
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