2024 Election

Ex-DEI Manager Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Over $5 Million From Facebook, Nike

In a striking blow to the integrity of corporate diversity initiatives, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, a former Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) manager, has been sentenced to prison for embezzling over $5 million from tech giant Facebook and sportswear behemoth Nike.

This case not only exposes the vulnerability of large corporations to internal fraud but also raises questions about the oversight and effectiveness of DEI programs that have become a staple in corporate America.

Furlow-Smiles’ elaborate scheme involved submitting fraudulent invoices for marketing and event planning services that were never rendered. Over several years, she exploited her position within these companies to funnel substantial sums into her own pockets. Her actions represent a profound betrayal of trust and highlight potential weaknesses in corporate governance structures.

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Furlow-Smiles recruited friends, relatives, former interns from a prior job, nannies, babysitters, a hair stylist, and her university tutor to participate in the scheme. Some of the charges Furlow-Smiles caused Facebook to pay included almost $10,000 to an artist for specialty portraits and over $18,000 to a preschool for tuition.

This case is particularly noteworthy given the current climate where DEI initiatives are often touted as moral imperatives within corporate culture. It underscores an uncomfortable reality: even programs designed with social good in mind are not immune to corruption and malfeasance.

The sentencing of Furlow-Smiles comes at a time when there is increasing scrutiny on the efficacy and administration of DEI programs across various sectors. Critics argue that such programs often lack transparency and measurable outcomes, which can create environments ripe for abuse by those who would exploit them for personal gain.

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The irony is palpable: an individual charged with advancing equity and inclusion instead chose to perpetuate inequality by stealing millions designated for those very purposes.

This incident may serve as a cautionary tale for other organizations that place substantial trust in individuals overseeing sensitive areas like DEI without implementing rigorous checks and balances.

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Moreover, this scandal could potentially fuel skepticism among conservatives regarding the true motives behind corporate DEI efforts. Some may view it as vindication of their concerns about the prioritization of identity politics over meritocracy in business practices.

She was convicted of wire fraud in December 2023 after pleading guilty in what prosecutors described as an “elaborate criminal scheme” to defraud her former employers of millions of dollars, which she used to live a luxury lifestyle in California and Georgia.
“Motivated by greed, she used her time to orchestrate an elaborate criminal scheme in which fraudulent vendors paid her kickbacks in cash,” Mr. Buchanan said in a statement on Dec. 12, 2023, after Ms. Furlow-Smiles pleaded guilty to her crimes.

“Her prison sentence reflects the consequences of her decision to orchestrate an intricate scheme to defraud two of her employers for personal profit,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a May 13 statement.

Furlow-Smiles was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steven D. Grimberg to five years and three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $4,981,783.58 in restitution to Facebook and $121,054.50 to Nike, for a total of $5,102,838.08. Furlow-Smiles previously pled guilty to wire fraud on December 11, 2023.

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While some may argue that instances like these are isolated events rather than indicative of broader issues within DEI initiatives or corporate culture at large, they nonetheless cast a shadow over such programs’ reputations. They also provide ammunition for those who question whether these initiatives are being leveraged more for public relations value than actual societal impact.

It is essential now more than ever for corporations like Facebook and Nike—leaders in their respective industries—to reassess their internal controls surrounding their DEI efforts. The need for transparency is paramount if they wish to maintain credibility in their commitment to fostering diverse workplaces while safeguarding against future abuses.


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Experienced journalist with a knack for storytelling and a commitment to delivering accurate news. Şenay has a passion for investigative reporting and shining a light on important issues.


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