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Inside the Shadowy Firm Pushing the Limits of Business Privacy

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Inside the Shadowy Firm Pushing the Limits of Business Privacy

Since 2008 Dan Keen has grown his company from a small firm serving clients in the Pacific Northwest to a major national player in what is known as the business formation industry. The company and its competitors offer the opportunity to establish a company in the state the customer wants, and to receive mail and legal notices.

Keen started the company after running a tree pruning and landscaping business. Former employees said Keen worked tirelessly to build the company, often sending emails all night long.

“Dan put in a lot of effort and worked non-stop,” said Matt MacKenzie, who spent more than 11 years as a legal compliance specialist and was one of the company’s first employees.

When the company was still a small start-up, Keen regularly included his name on the incorporation documents of the company and its various subsidiaries in states across America. “It wasn’t until a few years later that he started using completely fake names and removing his name from all corporate paperwork for Registered Agents Inc.,” MacKenzie says.

Keen is described by former employees as a driven but eccentric businessman prone to micromanagement and sudden mood swings. Keen dresses modestly, former employees say, wearing shorts and flannel shirts, and is an avid skier and outdoorsman.

According to six former employees, Keen often took a passive-aggressive approach toward his staff. Two said Keen reluctantly offered health care plans to employees after being told it was required by the Affordable Care Act, allegedly telling his staff they were “whiners and complainers” for asking for them.

Several former employees described Keen as “inappropriate” and said he often commented on employees’ physical appearance. Two former employees described him making misogynistic statements, including making sexual comments about women and regularly questioning their ability to perform their jobs.

Several former employees questioned the high-security nature of the office, which they said was filled with security cameras and required them to store their cellphones in boxes. Slyusarev, the former senior software engineer for Registered Agents Inc., says the phone system, which he says he installed, was able to surreptitiously record employee phone calls.

Former employees say Keen chafed at government regulations and exercised complete control over the company and its operations. Keen does not have a website or social media profiles and does not give interviews about his business.

“He thinks people are out to get him, or out to get the company,” claims Evans, the former senior employee.

Details about its internal workings, including its ownership and management structure, are hidden from employees, who say they felt discouraged from talking about it in the office. And the practice of using false personas even extends to Registered Agents Inc.’s own employees.

When Don Evans started applying for jobs at Registered Agents Inc., he remembers first speaking via LinkedIn with Diane Brunner, who identified herself as a recruiter at the company. When he arrived at the office for an interview, he asked to speak to Brunner and was told no one by that name works at the company.

Jack Stephenson, who claims to be vice president and director of client relations at Registered Agents Inc. on LinkedIn, is another fake person, employees say. Stephenson regularly comments on the registered agent industry on LinkedIn. He lists a Bachelor of Business Administration from Utah State University on his profile, but a university official told WIRED they could find no records related to Jack Stephenson.

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