Did Trump’s Administrator Give A “Bankrupt Company” $ 55 Million For N95 Masks He Does Not Make?

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Amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in mid-April 2020, a Business Insider article circulated widely on social media that reported that the Trump administration had awarded Panthera a $ 55 million mask contract , “a bankrupt company with zero employees for N95 masks, which is never manufactured.

The Business Insider article, published April 16, was aggregated from a Washington Post report, which was published a day earlier. The Business Insider headline read: “Trump administration awarded $ 55 million contract to bankrupt company with zero employees for N95 masks, which it never made.” The article included more details:

In this chaotic effort to source, the Trump administration awarded a $ 55 million contract to Panthera Worldwide LLC, a company with no expertise in the medical equipment world, for N95 masks, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. .

Panthera’s parent company filed for bankruptcy last fall, and one of its owners said last year it had no employees since May 2018, The Post reported, citing sworn testimony. It is no longer listed as an LLC in Virginia, where its main office is located, after the fees were unpaid, the newspaper said.

The articles also spawned a meme that social media users spread, prompting readers to ask Snopes to check out:

We reached out to one of the executives of Panthera Worldwide, James Punelli, who told us by email that Panthera Worldwide, which contracts with FEMA, is a separate legal entity from parent company Panthera Enterprises; the latter filed for bankruptcy in 2019. Panthera Worldwide, Punelli noted, is not named in legal proceedings involving its parent company.

“Panthera Worldwide has past performance and is in good standing with [Department of Defense] and other federal entities for the quality and punctuality of performance, especially in the area of ​​medical training, ”Punelli said in his email. Punelli also said that Panthera Worldwide has both employees and independent contractors on its payroll.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, we offered to provide the necessary equipment through Panthera Worldwide, a company in good standing as a federal contractor with a supply of legitimate, high-quality medical supplies in the region. whole world. We provide this product to the same high standard as the service we have always provided; and will do it sooner than expected with these 10 million masks, ”Punelli said.

Panthera research using USASpending.gov, a database that tracks federal contracts, confirms that the US Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a subsidiary agency, awarded Panthera $ 55.5 million dollars for N95 masks in a contract that begins April 1 and ends May 1, 2020.

A FEMA spokesperson told us that it is true that Panthera does not make medical masks, but that “Panthera is a broker, not a manufacturer. The review of the company and its proposal led FEMA to conclude that the offeror would be able to fulfill the contract.

FEMA also told us that the price the federal government paid to buy 10 million masks from Panthera, at $ 5.50 per mask, was within the market value range at the time, which was 2. $ 50 to $ 7.

So, while it is true that FEMA awarded a $ 55 million contract to Panthera Worldwide to broker medical masks, it is not true that the company is bankrupt, as shown in the meme above. . According to a company executive, Panthera Worldwide also currently has employees and contractors on its payroll and can negotiate the purchase of masks. As such, we are evaluating this “Mixture” claim.

UPDATE: On May 12, 2020, The Hill announced that FEMA had canceled its contract with Panthera Worldwide “due to non-delivery.”

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