NBC’s flagship morning show, “Today,” invited billionaire Robert F. Smith to offer financial advice to young people last week, but the Peacock Network failed to mention that Smith is caught up in one of the largest tax fraud cases in the history of the United States.
Smith sat down with NBC’s Craig Melvin on Wednesday to educate young people how to handle money, but it appears NBC News doesn’t have a thorough vetting process. NBC painted Smith, the founder and CEO of Vista Equity, as a philanthropist but didn’t inform viewers of the billionaire’s significant legal woes.
On Monday, Robert Smith’s partner for a variety of tax issues, Robert Brockman, will be in a Houston court to face a competency hearing after being charged with evading taxes on $2 billion.
“The stakes are high as well for billionaire Robert F. Smith and his firm, Vista Equity Partners. Smith was a subject of the same probe that led prosecutors to Brockman. As Smith’s original investor, Brockman put at least $1 billion into Vista funds. Smith’s $8.7-billion fortune makes him the wealthiest African-America,” Bloomberg News reported on Friday.
“Smith avoided prosecution last year when he admitted evading taxes on $200 million of income, agreed to pay $139 million and to cooperate in the Brockman probe,” Bloomberg added. “If Brockman is declared incompetent, Smith will avoid testifying at trial.”
Indeed, Smith in 2020 paid $139 million to settle his own tax probe and agreed to cooperate in the investigation of Brockman – but “Today” viewers would have no idea because Melvin and NBC failed to disclose Smith’s tax issues.
Melvin did inform viewers that NBC’s parent company Comcast is an investor in the app Smith uses for his philanthropic initiatives.
The “Today” show cast even sat around after Melvin’s segment and praised Smith while the show’s on-screen chyron said, “Billionaire philanthropist pays it forward.”
Smith famously stunned a senior class in 2019 when he promised to wipe out the student loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse, a historically Black all-male college.
NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fox Business’ Janie Har contributed to this report.