It’s never great to end a company call with the question, “Billy, should we be concerned about the FBI?”

A tense conference call between Fyre Festival employees and founder Billy McFarland is drawing new scrutiny after he dodged a question about a possible FBI investigation into the disastrous Fyre Festival.

“I don’t know, I think that’s an individual thing,” McFarland stutters, “I’m not sure. The company has counsel who I am happy to loop you in with.”

On the same call — in which he told his remaining employees that they weren’t being fired but weren’t getting paid either — McFarland instructs his employees not to erase any files on their computers because of pending legal actions.

“With all the notices that we have in place, it’s imperative that we keep our files in place,” McFarland can be heard telling staff on audio of a phone call obtained by Vice, delivering the bad news that the company could no longer pay its employees.

“After conferring with our counsel and finance people, unfortunately, we are not able to proceed with payroll immediately,” McFarland said. “I understand this is not an ideal situation for everyone and will likely cause a lot of you to resign, which we totally get and understand. That said, if you want to stick with us, we’d love to have you.”

McFarland and Ja Rule are facing seven lawsuits over last months’ failed Fyre Festival, which promised ticket buyers a VIP experience in the Bahamas but delivered FEMA-style tents for attendees, a lack of basic amenities and famously photographed cheese sandwiches.

A former employee tells Amplify that most of Fyre’s product team has quit — besides planning the doomed festival, Fyre was also building a booking app to help connect talent buyers and event planners directly with artists.

“While we can’t fulfill any obligations in the near future, we’re committed to growing the booking platform,” McFarland says.

Many of the employees on the call were incredulous to Billy’s offer of no pay for continued work on the app.

“So I’m unclear as to how you’re asking us to remain employed without paying us,” one employee can be heard saying.

“We’re not asking anyone to remain in place, we’re saying we can no longer continue payroll,” McFarland said. “If people are willing to stay and help out, of course we’re willing to do that.”

The employee then explained, “that’s a breach of my contract I signed with you — so are you firing me?”

“We’re not firing anybody,” McFarland said. “We’re just letting you know there is no payroll in the short term.”

Another employee complained that if they weren’t going to fire or lay the employees off, then they wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

“I’m not aware of how that will affect employment benefits,” McFarland tells the group. “I will need to get some advice on my side and figure out the best way to proceed.”

Dave Brooks
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Dave Brooks

Founder & Executive Editor at Amplify Media
Dave Brooks has over 15 years experience as a writer, including eight years as the Managing Editor of Venues Today. He started Amplify in 2014 to give the industry its own voice and turn up the volume on live entertainment.
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