DETROIT - To the outside observer, former ThyssenKrupp Materials N.A. Inc. CEO Kenneth Graham led the high life.
Graham entertained customers at his suburban Detroit home with catering by a local chef. He also took customers on trips to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Vero Beach, Fla.
But the U.S. attorney's office alleges that Graham paid for part of his lifestyle through illegal kickbacks.
That's hogwash, says Graham's attorney, Robert Harrison of Birmingham, Mich. Graham was a highly compensated executive whose company encouraged him to entertain clients and willingly subsidized the cost, he says.
For example, the German company shared the cost of homes with Graham at the Wyoming resort and in Florida, Harrison says. The company also paid for the catering at Graham's home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
"He lived a high-level lifestyle, but he made a lot of money his whole life," Harrison says. "It was part of his job at Thyssen to entertain and expand the business."
ThyssenKrupp Materials of Detroit, the metals and plastics production and delivery unit of ThyssenKrupp AG, declined comment when asked to confirm Harrison's statements. The automotive and airline industries are prime customers of ThyssenKrupp Materials.
The company was aware of Graham's expenses and paid for those services, Harrison said. He wouldn't reveal Graham's salary before retiring from ThyssenKrupp in December 2001 but said Graham's total annual compensation was more than $1 million.