The Secret Probe That Got Branca Fired

Known as the Interfor Report, it was initiated by an increasingly paranoid Jackson, and though there was no credibility to what it found, it gave Jackson an excuse to get rid of his superlawywer

It’s known as the “Interfor Report,” after the Manhattan-based corporate espionage firm, Interfor Inc.

The contents — based on a private investigation by the firm on Michael Jackson’s behalf in 2003 — included assertions about John Branca, the entertainer’s on-again, off-again music attorney for 30 years.

Among other things, Interfor investigated  what it claimed was "the flow of funds from Jackson through (Sony Music CEO Tommy) Mottola and Branca into offshore accounts in the Carribean [sic].”

But the investigation provided no credible evidence to corroborate those and other assertions. In fact, it seems little more than part of an elaborate smear campaign intended to influence Jackson to fire Branca — initiated by an increasingly paranoid Jackson himself.

Read the excerpt.

Jackson lawyer David Legrand, testified at the singer's 2005 child-molestation trial that Jackson had hired him to look into the people in his inner circle.

But, Legrand testified, "I was given no credible evidence to support (the) charges; I would be doing Mr. Branca a great wrong if I said otherwise."

Nonetheless, the report achieved its goal: Branca's termination. 

“This is to confirm that I am terminating the services of you and your firm effective upon delivery of this letter,” Jackson wrote the attorney in February 2003. “You are commanded to immediately cease expending effort of any kind on my behalf…You are specifically instructed to transfer any funds you are holding in trust for me…”

Branca declined repeated overtures for further comment after having granted this reporter a lengthy taped interview last summer.

Mottola, who abruptly resigned from Sony a month before Jackson fired Branca, called the assertion about off-shore accounts involving him "nonsense." But in an interview Sunday evening, he also added that he would have been unaware of any offshore accounts established by Branca, Jackson or both. It's "not anything that a multinational corporation like Sony" would have been involved in during his tenure, Mottola reiterated.

About Interfor and its owner, Alvin Malnik wrote: “I have heard negative and unreliable comments about that company and its director, Juval Aviv.”

An Israeli émigré, Aviv once made a Village Voice headline, “Secret Agent Schmuck.” The Voice reported that Israel had officially discredited Aviv’s public suggestions that he was the lead assassin of state intelligence service Mossad in avenging the Munich massacre.
 
Last week, Aviv, through an assistant, referred a call for comment to Fred D. Gibson, an attorney with Hale Lane Peek Dennison & Howard — the firm that Jackson hired to succeed Branca.

This article has been modified from an earlier version.