published Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

TVA manager fired for lying

The head of America's biggest nuclear power plant construction project was fired last week after he lied about having a financial hardship in order to get $1.8 million from a future TVA bonus fund, according to court records.

Masoud Bajestani, formerly one of TVA's top nuclear managers who was overseeing the construction of the Unit 2 reactor, admitted in a divorce proceeding that he made early hardship withdrawals from his deferred compensation account because he wanted to invest money in his native Iran.

An appellate court ruled last year that Bajestani falsely claimed to need the money for housing when he actually sent $600,000 to his brother-in-law in Iran. The transfers were made through a Canadian bank around the time that Bajestani's second wife, Maryam Ghorashi-Bajestani, sued him for divorce.

"(Bajestani) did not need the money," Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge D. Michael Swiney ruled in a 31-page divorce ruling last year. "At trial, he admitted that he did not have a financial hardship at the time he made the withdrawal."

Bajestani testified he wanted to earn more money through investments in Iran.

"The dollar was losing its value, and I had this opportunity to invest some money outside the U.S. and specifically buy some property back in Tehran, Iran," Bajestani said during his divorce trial in 2008. "So I decided to withdraw the money and invest it outside the U.S."

By withdrawing the money early under false pretenses, Bajestani had to pay taxes on it and he appears to have violated TVA's rules for such bonus and retirement plans.

Bajestani and his divorce attorney, John Meldorf, were unavailable Wednesday. According to the Hamilton County Register of Deeds, Bajestani sold his Chattanooga home in November for $440,000.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said Wednesday that Bajestani's departure "is a personnel matter we don't discuss."

But he said the dismissal was not related to Bajestani's performance at the Watts Bar plant and that changing leadership shouldn't delay the expected startup of the new reactor by late 2012.

Under the U.S. sanctions against Iran, Bajestani's investments also could be questionable, although Bajestani said he sent money to his family in Iran and should be able to get it back.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Americans' transactions and investments in Iran are limited. The United States and its allies have imposed increasingly stricter sanctions against Iran, which the U.S. says is trying to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.

Bajestani moved to the United States from Iran in 1975 and holds dual citizenship. As site vice president in charge of the $2.5 billion Watts Bar Nuclear Plant construction program, Bajestani was paid $619,000 by last year and was eligible for extra bonuses if the TVA project is finished on time and on budget.

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mrredskin said...

this "reasoning" for being fired gets a big LOL. 2+ years after admitting this and he's fired? Everyone should know there's more to it than this.

February 3, 2011 at 7:54 a.m.
podiebell said...

How come this guy wasn't on some watch list? He is Iranian and somehow has managed to position himself near the top of TVA, one of the oldest and most important nuclear companies in the US. There is no telling what he did with that money. He admits to washing it through a Canadian bank to get it to Iran.

February 3, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.
cgshot said...

I think lying was exactly why he was fired. The man has been in this country for 35 years and been a successful senior TVA manager for many years. Prior to this I can't see any reason or event that would have triggered his being put on a watch list.

Granted what he did was wrong and there could be more that develops but, having worked for him the only Masoud I knew was an extremely smart man. Unfortunate he had to go, but everyone in the nuclear industry knows a lack of trustworthiness" is taken very seriously, as it should be.

February 3, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.
mella_yella said...

They story implies or is trying to sugggest that Masoud sending money back home to Iran might have terroristic ties. I think he's just typical American in that he was likely trying to hide money from his soon to be ex in their divorce so she couldn't get her hands on what he's worked for. I'd say that a typical American male or female all the way who has a lot to lose.

Americans working in other countries send money back home to America all the time. America presently has a bone to pick with Iran. Otherwise this would be a none issue.

February 3, 2011 at 2:26 p.m.
VoiceOfTruth said...

I agree with cgshot. I have known Mr. Bajestani for a very long time and have never known him to be anything but kind, dedicated, hardworking, and respectful. He is a man that I admire, not only for his leadership and management skills, but also for his integrity. He made a mistake - something all of us have made and will continue to make as long as we live. I do not believe money sent to his family was for any terrorist activity or meant for any type of ill-will. Mr. Bajestani is a very generous man - he contributed thousands of dollars every year to the Combined Federal Campaign, any fundraising/charitable event being held at one of the plants he was one of the first ones to donate (and it wasn't a mere token - it was a considerable amount), and if he knew you needed help he was always willing to lend a hand. I've seen Mr. Bajestani at the plant on weekends, late at night, and even on occassion spending the night there when the operation of the unit(s) were threatened. He was passionate about his work, proud of all the accomplishments the sites made, and was always the first one to compliment and thank the worker bees in the field. He does not deserve to be discussed in such a negative way, have his character smeared in the public media, or for individuals to make assumptions concerning his loyalty to the United States. There are no secrets within TVA's nuclear program that he could use against this country - operating a nuclear plant is pretty much the same whatever country you are in and I'm sure Middle Eastern countries know how to operate a nuclear station. Unfortunately, Mr. Bajestani made a mistake - one that not only cost him his job, but resulted in the media providing a link to a private divorce settlement for all their readers to view and allowing people to bash someone they don't even know. I am proud to say Mr. Bajestani is a friend of mine and I will continue to fully offer my support to him. Next time you tell a lie, falsify a document, commit an unethical or immoral act - remember how a simple mistake can turn into character assassination for some.

February 3, 2011 at 2:37 p.m.
Coalf1eld said...

This man was in the Nuclear Plant and got ran off from there. So they put him in charge if Fossil Eastern Division. That didn't work either so he went back to Nuclear. I really don't know why TVA had this man doing those jobs when TVA was built it was for JOBS for the Tenn. Valley. Check now they are from EVERYWHERE. People in the Valley are smart enough to do these jobs. They need to get rid of the rest of them.

February 3, 2011 at 3:11 p.m.
dave said...

This is true...why do we have Indians and Iranians working in our government nuclear plants. with a true unemployment figure of nearly 25 percent this is ludicrous.

February 3, 2011 at 6:20 p.m.
grease said...

Anyone that makes this type of income in a given year must be "mission critical" or TVA is greatly mismanaged and has major room for cost reductions, hence rate reductions. So, if there is no delay in opening anticipated even though the project lead is terminated, then I must deduce that we have some awesome rate reductions coming.

February 3, 2011 at 8:31 p.m.
sideviews said...

Masoud Bajestani helped lead the restart of both Browns Ferry units and set the stage for the startup of the first new commercial nuclear reactor in the United States in the 21st century. Thanks for the explanation about one reason he may have been dismissed. TVA policies probably prohibit a public release of all of the reasons for his departure.

February 3, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
NoMyth said...

There is more to this story. It is plainly obvious that he was planning to physically relocate to his home country.

February 3, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.
Truthy said...

There is no more to the story as much as people wished to be! "Greed and Prejudice".. that's all. He was assigned to do what many were not capable of doing. He sacrificed his family and children for this job, worked 18 hours a day while his ex-wife(most good looking female engineer I've ever worked with)was raising their kids. He should have simply divided the asset that was accumulated during the course of marriage and get out.

February 4, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.
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