It's also true that Mallick hails from Texas—his ex-wife (they have since divorced) and kids still live there today. But after that, the movie's account begins to diverge from the facts.
For instance, the company depicted in Middle Men—Paycom—wasn't nearly the mess that the film suggests. When Mallick joined, in 1999 (according to him) or 2000 (according to the company), Paycom had some 170 employees and a 20,000-square-foot office and had been thriving for four years. The founders, Joel Hall and Clay Andrews, are neither degenerates nor child pornographers nor fools—Hall is a software engineer with an M.B.A. who continues to run the business today (it's now called Epoch), and Andrews is a qualified website developer, though he struggles with alcohol abuse. Mallick was hired as a consultant, became CEO in short order, and had eventually accumulated enough shares to be considered a third partner by 2005, when, after mounting disputes, he was fired acrimoniously. Paycom alleges in a lengthy legal complaint filed that June that Mallick tried to take over the company by filling key positions with family members and cronies and plotted to oust Andrews by exploiting his drinking problem. It also charges Mallick with using company funds to shower "models" with gifts and take them on business trips on chartered jets.
"It's all lies," Mallick says. "Are they suggesting I paid prostitutes with company money? Really? I didn't. If I did, would I admit it? No." He laughs, flashing those fluorescent teeth. "You know, it was my undoing, this perception of women. 'Oh, you have to be sleeping with them.' But most of my friends are great-looking girls, and the reason they're my friends is I'm not trying to sleep with them!"
This applies, Mallick insists, to both the alleged "models" and the girls he jetted off with to Cabo.
"Look, I know where this comes from. This comes from people saying, 'Chris was the greatest guy in the world—why did you get rid of him?' And they didn't have a business reason, so they made something up! The truth—which I would appreciate—is that they wanted my third of the company. The more I did, the more successful we became, the less they figured they needed me." He shrugs and folds his arms in an exaggerated, childlike fashion. "But I'm not going to cry about it."
And yet he keeps returning to the subject of Paycom, getting more upset each time. At one point he describes getting fired as "the biggest disaster of my life." And given Mallick's résumé, that's saying something.
Mallick's career processing payments for online porn was fodder for his film, and his film was his ticket out of his career, until it tanked.
John Christopher Mallick was the oldest of five children born to a Lebanese-American family in Dallas. He left school at 15 to work. He learned by doing, with no formal training—it's a point of pride with him. His expertise is, by his own admission, vague. "I solve problems," he says. And problems always followed him. His career is littered with lawsuits stretching back to the mid-eighties—cases of breach of contract and even civil harassment ranging from Texas to New York to California. Many were dismissed, some were settled. One case in 1999—Suez Equity Investors LP v. Toronto-Dominion Bank—details his track record of tax liens, bankruptcy, and financial disputes with associates, referring often to Mallick's lack of ability and competence. The court found the bank—Mallick's employer at the time—had concealed his history from prospective investors.
Yet what riles him most is what happened at Paycom, a company where, he says at first, he made a fortune so vast that he could finance Middle Men single-handedly. He later amends that to say that he amassed the funds for the film over the course of his entire career. Regardless of its financial importance to Mallick, Paycom, it seems clear, is the backdrop for the movie for reasons beyond his cinematic vision.
Mallick continued to add to his net worth while at ePassporte, the processing business that he started under the Paycom umbrella in 2003. When he was fired, he received his brainchild as part of his settlement. Akin to a smaller, offshore Paypal, ePassporte was a platform for e-businesses to conduct transactions among themselves and with consumers. Account holders would wire money to ePassporte's bank account at the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank (SKNA), then receive a Visa virtual card to access their funds. Through the ePassporte website, they could conduct transactions with other account holders quickly, easily, and discreetly. Before long, thousands of Webmasters and individuals from more than 100 countries—chiefly pornographers, consumers of porn, and, later, online-poker players—were doing just that.
Mallick felt he was destined for loftier pursuits. "I was on a mission to work myself out of a job," he says. "To set up ePassporte so it just ran on its own, because, really, I'd always wanted to be a filmmaker. I like the way that movie deals can be structured. And you know what? I'm a frustrated writer. I have creative ideas." In mid-2005, soon after being fired from Paycom, Mallick founded a production company, Oxymoron Entertainment. Its logo was a grotesque twist on the drama mask—one side white and smiling, the other demonic red.
One of Mallick's creative ideas was to continue operating after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which scared most of his competition away from online-poker transactions. Although it didn't go into effect until 2009, as soon as it passed in October 2006, federal authorities began to prosecute payment processors vigorously. NETeller's founders were arrested in January 2007 and pleaded guilty to charges related to money laundering. Other companies, like FirePay, simply quit doing business with U.S. account holders who wanted to play online poker. But ePassporte persisted unmolested—Mallick didn't believe the law applied, as it didn't specifically cite payment processing, and, he asserts, poker is a game of skill, not chance, and thus not gambling at all.