Argus lays off more employees

Argus lays off more employees

SAVOY - Employees at Argus Systems Group have been going without paychecks for more than a month. This week, they learned half the staff has been laid off.
Argus, best known for its PitBull software that helps keep computer operating systems secure, notified employees of the layoffs Tuesday following a meeting of the company's board of directors.
?We were at 20 or 21,? said company President Paul Mc-Nabb. ?Now it will be under 10.?
At one time, the company employed as many as 100, with two-thirds of those in Savoy. But subsequent rounds of layoffs dropped employment to 35 in October and 22 earlier this year.
?The company has got some great business lined up, but we still don't have revenues and expenses lined up the way we need to,? McNabb said. ?It's been a difficult year.?
?During the late '90s, when everything was booming, a lot of expenses were incurred,? he said. ?We're still carrying a lot of debt. It's a big issue for us to handle (those expenses) and take care of debt.?
McNabb said a bankruptcy filing is not imminent although it could be an option.
?There's been nothing said - the board has not authorized that or requested that,? he said. ?When you're carrying a lot of debt, that's an option. It's something that may occur, but there's been no determination on that.?
Argus was founded in 1993 and made a name for itself by developing trusted operating systems for Internet banking and e-commerce transactions. It developed a line of software products, including PitBull Foundation, PitBull LX, PitBull Protector and PitBull Purge.
Its clients included both commercial firms and government offices, including the Department of Defense and federal intelligence agencies.
Argus got national attention when it sponsored several hacking contests to demonstrate how impervious its PitBull software was to hackers.
Last year, a group of Polish hackers complained when they didn't get the full reward in a contest sponsored by an Argus affiliate in Europe. Randy Sandone, who was Argus' president at that time, offered them partial payment from his own pocket. He parted ways with the company Nov. 1 after it endured more than a year of economic hard times.
Argus' fortunes fell when the technology bubble burst in early 2001 and companies began reducing their spending on technology. Commercial sales fell off sharply.
But McNabb said Wednesday he believes a significant investment package, involving both new and existing investors, is at hand.
McNabb said the company missed some payrolls in February, partly because expected business didn't materialize on schedule.
?We were expecting several contracts to come through. Several got delayed or postponed for weeks,? he said. ?We were expecting two of them in February, and both got bogged down. That had a major impact on us.?
Despite not getting paid, many Argus Systems employees stayed on the job at the company's two offices in Savoy, at 1809 Woodfield Drive and 6 Dunlap Court.
?We have a very dedicated crew, and we're very pleased with them,? McNabb said. ?We have a great product and a great business. We're pleased with the dedication our employees have shown. We hope we can call them back and take this company forward.?
McNabb said some creditors have filed lawsuits, primarily over ?typical accounts-payable issues.?
He also noted that Sandone had filed a lawsuit against the directors of the company and a separate suit against one of Argus' investors. McNabb called the suits ?unfortunate? but said they ?don't affect us as a company.?

You can reach Don Dodson at (217) 351-5227 or via e-mail at dodson@news-gazette.com.

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