Just months after the outbreak of World War I, rumors spread throughout the Russian Empire that Singer Manufacturing Company’s wholly owned Russian subsidiary, Kompaniia Zinger, was a German company that was actively engaged in espionage on behalf of the German military. Even though these rumors were untrue, they unleashed a wave of actions against the company that Singer’s officials were unable to stop, ultimately leading to tremendous losses for the firm. The central argument of this article is that the power of the accusations of Singer’s German ties rested far more on the nature of the company’s business model than on the national affiliation of its personnel or evidence of espionage. In the context of World War I–era Russia, many Russians took Singer’s operations not as those of an international capitalist enterprise, but rather as evidence of the company’s questionable foreign character. This perspective helps us to understand why Singer’s management had such difficulty shaking the accusations of its German ties; if what was suspicious about the company was the very foundation of its business model, then its continued operation meant that it necessarily exhibited characteristics that reinforced the basis for said suspicion. These findings have implications for international business history, the history of late-Tsarist Russia, and the history of capitalism.