WorldCom's woes

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 29, 2002

The Washington Post has a long article on Worldcom's demise.

Thousands of pages of previously undisclosed company documents reviewed by The Washington Post, along with interviews with former employees and people familiar with WorldCom's operations, reveal a grow-at-any-cost culture that made it possible for employees and managers to game the system internally and to deceive investors about the health of the business.

Salespeople and managers boosted their commissions by manipulating the company's billing systems. Orders for services or equipment were booked even if they were not provided, so that departments could meet revenue targets. Outside contractors billed for hours they could not have worked, and some equipment was purchased without anyone checking to see whether it was already in inventory.

Try as the Democrats might to claim that the Republican Congress' push for deregulation was responsible for this sort of outright fraud, such accusations are not backed up by the facts. Of course, former President Bill Clinton isn't responsible either -- of course Republicans make only a half-hearted effort to sell it, because no one's buying.

The simple fact is that Gordon Gecko's "Greed is Good" dogma is what got these businesses in trouble and lax accounting allowed the problem to grow to such mammoth proportions that it resulted in Worldcom's (and Enron's, and Global Crossing's) bankruptcy.

Where did the money go? Some of the employees stole it.

Who's responsible? The companies and their auditors.

Washington politicians are like the 3-year-old children -- everything in the world revolves around them. If the economy goes south -- it's someone in government's fault. If the economy booms -- it's a politician's good-governance. If nine miners get trapped in a mine -- it's government's fault that not enough money is spent on mine safety. If they're successfully rescued -- it's the government's rescue systems that are responsible.

So, frauds like those that occurred at WorldCom cause politicians to look for someone in the capitol to blame -- even though nothing any politician could do would've prevented it.


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August 2002



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