MCI saga continues

FRAMINGHAM (09/18/2003) - Regarding Thomas Nolle's column "Time to end the MCI saga," after all the access charges are trued up and the traffic routed properly, we'll likely find, as we already have to some extent, that MCI was an uneconomic enterprise masquerading as an economic one. Over the years, management executed on strategies they couldn't afford, hence the current misfortune. The average worker at MCI has suffered a lot, but so have an even greater number of average workers and shareholders at Sprint, AT&T and other carriers that didn't break the law. Should we prolong an entire industry's trauma to benefit the minority?

I know MCI's competitors are doing what they can to undermine our emergence from bankruptcy, which is ultimately what all of these allegations are about. From my position, I can't tell whether what they're saying is true, and that holds true for the majority of us at MCI. They are trying to paint a picture of this monstrous company committing all of these monstrous acts, and that's not the company that I work for.

MCI is the people that I see and work with every day, striving to do the right thing to help our customers. If someone has done something dishonest, then they should be punished, but it is ridiculous to punish the company as a whole over the actions of a few. Our competitors would gladly put 55,000 hard-working people out of work because it would increase their balance sheets. I was wondering whether anyone other than the bankruptcy judge would stop and look at all of this objectively, and I'm glad that Nolle has. I applaud and appreciate his common sense and words of encouragement.

As a former WorldCom employee, I remain torn as to what MCI's fate should be. Many of my friends still work for the beleaguered carrier, and they would like to remain employed. I also feel that the successful emergence of MCI from bankruptcy will signal the recovery of the entire industry.

MCI should not be forced to liquidate its assets or involuntarily be broken into pieces. However, how does the government ensure that other companies do not follow in MCI's footsteps? A corporation in dire financial straits might emulate MCI's actions if the only repercussions are a small fine and some bashing by the media.

WorldCom, formerly famous for low-selling, general and administrative expenses and outstanding margins, achieved high margins and returns under false circumstances. Its competition, in order to remain competitive, lowered its prices to match WorldCom's offer, which subsequently affected margins, returns and shareholder value. Every person directly or indirectly involved in telecom was affected by WorldCom's accounting practices.

To put it in a real-world perspective, WorldCom/MCI cheated on its spouse, abused drugs and emptied the family's checking account, yet it still gets custody of the kids, keeps its jobs and doesn't have to pay alimony. MCI walks away intact, but everyone around it pays the penalty.

If MCI emerges from Chapter 11 with US$4 billion in debt and no other penalties, then we're asking MCI's competition to accept the burden of their misgivings. I'm glad I'm not the guy making the decisions.

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