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Fraud du Jour

Fraud du Jour – R. Scott Raynovich

June 26, 2002

2 Min Read
Fraud du Jour

What's next after WorldCon? Is AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) running its books in Rubles? Is Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) vaunted billions in cash actually held in the form of wooden nickels? Is McDonald's shipping barley instead of beef in its burgers?

WorldCom Inc.'s (Nasdaq: WCOM) disastrous announcement today of a $3.7 billion trompe l'oeil leaves the telecommunications industry -- and the entire U.S. capitalist system -- reeling in dismay.

That whooshing sound you hear is the flight of capital out of U.S. markets -- especially technology and telecommunications markets. After today, it might be a better bet to fund your next telecom startup in the Republic of Georgia. There's probably less risk.

Yes, today, things are that bad. Yet a bigger problem is that you still run into people in this industry that just don't get it.

Take Jim Crowe, the CEO of Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT), who continually puts on a face in the popular press, saying that "everything's fine." He won't even admit publicly that the reason he bought software companies was to meet debt covenants (see Level 3 Software Play Has Perils). Who's he fooling? His industry is in crisis, yet his company's fine? We don't buy it and never have.

Better yet, the characters at Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), who say the answer lies in selling Yellow Pages on the street corner. One can only imagine what's going to come to light now that former CEO Joseph Nacchio has fled and a new crew has come in to peruse the books (see Notebaert Takes Out Nacchio)

And what's up with Global Crossing Holdings Ltd.? Can they get it to the chop shop and sell the assets already?

It's as if the telecom industry's sole value now comes in funding the operations of high-powered bankruptcy and securities lawyers who delay mop-up operations indefinitely.

Meanwhile, watch stock prices: They tell you more than you'll ever hear from frightened executives. (Pssst! They're still falling.)

The industry won't get better until all of the closets are emptied of skeletons and the needed bankruptcies are accelerated.

So come on, out with it! Fess up or turn out the lights! You're holding it up for the rest of us!

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading

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