Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey Of A Corporate Whistleblower Writing Sample

Introduction

“Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower” is a riveting memoir by Cynthia Cooper, a former Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom. In the book, Cooper recounts vividly her experience uncovering the largest accounting fraud in corporate history. She explains her difficult decision to blow the whistle on her employer. The book offers a firsthand account of the corporate white collar culture at WorldCom under the reigns of CEO Bernie Ebbers and the various pressures that saw the downfall of the company. Through her story, Cooper provides insight into the ethical dilemmas faced by corporate insiders and the personal and professional sacrifices required to do the right thing. This paper seeks to explain some of the theories and how I understand the details of the story in relation to corporate fraud.

The philosophy of CEO Bernie Ebbers

Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO at WorldCom, lived by the philosophy of growth and expansion at all costs. He was focused on increasing the market share of WorldCom. Being an underdog company with a CEO who had the typical rugs to riches story, he led with the ideology that the company needed to take risks and be bold to grow. His philosophy emphasized rapid growth and expansion through acquisitions, which led WorldCom to become the second-largest long-distance telecom company in the United States during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Despite this claim, he had a charismatic character and was well known for his ability to motivate his employees. (Cooper, 2008). (Arjo, 2008), explains the leadership approach of Ebbers, including his focus on growth and expansion, his charismatic leadership style, and his tendency to surround himself with loyal followers rather than independent thinkers.

How Bernie Ebbers pressured staff to cook the books

According to Cooper (2008), Bernie Ebbers pressured the company’s finance and accounting team to either meet or exceed the expectations set by Wall Street regarding their revenue and earnings growth. In order to achieve this goal, Ebbers set aggressive financial targets, and through encouraging the culture of secrecy and intimidation, employees became afraid to speak up about their concerns, let alone question his authority. All these were made possible through the hands-on approach employed by Ebber in managing the company’s finances. The approach heavily relied on getting involved with the day-to-day operations of the finance and accounting department. He often demanded that the accounting staff find ways that would reduce expenses or shift revenue from one period to another to make the company’s financial results appear better than they were. All these were made possible through unethical accounting tricks and fraudulent accounting entries that inflated the company’s earnings and hid expenses. The financial and accounting team were forced into using these practices to meet financial targets at any cost while working in a toxic environment that encouraged unethical and illegal behavior under a CEO who desired loyal followers rather than independent thinkers willing to work hard.

The role of David Myers and Scott Sullivan

Many people took part in the WorldCom accounting fraud scandal. David Myers worked as the controller and worked closely with Scott Sullivan, the CFO. Together they manipulated the company’s financial results. He played a crucial role in creating and executing the fraudulent accounting entries that inflated the earnings of WorldCom. On the other hand, Scott Sullivan, the CFO, was a central figure in the accounting fraud. He directed the accounting team to engage in fraudulent practices to meet Wall Street expectations for revenue and earnings growth (Cooper, 2008).

The role of Buford (Buddy) Yates and Betty Vinson

Buford (Buddy) Yates was the former accounting director at WorldCom who cooperated with the government’s investigation into the fraud scandal. He had been aware of the accounting irregularities and had previously tried to report internally but was ignored and eventually demoted. He was pivotal in the investigation, where he provided critical information to the government that helped uncover the fraud case. On the other hand, Betty Vinson, an accounting director, played a crucial role in executing fraudulent accounting entries. She was pressured by her superiors into engaging in illegal activities and believed that the order came from the higher-ups in the company (Cooper, 2008).

The role of Troy Normand and Charles Cannada

According to Cooper (2008), Troy Normand was also an accounting director involved in fraudulent accounting entries. He also cooperated with the government’s investigation and testified against Sullivan at trial. Another important figure in the fraud scandal was Charles Cannada, a former general counsel responsible for overseeing the company’s legal and regulatory compliance. He failed to take action to address the accounting irregularities at the company, despite his knowledge that they were being carried out. All these individuals, along with other executives and employees at WorldCom, played various roles in the accounting fraud scandal.

Internal control weaknesses found within the company

Cooper (2008) describes various internal control weaknesses within the company that was uncovered by Cyntia Cooper and her team during their secret night investigation. The first weakness was the lack of segregation of duties. Many employees in the accounting department had too much control over financial transactions, which allowed them to manipulate financial records without being detected. Furthermore, they discovered a weakness in the revenue recognition process, which needed to be improved and made it difficult to track revenue streams. The third weakness was inadequate oversight, where the senior management failed to provide adequate oversight to the company’s accounting practices and failed to take appropriate action when accounting irregularities were discovered. The final weakness was a poor corporate culture that had a foundation in fear and intimidation. This made it difficult for employees to speak up about concerns or report wrongdoings. These weaknesses made it easier for employees to engage in fraudulent accounting practices.

Why Barnie Ebbers Prohibited the Use of “internal control.”

According to Cooper (2008), Bernie Ebbers prohibited Cynthia from using the words “internal controls” in the audit reports because he was scared the reports would end up attracting the attention of regulators and investors. He knew that the company’s internal controls were weak and that the audit report would likely highlight these weaknesses. He hoped that by avoiding the attention on the company’s vulnerability and maintaining the company’s image as a strong and reliable investment, no one would come lurking around. Unfortunately, this prevented the audit report from accurately reflecting the weaknesses in the company’s internal controls. Ali & Qaddoumi (2015) suggest that the use of “internal control” in audit reports can have a significant impact on the inventors perception of the company and thus their investment decision which has been to linger in them selling their shares. Therefore, Bernie Ebbers was justified in being afraid of using “internal control” in audit reports with the way he was running things within the company.

Recommendations to mitigate corporate fraud

To prevent massive corporate fraud, a company requires a comprehensive approach that involves strengthening internal control to prevent fraudulent activities through regular internal audits, implementation of segregation of duties and establishment of effective oversight mechanisms, enhancing corporate governance by appointing independent directors, and having an effective board, the establishment of a strong ethical culture that puts emphasis on honesty, integrity, and transparency, and increasing regulatory oversight by implementing stronger regulations, and establishment of regulatory bodies with greater enforcement power and imposing a severe penalty for corporate fraud. Bruns Jr & Hertenstein (2005) also argue that there is a need for more robust corporate governance and increased regulatory oversight.

Implementing a comprehensive approach to prevent corporate fraud is crucial for companies to protect their stakeholders from the devastating consequences of fraudulent activities. Regular internal audits will strengthen internal controls by identifying potential fraud risks and implementing effective measures to prevent them. Segregation of duties is essential to prevent fraud as it ensures that no single individual has complete control over a particular task or function. Establishing an effective oversight mechanism helps ensure that internal controls are working correctly and that the risk of fraud is minimized. Having independent directors enhances corporate governance, and an effective board is essential to ensure the company is being run ethically and transparently. An ethical culture is critical in preventing corporate fraud as it encourages employees to act with integrity, honey, and transparency, which will reduce the risk of fraudulent activities. regulatory bodies must have greater enforcement power and impose severe penalties for fraudulent activities to deter companies from engaging in fraudulent activities.

References

Arjo, D. (2008). Leadership lessons from the rise and fall of WorldCom. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies14(3), 236–245. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1177/1071791908314622

Bruns Jr., W. J., & Hertenstein, J. H. (2005). The Rise and Fall of WorldCom. Journal of Accounting and Finance.

Cooper, C. (2009). Extraordinary circumstances: The journey of a corporate whistleblower. John Wiley & Sons.

Qaddoumi, A. M., & Ali, M. A. (2015). The Effect of Internal Control Audit Reports on Investors’ Confidence and Investment Decisions. International Journal of Economics, Commerce, and Management.

How Poor Nutrition Relates To Depression University Essay Example

Mohajeri, M. H., La Fata, G., Steinert, R. E., & Weber, P. (2018). Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function. Nutrition Reviews76(7), 481-496. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/76/7/481/4985887

The gut microbiome has two-way communication with the brain. Each of the two affects the functionality of the other. The relationship between the two is helpful in treating disturbances related to the nervous system. The gut microbiome affects the function of the brain, which is the cause of anxiety and depression. It also has an impact on the cognition ability of individuals. Changes in the gut microbiome have corresponding changes in brain composition. The articles point out that positive actions in the gut microbiome will correspond to positive functionality in the brain. The issues of depression are, therefore, in a way, controlled by activities in the gut microbiome. The article is, therefore, relevant in this research in establishing the role of poor nutrition in depression. The report is adequate for the study because nutrition involves passing food through the gut.

Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Nguyen, T. T. (2012). Natural mood foods: the actions of polyphenols against psychiatric and cognitive disorders. Nutritional neuroscience15(3), 127-133. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/1476830511Y.0000000035

The article shows the underlying relationship between food intake and brain functions. Some natural compounds found in foods, such as polyphenols, have properties unique in battling oxidative stress. They further lead to the activation of molecules crucial to synaptic plasticity in the brain’s cognitive function. These foods affect the comprehensive functionality of the brain and are essential in maintaining mental health. They are also crucial in the recovery of mind-related diseases. The relevance of this article to the research question is its connection of poor nutrition to depression. Discussing polyphenols as an action against cognitive disorders is relevant to depression. The absence of foods containing such nutrients, therefore, is a cause of depression.

Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Ramesh, B. N., & Rao, K. J. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illnesses. Indian Journal of Psychiatry50(2), 77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

Nutrition has a significant role in both the onset and the severity of depression. It is a primary determinant also on the presence or absence of depression. Notably, many foods that precede depression are more or less the same foods consumed during the depression period. Poor appetite, as well as skipping meals, are some of the behaviors compatible with depression. Nutritive factors are directly linked with cognition and human emotions. Lack of essential vitamins and minerals in foods can lead to high chances of depression. The diets of many mental disorders patients are shown to lack significant vitamins and nutrients. The type of nutrients in food is a crucial determinant of mental health. The article is relevant in outlining the role of poor nutrition in depression. A diet without significant vitamins and minerals is the leading cause of mental illness. In addressing depression, it is essential to include major vitamins and minerals in the diet.

Ridley, M., Rao, G., Schilbach, F., & Patel, V. (2020). Poverty, depression, and anxiety: Causal evidence and mechanisms. Science370(6522), eaay0214. https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.aay0214

The presence of stressors is a major cause of depression. The article points out poverty to be the initial cause of these stressors. People living in poverty have a generally low income. They also tend to have a higher number of mental illnesses compared to those with higher incomes. The mental illness is attributed to several economic shocks. The ability to afford a good diet with the vitamins and minerals crucial for good mental health is not there. This makes them adopt poor nutrition, which they can afford. Lack of essential elements in their diet increases the chances of depression and other stressors associated with poverty. The article is relevant to the research emphasizing the essence of a good diet in reducing depression. Poor nutrition is one of the stressors for people living in poverty. As poverty goes hand in hand with inadequate nutrition, minimizing poverty reduces insufficient food consumption. The general effect of good nutrition reflects good mental health free from depression.

Leung, C. W., Epel, E. S., Willett, W. C., Rimm, E. B., & Laraia, B. A. (2015). Household food insecurity is positively associated with depression among low-income supplemental nutrition assistance program participants and income-eligible nonparticipants. The Journal of Nutrition145(3), 622-627. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article-abstract/145/3/622/4743717

Adverse mental outcomes in society characterize food insecurity. The evidence of the assertion is the hugeness in rates of depression for the populations which have less or inadequate food. The rate of depression is observed to be more severe with the increase in food insecurity. The inadequacy of food is, therefore, presumed to have a positive impact on depression. The relevance of the article in the research is its link of nutrition, and food, to the level and rates of depression among individuals. Food insecurity is a cause and incremental factor in depression. Addressing depression, therefore, calls for efforts to end food insecurity in poverty-stricken regions.

Problem-Solving In Virtual Teams Free Essay

Virtual teams consist of people working in the same organization or company but in different geographical locations; therefore, they meet online. It can be a challenging experience as people in different time zones may have to work around to find a convenient time for everyone on the team.

In matters of trust and respect, it is important as it assists the virtual teams to operate by creating a positive environment where the team members feel comfortable openly communicating their ideas with others as they work toward a common goal. A study on trust in teams found that the success of any team, whether physical or virtual, is inherently dependent on trust among the team members. The authors noted that team members could increase their perceived trustworthiness by giving more information about their capabilities, integrity, transparency, predictability, and benevolence (Breuer et al., 2020). The advantage of trust and respect among team members is that they can communicate openly, provide feedback on pertinent issues and effectively work together despite their geographical locations.

The important processes and procedures that are helpful to make the teams work include; proper channels of communication, responsibilities, and roles that are clearly defined, standardized procedures for handling issues and problems, regular team meetings, and a system for tracking progress and accountability. A journal on five steps of leading your team virtually in Covid 19 identifies some key steps to making your team work virtually. First, explain the reality of the full existence of the team online; second, there is a need to establish a culture of trust among the team members. The third step involves upgrading leadership communication tools to better communicate with virtual employees. Then afterward, you need to encourage shared leadership responsibilities among the team members. Finally, it is vital to periodically check whether the employees align with the organization’s values and commitment to its mission (Newman & Ford, 2021). The processes and procedures help ensure that team members work together effectively, that problems are addressed promptly, and that progress toward goals is tracked and reported.

Sheila is having trouble in her role on the new team because she lacks the knowledge and resources to quickly identify and address issues related to the smaller components, cables, and wires used to make the larger components. It is evident when she took two days hunting for Schematics and talking with engineers to figure out what part was needed. Without this knowledge and access to resources, Sheila spends excessive time researching and trying to identify the necessary parts, causing delays in resolving the issues. It may cause a significant loss of the business as much time is consumed w, which could be saved if the responsibility was given to someone with better knowledge of

Putting up a virtual team is crucial; therefore, it should be handled carefully. First of all, you need to look out for communication because the team members may be located in different geographical locations or time zones; therefore, one has to choose clear channels of communication that will be convenient for all team members. Second, it is good to consider the roles and responsibilities assigned to each team member. There must be clear expectations on what each team member is responsible for and how they will contribute to the team’s goal. Third is on the technology, including using tools such as videoconferencing for meetings, project management software, and shared document storage. Fourth is the ability to appreciate the cultural differences among the team members; as a result, it is important to evaluate whether the members who come on board will be able to work with people from different backgrounds effectively and how to ensure everyone will feel valued and respected. Finally, training and support involve the necessary training and support that the members will need before they assume their roles and also whom they can contact in case challenges arise (Fostering Work Engagement in Geographically-Dispersed and Asynchronous Virtual Teams | Emerald Insight, n.d.).

My experience with a virtual team was during the Covid-19 pandemic when the student leadership committee I was part of shifted all the meetings online. We were not accustomed to online meetings; therefore, we faced challenges such as joining the meeting while the microphone was unmuted, which resulted in excessive noise for the people in the meeting. In addition, setting a convenient meeting time was challenging as people had different preferences that could not agree. Our team leader handled this obstacle by encouraging members to be intentional about the group’s virtual meeting, and we agreed to set the meeting time at 8 pm when everyone was in the house. I contributed to better this resolution by always availing myself of the meeting on time and encouraging my colleagues to do so for the smooth running of the meetings.

In conclusion, with the increase in modernization, there is a gradual shift to the virtual team, and equipping ourselves with the knowledge and skills to manage them will help us be better placed in the marketplace.

References

Breuer, C., Hüffmeier, J., Hibben, F., & Hertel, G. (2020). Trust in teams: A taxonomy of perceived trustworthiness factors and risk-taking behaviors in face-to-face and virtual teams. Human Relations73(1), 3–34. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726718818721

Fostering work engagement in geographically-dispersed and asynchronous virtual teams | Emerald Insight. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2023, from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ITP-04-2017-0133/full/html

Newman, S. A., & Ford, R. C. (2021). Five Steps to Leading Your Team in the Virtual COVID-19 Workplace. Organizational Dynamics50(1), 100802. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2020.100802