"What's black and white and read all over?"

Friday, December 16, 2005
Posted 5:03 PM by

Crimes like these

Michael Capellas took scandal-plagued WorldCom and straightened it out to the point where Verizon wants to buy it. Now he stands to make $39 million on the sale. So crime does pay, just not for the criminal.In these unethical times it was comforting to read the words of MCI president and CEO Michael D. Capellas in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Capellas was the keynote speaker at the opening of Drexel University's Center for Corporate Governance, a new think tank promoting business accountability.

Pulling a card from his pocket, Capellas said all MCI workers carried one like it, with a list of guidelines that include "Build trust and credibility," "Uphold the law," and "Avoid conflicts of interest and perceptions of conflict of interest."

Rather than rules, he said, "this is the way you live your business day in and day out."

Capellas should know. He inherited the remnants of scandal-plagued WorldCom Inc. after his convicted predecessor, Bernard Ebbers, cooked the books. MCI emerged from bankruptcy in April 2004 and is now being acquired by Verizon Communications Inc.

He said MCI pulled off a turnaround by making its executives accountable to a hands-on board of directors, improving communications throughout the company, generating employee enthusiasm with pep rallies and other gimmicks, and drilling workers on the dos and don'ts of corporate conduct.

It's paid off for him.

If the Verizon-MCI deal gets approval, Capallas stands to receive $39 million. He defended the money by saying his compensation is performance-based and the product of a "fully disclosed process" at MCI that has been monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a federal judge.

Just when you thought government couldn't match business in such a move, state Sen. Vince Fumo, of all people, has joined together with Common Cause to produces a reform bill.

It may be a Faustian pact for the good-government group. After all, Fumo isn't called "the Vince of Darkness," for no reason.

Under his proposal, as few as five senators - one tenth of the Senate - would be needed to force a public hearing on any bill.

Fumo said the time for change is ripe.

"The pay raise debacle was a really sobering moment in this General Assembly," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Ironic, considering Fumo, a 28-year legislative veteran who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, supported the pay raise and accepted unvouchered expenses.

Even more ironic, Fumo has sponsored legislative to prevent companies from lending money to state residents in advance of their pay checks.

An AP story about Fumo's reform bill didn't mention whether he will pay back the raise and neither did Fumo's Web site,


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