The longer WorldCom Chief Audit Executive Cynthia Cooper stares at the entries in front of her, the more sinister they seem. But the CFO is badgering her to delay her team's audit of the company's books and directing others to block Cooper's efforts. Still, something in the pit of her stomach tells her to keep digging. Cooper takes readers behind the scenes on a riveting, real-time journey as she and her team work at night and behind closed doors to expose the largest fraud in corporate history. Whom can they trust? Could she lose her job? Should she fear for her physical safety?
In Extraordinary Circumstances, she recounts for the first time her journey from her close family upbringing in a small Mississippi town, to working motherhood and corporate success, to the pressures of becoming a whistleblower, to being named one of Time's 2002 Persons of the Year. She also provides a rare insider's glimpse into the spectacular rise and fall of WorldCom, a telecom titan, the darling of Wall Street, and a Cinderella story for Mississippi.
With remarkable candor, Cooper discusses her struggle to overcome these challenges, and how she has found healing through sharing the lessons learned with the next generation. This book reminds us all that ethical decision-making is not forged at the crossroads of major events but starts in childhood, "decision by decision and brick by brick."
At a time when corporate dishonesty is dominating public attention, Extraordinary Circumstances makes it clear that the tone set at the top is critical to fostering an ethical environment in the work-place. Provocative, moving, and intensely personal, Extraordinary Circumstances is a wake-up call to corporate leaders and an intimate glimpse at a scandal that shook the business world.
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About the Author
CYNTHIA COOPER was one of Time's 2002 Persons of the Year. She was the vice president of internal audit for WorldCom and subsequently MCI. Cynthia was featured as one of twenty-five influential working mothers in Working Mother magazine, and earned the distinction of being the first woman to receive the AAA Accounting Exemplar Award and to be inducted into the AICPA Business&Industry Hall of Fame. She resigned from MCI in 2004, following the company's successful emergence from bankruptcy, and now shares the lessons she has learned through her experiences with professionals and students. She and her husband Lance reside in Mississippi with their two daughters.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 A Dark Cloud 1
CHAPTER 2 Graduation Day 12
CHAPTER 3 New Beginnings 26
CHAPTER 4 Hotlanta 41
CHAPTER 5 The Turnaround 50
CHAPTER 6 Coming Home 60
CHAPTER 7 Building A New Life 71
CHAPTER 8 King of the Resellers 82
CHAPTER 9 The Hottest Company in Town 91
CHAPTER 10 Nowhere to Go But Up 105
CHAPTER 11 A New Era 123
CHAPTER 12 The Glass Sieve 137
CHAPTER 13 The Tide Comes In 145
CHAPTER 14 The Minnow Swallows the Whale 151
CHAPTER 15 Finding Balance 163
CHAPTER 16 Top of the Mountain 167
CHAPTER 17 A Double-Edged Sword 174
CHAPTER 18 A Titan Stumbles 184
CHAPTER 19 The Rule of Ten 202
CHAPTER 20 What is Prepaid Capacity? 217
CHAPTER 21 Growing Suspicions 229
CHAPTER 22 A Surprise Visit 242
CHAPTER 23 The Confrontation 251
CHAPTER 24 A Desperate Search For Counsel 265
CHAPTER 25 Washington Attorneys Visit the Deep South 280
CHAPTER 26 Navigating the Storm 296
CHAPTER 27 A Visit to Federal Court 322
CHAPTER 28 The United States Versus Bernard J. Ebbers 338
CHAPTER 29 The Judgment 351
What People are Saying About This
"Outstanding! This page-turning account of the WorldCom fiasco reads like a suspense novel. I was on the edge of my seat to the last page. When pressure to meet market expectations collided with Cynthia Cooper’s ethical values, she made the brave decision to do the job she’d been entrusted to do as an auditor. We need more leaders like Cynthia. If the free enterprise system is to survive, companies need to take corporate values and ethics checks seriously. This book should be required reading for leaders everywhere."
―Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager and Self Leadership and Leading at a Higher Level
"Reading this book will help all business people prepare for their own Extraordinary Circumstances and give them the courage to act as Cynthia did."
―Dennis R. Beresford; Former Chair of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, Former MCI Audit Committee Chair, Professor of Accounting at the University of GA
"An excellent read! In "Extraordinary Circumstances," Cynthia Cooper paints a picture of WorldCom’s journey down the slippery slope of corporate ethics. The message is uplifting and inspiring. This is a "must read" for those interested in establishing good governance and ethical values in their organization. This book will be required reading for our students."
―Glenn E. Sumners, Director LSU Center for Internal Auditing
"Extraordinary Circumstances is a terrific read."
―Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, Founder and chairman Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
"Riveting!! What a story of courage and conviction . An absolute must read for anyone who believes in governance and a robust system of internal controls. A classic example of how , without controls, an organization will not survive. Cynthia is such a wonderful role model for those who are not afraid to go against the grain to do what is right."
—Joel Kramer CPA, Managing Director, Internal Audit Division, MIS Training Institute
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I live in Mississippi and know some of the folks in this book. This makes it very compelling. I would recommend it to anyone working in a corporate environment.
Extraordinary Circumstances is a riveting human interest story of an internal auditor who happened upon a problem in her company and pursued it, even when told not to do so by her superiors. The story is told in the present tense, allowing the reader to 'be there' with the author. Weaving her personal and professional lives, Cooper addresses how her family supported her throughout the process. This is not an accounting book... the story addresses accounting issues, but is an easy read for those unfamilar with accounting or business. Cooper wants each of us to consider how we make decisions every day that prepare us for scenarios such as she experienced. Doing the right thing takes courage, and Cooper has tons of that!
Extraordinary Circumstances begins with the ominous sense of an impending disaster. As her journey proceeds, author and primary heroine Cynthia Cooper encounters simple and ordinary heroes who inspire her with ideals and strength, complex and powerful villains who test her courage and resolve, and a fascinating range of folks in-between, who epitomize the struggle of everyday people with right and wrong in a challenging and perilous environment. This true story should be read by anyone who strives to triumph in their own struggle.
I'm so glad Cynthia Cooper is finally telling her story about those dark days before WorldCom's collapse. Her recount of events leading to the discovery of massive corporate fraud puts you in her shoes and provides insight gleaned nowhere else.