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Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower

Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower

4.4 7
by Cynthia Cooper

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

In May 2002, Cynthia Cooper discovered the sort of mistake that hadn't been mentioned in her accounting classes at the University of Alabama. While scrutinizing the accounts of WorldCom, this mild-mannered vice president of internal audit discovered that her bosses had cooked and recooked the books, neatly turning a $662 million one-year loss into a staggering $2.4 billion profit. Cooper's Extraordinary Circumstances describes this mega-accounting fraud and what she did after she uncovered it.
From the Publisher
"…the book provides a compelling lesson in the importance of having "escape paths" for bad news, particularly in highly disciplined, hierarchical, compartmented organizations (read defense contractors, the military, police departments, etc.). Absent opportunities to correct problems while they are small, big problems tend to emerge...the book also offers instructive lessons in individual courage." (NationalJournal.com (expert blog); 12/30/08)

"This book presents a brilliant overview of the whistleblower process by describing both personal and business lessons. Extraordinary Circumstances presents relevant information and useful guidance for identifying conflicting incentives, opportunities and rationalizations that can result in fraud. The book is, by and large, well written and comprehensive in its coverage of events leading to the bankruptcy of WorldCom. (The International Journal of Accounting, 9/2008)

"…provides insight into an incredible corporate saga contrasting the influence of greed and moral weakness with principle behavior. It is an inspirational story of courage and character under immense pressure. (Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance, July/August 2008)

"What Cooper experienced could be every internal auditor's nightmare - uncovering a scandal of such great proportions that an auditor's reputation, job security, and even personal safety is jeopardized. In my opinion, this book is a must-read not only for internal auditors, but also for anyone in the business environment. Cooper's account of a scandal that shook the business world is an eye-opener and helps explain today's regulatory and corporate environments." (FSA Times, July 2008)

"…offers a detailed, intimate, and fascinating account of the WorldCom debacle in Extraordinary Circumstances. While most readers already know the outcome of the story, Cooper's book is an absorbing and even suspenseful read." (BizEd Magazine, May/June 2008)

"Ms. Cooper tells a compelling story that most of us can relate to regarding how internal audit is sometimes viewed within organizations when confronting difficult ethical dilemmas. I had a difficult time putting it down." (Auditnet.org, May 2008)

"Extraordinary Circumstances details the struggle to get management to take internal audit seriously. The story of the investigation comes to life through Cynthia's words. I found myself drawn into the story. Congratulations, Cynthia, on a successful first book. And many thanks for being willing to stand up to the truth and fight to expose the WorldCom fraud." (bloggingstocks.com, 4/3/08)

"Cooper's story is personal and interesting…it's a cautionary tale for corporate executives. The book is an interesting story of how Cooper ended up as a major player in a very important business story." (TexaxLawyer.com, 3/31/08)

"Extraordinary Circumstances is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of an accounting fraud. It tells the story of how that fraud was uncovered and of the ugly manipulation and deceit she encountered along the way." (Bloomberg.com, 2/28/08)

"…blow-by-blow detail is what makes Cooper's "Extraordinary Circumstances" well worth reading. Cooper's willingness to reveal her innermost thoughts as she dug makes for gripping reading." (BusinessWeek, February 25, 2008)

"...with the publication of her new book, Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of A Corporate Whistleblower, we finally get an inside account of what really happened at WorldCom. It's a powerful tale. Cooper's story has been partially told before, most notably in the Wall Street Journal and in a report prepared for WorldCom's board of directors. But her adventures at WorldCom come to life in this first-person account." (USA Today, February 15, 2008)

"Readers of Cooper's book, Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower, will find it easy to identify with both the employees who manipulated the telecommunications giant's financial statements and those who caught them." (Reuters.com, February 7, 2008)

"...it's a fascinating study of the quantum changes in character that accompany the accumulation of unimaginable wealth as well as an uncomfortable reminder of how, faced with an ethical fork in the road, just how easy it is for some to take a wrong turn." (WebCPA.com, February 2008)

"This is a heroic, often exciting tale of a person who, in the course of doing her job, stumbles on a big lie and pushes on to get to the bottom of it." (CFO.com; 1/25/08)

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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"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

Meet 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.

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Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
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celljeff More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.