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Readers respond on MCI and ethics

Aug 18, 20034 mins

Readers respond on MCI and ethics

“I hope we shall . . . crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

– Thomas Jefferson, 1816 (thanks to reader Greg Holman)

I was going to pick up where I left off on the topic of what to do about spam, but after last week’s Backspin on MCI’s shenanigans I need to address the flood of e-mail.

First, a few MCI folks wrote to profess innocence. Here’s a typical example: “Gee, thanks for lumping me in there with Bernie Ebbers. You will never know (if you are lucky) just how much you annoyed thousands of honest MCI employees or just how much you managed to help the vultures in AT&T [who] are running this latest smear campaign.”

Sir, I wasn’t talking about you personally. Honest. But it does appear that corruption is rampant within MCI at many levels.

What intrigued me was the number of people who wrote in confirming my suspicions.

“It is one of the worst-kept secrets in the telecom/Internet industry that MCI has been an unethical place to work,” one reader says. “Some people who worked there prior to WorldCom had good feelings when they walked away, but the situation was deteriorating even then.

“It was never a question of whether the company was corrupt – it was a question of when the world would find out,” he adds. “In this case, journalists and prosecutors were definitely the last to know; not that some of us didn’t try to tell journalists. Those of us in the industry were amazed that nobody figured it out.

“An additional issue – not discussed much – is that there is this huge body of MCI alums who have gone on to work in other places and taken the culture with them,” he continues. “It’s corrupted many companies where former MCI/WorldCom types have become top executives. I did work at one of those companies – and it was like the Wild West. Anything went. The company eventually collapsed, and those MCI folks have gone on to take the disease with them elsewhere.”

Another reader commented:

“I have been fuming about MCI since they began, all for naught. I started my career at Illinois Bell and the exchange where MCI first linked into Chicago from St. Louis was part of my operations responsibility . . . . While the techs doing the job in both companies got along fine, any contact above that level always had a lawsuit threat as part of the conversation. . . . My last assignment with Bell was at [an] interexchange carrier department. MCI got so obnoxious that they would have their courier bringing us a check [to avoid service interruption for nonpayment, and] wait in the parking lot until 4:59 p.m. on Friday of the deadline week, just to ensure ‘last minute’ payment.”

Another wave of commentary concerned the bigger issue of corporate ethics and how they affect IT people. It seems many of you are concerned about the way large companies can create an environment that encourages duplicity and dishonesty.

“Integrity seems to have taken a back seat to profit, [as] is evident not only [from] your examples but [also] from my reading and personal experiences,” one reader says. “I have turned away IT business where I thought the method was unethical, only to be looked at with disbelief.

“In any event, in large companies IT professionals are strong-armed into situations where they enable the dishonesty to exist,” he continues. “From an IT perspective I know there is no way for me or others not to know what is going on.”

And that is the crux of the matter. IT people usually do know what is going on in their companies. Whether they can change what happens is another matter. Having an ethical position is the first step.

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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