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Make the right decisions in business and life

  • Communications
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  • Sep 28, 2018
Make the right decisions in business and life

Cynthia Cooper, former Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but Cynthia Cooper says it’s the only path to take.

In 2002, the former Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom found herself at a crossroads when she and her team of auditors discovered a $3.8-billion accounting fraud scandal at the telecom giant. At that time, it was the largest in U.S. history. She blew the whistle on the fraud.

Cooper shared insights from the experience with HBA2 students in Ivey’s Managerial Accounting and Control course during a visit on September 28. In preparation for the event, the students studied a WorldCom case, learning the ethical issues surrounding accounting and the importance of professional judgment in the use of accounting information.

Ethics matter

Although the aftermath wasn’t easy, Cooper said there was no question whistleblowing was the right thing to do. The move led to the imprisonment of five executives, including WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers. It also prompted the U.S. Senate to add a special section to a new federal law to reform business practices called the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Cooper encouraged the students to adhere to their values and warned that even one small unethical decision can spiral out of control. She discussed the importance of knowing what you stand for, finding your courage, and understanding that what’s legal isn’t always right.

The event was sponsored by the James C. Taylor Distinguished Lecture in Finance.

“Live a life of integrity and make decisions you can look back on without regret.”