Bernard J. Ebbers, the founder and former chief executive of WorldCom who was found guilty of fraud by a New York jury in March, agreed today to surrender nearly all of his approximately $40 million personal fortune to investors who lost billions of dollars when the telecommunications company spiraled into bankruptcy almost three years ago.—The New York Times, June 30, 2006
Inside a cavernous top floor office, THADDEUS MORGAN CARNEGIE ROCKEFELLER sits behind a giant mahogany desk. He is talking on the phone.
Why, this company is unstoppable. Our stock is up 150 percent. Our employees are getting rich themselves by buying company stock. We’ve purchased a new company a month for the past three years. Nothing could sink us right now.
Vice President ROD TURK enters, looking concerned. He waits for Rockefeller to get off the phone.
ROCKEFELLER (into phone)
My good sir, We have created a company that cannot go bankrupt. I am as sure of that as I am sure that my name is Thaddeus Morgan Carnegie Rockefeller.
He sees Turk.
Well, I need to end this interview now. One of my vice presidents is here to meet with me—probably to deliver more good news about our soaring profits. (chuckles) Bye bye.
Rockefeller hangs up the phone.
Those Wall Street Journal guys just love us, eh, Mr. Turk?
Yes, well, they did love us, Mr. Rockefeller.
What are you talking about?
Sir, I’ve been analyzing our present course, and we are in serious danger.
Turk lays some papers out. He points as he talks.
Yes. It started last year, here in this sea of unprofitable dot-coms that we purchased.
Yes, well, they seemed profitable at the time. I thought that sock-puppet dog had a great head for business.
We then hit Whirlpool with an unsuccessful bid to buy the company.
Yes, that was unfortunate. But this company was built to survive the rough waters of capitalism.
Turk raises his hand, his index finger extended dramatically, and then forcefully points down at the paper.
But here, here is what ripped us up. Our purchase of SBD Gas, Ltd. They had a huge amount of debt submerged in their books.
I thought that deal smelled funny, but the accountants assured me they didn't smell anything.
It ripped a hole in our earnings structure, sir. Our profits are gushing right out.
I can’t believe this. Is there nothing we can do?
Turk shakes his head no.
Well, I guess that leaves us with just one choice. Tell the executive officers that they need to start bailing out now. Tell them to sell all their stock. The press will know about this in a few hours, and by then we’ll be sunk.
What about the employees downstairs?
We can’t give everyone a lifeboat, Mr. Turk. Tell them nothing—I don’t want to start a panic.
But...but just leave them there?
They begin singing a slow, mournful Broadway tune.
There’s not much we can do
our corporate shell has been gored,
but we can save ourselves
if we throw our stock overboard.
Isn’t it wrong to say nothing?
Shouldn’t we shoot some flares?
While we float on our options
they’ll sink with their shares.
I feel as bad as anyone
for this disaster we’ve created,
but we’ll never make it to shore
if our profits aren’t inflated.
So batten down the hatches,
it’s time to run silent.
We must slip away now
before the tide turns violent.
If there’s no other course
then I won’t make a sound.
For our ship to come in
this one has to go down.
CHORUS (a bouncy march).
ROCKEFELLER and TURK
They’re going down with the ship,
there’s been a burst in their bubbles.
We’ll make out like pirates
while they drown in our troubles
Three members of the CREW burst in the room. They point at Rockefeller and TURK.
Stop right there!
It’s the crew! But how?
A menacing tune begins to play
You thought you’d get away
when we weren’t looking.
But we followed our noses
and smelled the books a’cooking.
Now we can see all you rats
getting ready to take a swim.
You’re going to save yourselves
while we twist in the wind
We have sprung a leak
but we’re hardly a wreck.
We thought you’d hold on better
if your hands weren’t on deck.
If the ship is in danger
then we'll help you bail.
We want you to land safely
in a nice, dry jail.
You’re going down with the ship
You’ve burst all our bubbles
you’re a bunch of pirates
and you’ll drown for your troubles
The Crew move menacingly toward Rockefeller and Turk. As they do, the INSPECTOR enters. He has a naval-like hat on and puts himself between the two parties.
ROCKEFELLER, TURK, and CREW
It’s the Inspector!
A slow, regal-sounding tune plays
I came as soon as I heard
your financial S.O.S.
I went to examine your logs
and became quite distressed.
(pointing to Rockefeller)
He said that you were on course,
but he wrote that all was lost.
(pointing to Turk)
He said to hoist the main sail
when he knew you’d all get tossed.
I won’t tolerate this mutiny!
I earned my bounty fairly!
I was only obeying orders
and I carried them out—barely
We’re the ones in charge now
and we’re tying you to the mast.
You’ll get yours in the port,
like we got ours in the aft.
I’m sorry, but you’re all lost.
You’ll be going under soon.
There’s no ship fast enough
to outrun this monsoon.
We’re going down with the ship.
There’s been a burst in our bubbles.
We’ll make out like pirates
who are drowned for their troubles.
The music fades.
Well, this is it. I am sorry. I led us right into the teeth of the storm. Now I guess we’ll just have to wait for the cold waters to overtake us.
CREW MEMBER 1
It’s okay, my captain. We’re the ones that pushed you to go faster. We all wanted the quick, easy passage to wealth.
CREW MEMBER 2
We’ll stand by your side sir.
The Crew, Rockefeller, Turk and the Inspector stand silently for a moment.
Near, far, wherever you are—
CREW MEMBER 3
That’s it, get the plank!