Cynthia Cooper was a mother and wife like you and me. She wanted to enjoy a quiet life with her husband and her daughters. In 1994 she was employed by WorldCom, which was situated in her hometown Clinton in Mississippi. All her friends and extended family lived there. What could be better? But, in 2002, she was confronted with a decision that could destroy her career. At the time, she had an eight-month-old baby.
Cynthia was the vice president of internal audit at the firm. During an audit, she noticed suspicious entries in the company’s books. Acting on her intuition, she followed this up. Due to her determination, she uncovered a major accounting scandal. The fraudulent balance sheet entries amounted to $3.8 billion. Eventually, WorldCom admitted that they inflated their assets by more than $11 billion to maintain their stock price. (3)
It took immense bravery to blow the whistle on the fraud. In an interview with Fraud Magazine, Cynthia Cooper said: “I wish I could tell you that I was a pillar of strength throughout this process.But I wasn’t. There were times when I was scared – when my hands were shaking, and my heart was pounding. I certainly knew there was a very real possibility I would lose my job, and I also worried at times that I was overreacting.” (1)Yet, she stood firm and kept at it, even though her boss told her not to continue with the audit.
After the investigation and trial, the guilty partners went to prison. Together with Coleen Rowley and Sherron Watkins, Cynthia Cooper became TIME’s Persons of the year. (2)
Even today, anxiety and depression seize Cooper. Her life changed forever. But she used the experience to give talks about honourable and ethical behaviour. People must know that they may encounter difficult moral situations. Cooper hopes to empower them to make the right ethical decision. She also wrote a book named “Extraordinary Circumstances” about the scandal. It is available at Amazon.
Cynthia Cooper is a truly courageous woman!
Do you know someone who is courageous? Please tell Klaen about it!