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Avow or Avoid?: The Public Communication Strategies of Enron and WorldCom
Unformatted Document Text:  Avow or Avoid? 16 Simultaneous to the use of standard public relations rhetoric and tactics, WorldCom gave evidence of a standard legal maneuver of shifting blame, pleading ignorance and taking an indignant posture. “Our senior management team is shocked by these discoveries. …We are committed to operating WorldCom in accordance with the highest ethical standards,” CEO John W. Sidgmore was quoted (WorldCom announces, June 25, 2002, para. 7). The blame shifting from the “senior management team” to two top executives was evidenced in the announcement of the termination of Chief Financial Officer and Secretary Scott Sullivan and the resignation of Senior Vice President and Controller David Myers. Finally, the initial announcement and letter to President Bush were both forward looking, suggesting a plan for the successful recovery of the company. These steps included cutting capital expenditures by $2.1 billion, cutting the workforce by 17,000 employees, selling non-core businesses, and “creating a new position of Chief Service and Quality Officer to keep an eye focused on our customer services during this restructuring” (WorldCom Announces, June 25, 2002, para. 15). Sidgmore was quoted as saying, “By focusing on these steps, I am convinced WorldCom will emerge a stronger, more competitive player” (WorldCom Announces, June 25, 2002, para. 16). The tone of coverage in the New York Times on June 26, 2002 mimicked the June 25, 2002 WorldCom press release including quotes from Sidgmore. Both the New York Times of June 26 and the Boston Globe of June 27, 2002 included Sidgmore’s “Our senior management team is shocked” quote (Romero & Berenson, June 26, 2002, para. 9; Howe, June 27, 2002, para. 23). The Los Angeles Times (Healey, Pham & Huffstutter, June 27, 2002) provided positive coverage suggesting that though analysts foresaw bankruptcy for the company, WorldCom spokespersons denied plans to file for bankruptcy protection. The Los Angeles Times quoted a WorldCom spokesperson saying the announcement of financial scandal would not affect its customers or service. “It really is business as usual,” the spokesperson said (Kaplan, para. 12).

Authors: Reber, Bryan. and Gower, Karla.
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Avow or Avoid?
16
Simultaneous to the use of standard public relations rhetoric and tactics, WorldCom gave
evidence of a standard legal maneuver of shifting blame, pleading ignorance and taking an
indignant posture. “Our senior management team is shocked by these discoveries. …We are
committed to operating WorldCom in accordance with the highest ethical standards,” CEO John
W. Sidgmore was quoted (WorldCom announces, June 25, 2002, para. 7). The blame shifting
from the “senior management team” to two top executives was evidenced in the announcement of
the termination of Chief Financial Officer and Secretary Scott Sullivan and the resignation of
Senior Vice President and Controller David Myers.
Finally, the initial announcement and letter to President Bush were both forward looking,
suggesting a plan for the successful recovery of the company. These steps included cutting
capital expenditures by $2.1 billion, cutting the workforce by 17,000 employees, selling non-core
businesses, and “creating a new position of Chief Service and Quality Officer to keep an eye
focused on our customer services during this restructuring” (WorldCom Announces, June 25,
2002, para. 15). Sidgmore was quoted as saying, “By focusing on these steps, I am convinced
WorldCom will emerge a stronger, more competitive player” (WorldCom Announces, June 25,
2002, para. 16).
The tone of coverage in the New York Times on June 26, 2002 mimicked the June 25,
2002 WorldCom press release including quotes from Sidgmore. Both the New York Times of
June 26 and the Boston Globe of June 27, 2002 included Sidgmore’s “Our senior management
team is shocked” quote (Romero & Berenson, June 26, 2002, para. 9; Howe, June 27, 2002, para.
23). The Los Angeles Times (Healey, Pham & Huffstutter, June 27, 2002) provided positive
coverage suggesting that though analysts foresaw bankruptcy for the company, WorldCom
spokespersons denied plans to file for bankruptcy protection. The Los Angeles Times quoted a
WorldCom spokesperson saying the announcement of financial scandal would not affect its
customers or service. “It really is business as usual,” the spokesperson said (Kaplan, para. 12).


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