28 Miss. C. L. Rev. 339 (2008-2009)
Moral Vision, Moral Courage, and the Formation of the Lawyer's Professional Identity

handle is hein.journals/miscollr28 and id is 345 raw text is: MORAL VISION, MORAL COURAGE, AND THE
Timothy W. Floyd*
The theme of this Law Review Symposium is Shades of Gray in Legal
Ethics. The keynote speaker was Cynthia Cooper, the whistleblower at
WorldCom, one of three Time Magazine Persons of the Year for 2002, and
author of a recent book about her experiences, Extraordinary Circum-
stances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower.1 Cooper served as the
Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom, based in Clinton, Missis-
sippi. WorldCom had grown tremendously in the 1990s, becoming for a
time the second largest long distance telephone company in the United
States. WorldCom was also the largest company in the history of Missis-
sippi and a major employer in the state.
In 2002, Cooper and her team of auditors worked together, often at
night and in secret, to investigate and unearth billions of dollars in fraud at
WorldCom. Cooper discovered that the company had been classifying op-
erating costs as capital expenditures, thereby inflating its profits. Cooper
went to the auditing committee of WorldCom's board in June 2002, and
informed them of the company's suspect accounting practices. WorldCom
eventually disclosed that it had inflated profits by improperly accounting
for more than $3.9 billion. As a result, WorldCom ultimately laid off
thousands of employees, and the price of its shares went from $64.50 in
1999 to 20 cents in 2002. WorldCom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and
the company's co-founder and former CEO, Bernie Ebbers, was convicted
of nine felonies in federal court and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Although Cooper is not a lawyer and did not speak about legal eth-
ics, she was nonetheless an inspired and inspiring choice for a symposium
on legal ethics. Cooper is an outstanding moral example for law students
and lawyers. Cooper was faced with an enormous challenge at WorldCom.
The challenge she faced, however, was not because the issues were
gray-at least not in the way we lawyers tend to think about ethics. We
typically think of gray areas in legal ethics as situations where the rules or
conduct do not provide clear guidance, or perhaps where the rules point in
more than one direction. In this case, on the other hand, WorldCom clearly
violated well-established and unambiguous rules of accounting.
* Professor of Law and Director, Law & Public Service Program, Mercer University Walter F.
George School of Law.


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