Walter Pavlo Jr. & Neil Weinberg - Stolen Without A Gun

I find fraud rather fascinating. Perhaps it's because I've taught courses dealing with the topic. Or perhaps I'm just strange. In any event, if you are like me you will want to read Stolen Without A Gun. The book reads like you are a fly on the wall, able to hear every conversation and gain access to nearly every particular detail. This is good if you are usually turned off by non-fiction works. It's not so good if you don't like your non-fiction tainted. Perhaps it isn't tainted much though since one of the authors was in on the bulk of the conversations. Sure things may have gotten a bit juicier in his mind as time passed, but it's still a good read.

The subtitle is what I was expecting to read about ("Confessions from inside history's biggest accounting fraud - the collapse of MCI WorldCom"). In reality you will read very little about history's biggest accounting fraud and the collapse of MCI WorldCom. Instead you will hear about a fraud that happened at MCI years before the MCI WorldCom merger. That fraud (an embezzlement scheme which netted the perpetrators millions--not the billions in accounting fraud that led to the MCI WorldCom bankruptcy) involved accounts receivable, not the capitalization of expenses I was expecting. Basically, Pavlo arranged to have customers' accounts marked as paid on the MCI end when MCI hadn't been paid. The customers were given deals to pay less by paying through a third party. The third party was in the Cayman Islands and included Pavlo as an owner.

In the book Pavlo accepts much blame but also passes a lot on to Harold Mann. It would be interesting to hear the same story from Mann's viewpoint. In any event, I still have a difficult time trusting such people, including their stories after doing time. As George Bush says, "fool me once, shame on, shame on you, fool me, you can't get fooled again." In my town we had a guy (Gary Green) embezzle loads of money from his employer. Soon out of prison he found another employer who allowed him to do it all over again.

I tell my students that if they want to forever be tainted in my book they only have to cheat once. And unlike MCI at the time, I put controls in place to catch unethical behavior. This term, alone, I've caught four students. They don't learn or take heed of my warnings. Who knows if the same can be said of Pavlo? It amazes me to see people take such huge risks with incredible repercussions for such short-term rewards.

If it amazes you, too, then you will enjoy the account in Stolen Without A Gun.

from the publisher:
Armed thugs, duffel bags of cash, and cooked books aren't what Walter Pavlo, Jr. expects when the newly-minted MBA arrives at telecom giant MCI Communications in Atlanta to start his career as a finance executive. But to the higher-ups in the company, growth is the end justified by any means - including doing business with mobsters. Disillusioned, Pavlo consorts with a rogue MCI customer in a scheme to siphon $6 million of company cash to the Cayman Islands. In a dramatically-told tale that veers between the absurd and the disturbing, Stolen Without A Gun is a unique look into the dark shadows of corporate corruption and white-collar crime.