Nortel’s shares peaked at 124.50 Canadian dollars in July 2000 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On Wednesday, Nortel closed at a market price of 12 Canadian cents, or 1.2 cents after adjusting for a stock consolidation. While the current economic slump contributed to Nortel’s decision to file for protection in both Delaware and its hometown, Toronto, the company’s problems began in 2001, when it was hit by the technology stock price collapse and became mired in an accounting scandal that led to criminal charges against three of its former executives.
There have sometimes been problems at Nortel, as there have been in any company that is more than 100 years old. An accounting scandal a few years ago put a dent in the company’s reputation. This, however, was an anomaly. Nortel has learned from its mistakes. It has a strict business and ethics code which goes a long way to restoring the company’s reputation. It is not necessary to tie Nortel down in a web of social responsibilities that will seriously cut into its margins. Those who suggest that Nortel should change its policies in order to pay pensioners first instead of real creditors are missing the big picture and are getting in the way of Nortels efforts to manage what assets it has in a way that can be considered for the greater good. It is in a sense understandable that people would ask Nortel to do this, but that is more of an emotional response than a reasonable one. There are many unintended consequences for those who push the Corporate Social Responsibility agenda. It does not always lead to the results that we might expect. Let businesses be businesses and let charities be charities. It is simply too confusing and leads to too many unintended consequences for things to be set up in any other manner. The bottom of a company sometimes falls out there: there are no sure things in life.
These are dark economic times and it is important for Nortel ...
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