Nortel executives found not guilty in fraud case

by Andrew Roach on January 15, 2013

It was one of the biggest scandals to hit Canada’s telecom industry and the story has finally ended with three Nortel executives being found not guilty of fraud.

On Monday, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the alterations which forced Nortel to re-state its financial earnings for both 2002 and 2003 were not classed as criminal behaviour.

The verdict will come as a major setback for police and prosecutors who were convinced that the trio deliberately altered the figures to help the struggling telecom giant to start making profits.

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Nortel as Mr. Justice Frank Marrocco commented that whilst Nortel’s action were not illegal, the company had still inflated their figures to paint a false sense of security for Nortel shareholders and workers.

After a long case, the accused executives – former CEO Frank Dunn, former CFO Douglas Beatty and controller Michael Gollogly – all hugged their lawyers and families as they were acquitted of all charges.

Once the proceedings had finished, the defendants once again maintained that they had done nothing wrong and were innocent the whole time. In a statement, Frank Dunn said that “after waiting for almost nine years, I am grateful to have received vindication. I am looking forward to turning the page on this chapter in my life.”

However, the case has proved to be one of the major factors for the demise of the once dominant Nortel. Even though the company survived the technology struggles at the turn of the century, the fraud case proved to be one step too far damaging Nortel’s reputation beyond repair leading to the company filing for bankruptcy in 2009.

Despite there being no prosecution in this case, it’s likely that many other big firms will think twice about how they handle their finances in the future following the consequences that beset Nortel since the allegations were announced.

Whilst the defendants have been able to walk free after the 9 year legal battle, it’s almost certain that the three executives will not look to get back into the corporate world with their reputation and integrity in tatters from the court case.

Even though yesterday’s verdict did not end in a prosecution, it will leave many major corporations looking over their shoulder and making sure that everything is genuine to avoid having a similar fate as Nortel and their executives.

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