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Sat 30 Sep 2006 08:00 PM

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It's the IT way, says Secret CIO, pondering the scandals brewing in the IT sector today

What sort of industry are you dealing with anyway?" The questions shattered my thought processes the other night as I was pondering how I was going to tell the mobile execs in my place that they couldn't take their laptops on overseas flights anymore.

What sort of industry are you dealing with anyway?" The questions shattered my thought processes the other night as I was pondering how I was going to tell the mobile execs in my place that they couldn't take their laptops on overseas flights anymore.

It was the brat again. He had inadvertently found himself listening to the news as a better option than going to bed and just to string things out a bit more, had decided to have a conversation with me.

"What are you talking about now?" I was still distracted thinking that he was on the same wavelength as me and couldn't understand why people were being banned from taking their notebook PCs on board planes.

"Well, for a start they have been found to burst into flames because some batteries are faulty. Then of course, the security experts believe they might just might be used to trigger a bomb in a terrorist attack," I replied.

There was a vacant stare coming from the other side of the room. I could see the cogs turning over trying to imagine just what I was talking about.

"No, no," came the response. "I'm talking about HP. Its chairman has just resigned because of some boardroom scandal involving press leaks. Is that what they call the HP Way?"

I should not have dismissed his questions as silly. She-who-must-be-obeyed was standing behind me ironing and immediately leapt to his defence. "You know quite well that there's been a whole list of scandals and examples of bad governance from those very IT companies which have been trying to sell you tools to cut out computer crime and good governance," she said brandishing a hot iron in my direction as if to say ‘engage the brat or suffer the consequences’ - that is: get bonded or get branded.

It was enough to set me thinking. There really had been a string of frauds recently with the CEOs of some very big companies being brought to book in the courts. So I decided to investigate. To say I was shocked is an under statement. A quick Google search of "Companies under investigation" revealed a Wall Street Journal list, last updated September 11, 2006, of more than 105 companies that have come under scrutiny for past stock-option grants. This list contained companies that have disclosed government probes, misdated options, restatements and/or executive departures.

Admittedly, they were not all IT vendors, but the vast majority were, many of which I have dealt with personally. They include Apple, Autodesk, Brocade, BEA, BlueCoat Systems, CA, Chordiant, Foundry Networks, Juniper, McAfee, Microsoft, Novell, Nvidia, Progress, Quest, RSA Security and Western Digital - to name but a few.

Oh for those halcyon days when everyone tried to emulate HP not Enron. The HP Way - where the phone never rung thrice because everyone from the top down never wanted an existing or potential customer to be hanging on too long for someone to answer the call. Nowadays you can ring many IT companies for minutes on end, only to get the call finally answered and then put down again. Perhaps the brat was right after all.

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