FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nortel Network’s Obit

by ANNE MARRAN and MISSY BEATTIE

On January 24, 2013, Ontario’s Chief Warren Winkler called Time of Death—on Nortel Networks.

It is difficult to accept the debilitating illness and subsequent death of someone close, someone who is more than an acquaintance, especially when that person(hood) provided your medical coverage and helped pay your children’s education.

But coming to terms with the death of Nortel is even more complicated—as complicated as if would be with any friend initially perceived as benevolent but who later emerges as deceptive, a cheater, someone who borrowed money with no intention of repaying those who offered their creativity, generosity, and loyalty.

The grief is tempered with slight relief that the embarrassment has ended, the awkwardness of an unexpected meeting in the shopping mall, or perhaps, one more request for money.

Questions remain and will always from those of us who knew Nortel well. How could we have been swindled? All those retirees? The taxpayers? What about the overseas transactions?

Hardworking Canadian taxpayers whose fathers and mothers had worked for the Company knew and trusted a business started at the end of the 1800s. No one worried about their savings if they were invested in Nortel. Pension Plans vested their money in the Company. Canada knew it could trust Nortel to support its economy.

Canadians were proud of their leading-technology corporation spread across the globe, until it began associating with “bad company”, wearing fancy clothes, attending all-night parties, and gambling with overpriced stocks in risky acquisitions, bought with money borrowed from the savings of elderly, frail retirees and teachers.

How did we miss changes in the company we were so proud was ours, not notice that its struggle to sustain the employees benefits and pension funds were failing? Why did we ignore Nortel’s pleas for more EDC funding when asked to support a lifestyle the company had come to expect in its time of need?

Grief often is accompanied by guilt. Grief because voices heard went unheeded, as we listened instead to the sound of 10% interest compounded indefinitely and planned our retirements. Retirements of palm trees and warm white sand. Had we listened to those warnings could we have protected Nortel from its disgraceful end? Our own hubris convinced us that the 10% compounded would last forever?

State of the art companies bought with overpriced Nortel stock were sold. Finally, like a womanizing husband caught with his pants down in the presence of one of his many mistresses, Nortel could no longer hide its lies. Trust was broken. So was the company.

Not yet on its knees, Nortel turned for support to its enabler, the SEC. A small pecuniary offering was used as a token of regret rather than rehab, accountability, criminal prosecution. But to Nortel’s long lasting lament, its addiction to short-term profit was something over which it had no power.

Eventually with its financial affairs in chaos, Nortel requested bankruptcy protection A. The valuable patents that company employees worked so hard to design and develop, those that could have sustained the company if the Harper government had acted quickly, were sold at garage sales.

Nortel saw its reflection in the faces of its former employees, knew it had wasted the Canadian taxpayers’ money, destroying the country’s trust.  Absolution was granted by three of Nortel’s profit makers through an Ontario court and its outside auditor’s generosity. This action, thought to be a coup de grace, instead was mere anesthesia, a temporary pain suppressant. Nortel subsequently died. Probably the blow was shame. However, without proper investigation or autopsy, results are inconclusive. If incised, the area formerly occupying the company’s heart might bear the words: “Where’s My Bonus?”

When Winkler called Nortel’s Time of Death almost two weeks ago, sacrificing its body to the vulture capitalists waiting to feed on the corpse, there was a glimpse of despair for those who long witnessed the wasting process, unable to survive the quagmire of corporate, short-term profit and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Goodbye, old friend. We will try to forget the final days of indignity and instead remember your early glory, when we said your name with pride: Nortel Networks, eh.

Anne Marran told this story to Missy Beattie who edited it. Email: missybeat@email.com

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail