Northern Going South

Another bad bit of news for RTP’s Northern Telecom.

Photo: Telecordia

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged four more former Nortel Networks Corp. executives with accounting fraud, alleging they manipulated reserves to change Nortel’s earnings statements on the orders of more senior officers of the Canadian networking equipment maker.

The U.S. stocks regulator said Wednesday it had filed civil fraud charges against Douglas Hamilton, Craig Johnson, James Kinney and Kenneth Taylor, the former vice presidents of finance for Toronto-based Nortel’s optical, wireline, wireless and enterprise business units.

In March, the SEC filed civil fraud charges against ex-CEO Frank Dunn and other executives — including former Chief Financial Officer Douglas Beatty and former controller Michael Gollogly — alleging they directed a so-called earnings management fraud to manipulate the company’s financial reports.

My Triangle career started at Northern (now Nortel) in the late ’80’s. Back then I worked for TEAM10, the DMS-10 switching side of the business. Over the next 6 years I managed to move around to various units, working on everything from manufacturing process automation to revamping the switch engineering process to writing software that managed the core central office switching equipment.

I won several Presidents Awards and was the first IT staff to get a Chairman’s Award for Innovation.

Northern Telecom (it’ll always be Northern to me) had a good energy back when I started – a vibrancy that made it fun to work there. Towards the end of my tenure, Northern was a different place. Wave after wave of layoffs. Many folks climbing the management ladder based on gamesmanship over merit.

The fun was over. The waste of talent, the incredible dissipation of the “can do” spirit was sad to see.

I kept in contact with those folks that decided to ride out the storm, looking for Northern to regain its footing, waiting for the old Northern to emerge as a technical leader once again. Unfortunately, the rot that was apparent in the mid-90’s wasn’t rooted out. It appears to have spread, as today, another 4 company officers face SEC charges.

I learned quite a bit at Northern. Great lessons in managing folks and projects. Terrible lessons on how to drive the joy out of a joyful working place.

Good luck Northern, maybe better days are ahead.






One response to “Northern Going South”

  1. Bill vonReichbauer Avatar

    I came across this article via a Google search. I, too, was with Northern Telecom from 1985-1996, spending the last 8 years in the RTP complex. It was a fun place to work when success of digital switching was in their heydays. I still remember the battles of Big Al vs. Little Al (Lutz vs. Toomer). Frankly, things turned for the worse after Ed Fitzgerald retired as CEO. IMO, he was the last of the good guys.

    Since you were at DMS-10, perhaps you can answer a trivia question for me. Toomer always took great pride in the cleanliness of the DMS-10 plant. He used a floor cleaner on the plant floors that was fantastic — clean, non-skid, but the shine would blind your eyes! Know where I could get the name of the product he used?

    Bill vonReicbauer

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