Groups seek WorldCom debarment

A coalition of consumer groups asked the General Services Administration on Oct. 30 to drop bankrupt WorldCom Inc. from its list of approved federal contractors.

The coalition, including the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Gray Panthers and the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said the scandal-plagued company should be barred from future federal contracts because of its conduct, which the coalition says drove the firm into bankruptcy.

"WorldCom's corporate practices have caused enormous harm on a scale that is hard to calculate," said Morton Bahr, president of CWA.

Although GSA has barred other scandal-ridden companies, including Enron Corp. and Arthur Andersen LLP, from bidding on future federal contracts, it has not taken any action to date against WorldCom, which had $462.5 million worth of federal contracts in 2001.

"The magnitude of WorldCom's fraud exceeds even Enron," Bahr said.

In a letter to GSA Administrator Steve Perry, the coalition writes, "WorldCom's behavior has harmed both the telecommunication sector and the larger U.S. economy, and it should be punished for its actions. By barring WorldCom from federal contracts, the GSA will send a clear message that this administration will not...condone fraudulent behavior from corporate America."

Officials said they are monitoring the case. "If necessary, GSA will act at an appropriate time to protect the government's interest," according to a GSA statement. But Will Thomas, who runs the corporate accountability project for the Gray Panthers, said the government should use its buying clout to press for changes in the corporate world.

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