Walt Pavlo, former senior manager of the telecommunications division at WorldCom, called MCI since they declared bankruptcy in 2002, served two years in prison for defrauding clients of more than $6 million. Pavlo now speaks to business students here every semester on the importance of business ethics.
Pavlo said increasing demands from his bosses pushed him to deceive some of WorldCom’s high-risk investors. Pavlo said the company would retire some of the customers’ debts if they paid an account in the Cayman Islands. He netted $6 million in the scam. Pavlo was finally caught when customers asked why their debts still remained.
Pavlo pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in 2001 and served two years in prison. After his term he could not get a full-time job with any company. That is when he began his career as a public speaker.
Terry Halbert, a business ethics professor from the Legal Studies department, heard about Walt Pavlo from Diana Breslin-Knudsen, associate dean of the Fox School of Business. Halbert coordinates a new course called business, ethics and society. The course requires students to attend one large discussion session and one small discussion section every week.
The professors, Halbert said, want students to realize their morality will be tested once they enter the job market.
“We want our students to be ethical. We want them to look at the ethical dimensions of management and practice thinking about that,” Halbert said.
Professors Lynne M. Andersson, John Deckop, Norm Baglini, Donald Wargo and graduate students Lisa Calvano and Sridevi Shivarajan helped Halbert coordinate the course. They said they thought it was a great idea to have Walt Pavlo come in to speak with the students.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Andersson said. “He was funny and down to earth. A lot of students said they could relate to him. He took full responsibility for his actions and he bought experience that most of us can say we have not had of that magnitude”
Pavlo’s visit was a success, Halbert said. The lecture was informative and the students walked away with advice they will carry throughout their lives.
“I think that the students can identify with someone like Walt because they can understand how a good person can get caught in a bad situation. He helped them understand how much is at stake. They got more out of his visit than any other speaker and event we’ve ever put together,” Halbert said.
Students who did not even attend the lecture thought it was a great idea to have people like Pavlo come and speak.
“I think it’s a good thing for the students because they can tell the students what to do. The students can learn from those people’s mistakes,” said Baba Ary Toubo, a junior in the Fox School.
Aalok Joshi, a sophomore and vice president of Accounting Professional Society, thinks it is important to have experienced people like Pavlo because of the influence they have on the students.
“I’m glad he has opened up his experience because I believe that the students have responded to him more than any other faculty at this university.”
Even though many at the school supported Pavlo’s visit, not everyone appreciated it.
“I don’t think any forum should be given to those people. These people are criminals and they probably get paid to come here which is offensive. There’s no reason to glorify a criminal. I think they should be ignored,” said Howard Felt, an accounting professor who has been teaching for 38 years.
Now 43 years old, Walt Pavlo lives in Tampa, Fla., and speaks to schools and companies around the country.
Trish Fleurimond can be reached at email@example.com.