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The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Nacchio's tale echoes that of Macbeth
By Al Lewis, Columnist
Denver Post
Friday, July 27,2007

The tale of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio is still being told, but it's already a classic to Tina Eden, a mother of three from Gunbarrel.

Eden, who just completed an online, community college course in British literature, received an A on a paper comparing Nacchio to Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Macbeth is an archetypal character symbolizing the dangers of unbridled ambition.  Macbeth murdered his way to the throne but was ultimately beheaded.

Flash-forward four centuries to today, when the deposed king of a corporation will be sentenced for insider trading.

He won't be beheaded.  But he'll probably receive about seven years in prison.

Judge Edward Nottingham will likely deny Nacchio's request for an appeal bond, leaving him with only 30 to 45 more days of freedom.  The judge also may sack Nacchio with fines and order him to return millions of dollars from stock trades that a jury deemed illegal.

"I feel kind of badly for him," said Eden, who has never met Nacchio.  "He must be a very intelligent man.  He must be very enterprising and cordial. He looks like a nice guy when you see him in the paper.  A little debonair. ... Someone to be respected.  ... But he just has this character flaw. ... Things just got out of control ... and now he's got to go through this public tarring and feathering."

Eden is a high school math teacher taking a few years off to raise children.  To keep her teaching certificates current, she signed up for online courses from Cochise College in her former hometown of Sierra Vista, Ariz.  She has no connection to Qwest and is not particularly interested in the business world.

"I don't like the idea of people earning money from others' labors, and that's how I view the stock market," Eden said.  "There are lots of people getting money who aren't contributing to society."

Eden, however, became steeped in the intrigue at Qwest upon reading about its former chief financial officer, Robin Szeliga, a mother who pleaded guilty to insider trading to avoid prison.

"Former Finance Chief Robin Szeliga was plagued by guilt over her role in the insider trading crimes," Eden wrote.  "Szeliga tearfully stated in a courtroom, 'My life is forever changed by this mistake ... I have had to come to grips with my own failings and demons.' ... Her attorney referred to her as 'unemployed and unemployable.' ... For a career woman to find herself in such a position is like death, similar to Lady Macbeth's fate."

Lady Macbeth could never wash the blood from her hands, went mad and committed suicide.  As for Szeliga, well, Eden hopes she can get on with her life.

"She was contrite," Eden said.  "That stuck in my mind because there are a lot of them that don't feel that way.  Like the Enron guy or the WorldCom guy."

"Felt they were invincible"

Or even Nacchio, who remains confident in his innocence, is challenging the verdict in an appeal and will not likely feign any contrition today.

"Like Macbeth, Nacchio was not satisfied with his station in life, and his desire for more power led him to commit an illegal act," Eden wrote.  "Macbeth as a king, and Nacchio as a financial mogul, reached comparable pinnacles ...

"Both Macbeth and Nacchio felt they were invincible ...

"Nacchio, like Macbeth, thought only of his own interests, allowing his company to crumble, as Macbeth allowed his kingdom to crumble. ...

"Macbeth is defeated by Macduff, Malcolm, and the English army.  These men were once his comrades, but no longer able to tolerate his tyrannical and murderous behavior, they waged war against him, with Macduff beheading Macbeth. ... Nacchio was defeated by a coalition of lawyers, investigators and some of his own trusted colleagues.

"Macbeth and Nacchio suffered classic downfalls.  Both were over-ambitious, refused to heed warnings, and were defeated, as good always defeats evil."

Eden's teacher, Jackie Corbit, said she was pleased with the paper:  "I wish all my students could see so clearly that history has a way of repeating itself."

All that money.  All that power.  And for what?  "Life's but a walking shadow," says Macbeth.  "That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to Lewis at denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-954-1967 or alewis@denverpost.com.

More: Read Tina Eden's paper on Al Lewis' blog. denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_6474348