The more one hears about CenturyLink’s criminal conspiracies, the more one wishes public hangings were available as legal punishment for white collar crimes. Almost, anyway.
What CenturyLink, Inc. does is provide internet and television cable services to the public. It appears it makes most of its money, however, by lying to the public. $17.5 billion in sales last year, as a matter of fact, through a combination of hosting, cloud and information technology services.
That deception is behind a $12 billion lawsuit filed by consumers who said they were misled and stuck with services they never ordered. It is also why the Attorney General of Minnesota just filed suit accusing the company of consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.
It is also, sadly, part of why the company is being acquired for $34 billion by Level 3 Communications Inc., yet another corporate monolith who apparently wants in on a bit of this highly-lucrative CenturyLink criminal scam.
According to the Minnesota state lawsuit, the deception starts with that “CenturyLink has regularly misquoted the price of its internet and television services to Minnesota consumers.” It goes on to say that, in response to the Attorney General’s Office first contacting the company to investigate a specific consumer complaint, “a CenturyLink employee stated that, of the sales recordings she reviews, ‘maybe 1 out of 5 are quoted correctly or close enough’.”
That of course could be written off to sheer incompetence, but that does not appear to be the case. In a lawsuit filed in June by Heidi Heiser, a former CenturyLink employee who is suing for wrongful termination after she became a whistleblower against the company, Ms. Heiser alleged CenturyLink’s lies went well beyond not quoting accurately. Her lawsuit claims that the company “allowed persons who had a personal incentive to add services or lines to falsely indicate on the CenturyLink system the approval by a customer of new lines of service.” It is apparently not enough that the company is overcharging on services. It is also charging customers – a lot of them – for services they never ordered.
A spokesman for Century Link, Mark Molzen, reported to the press disappointed that the Attorney General chose to file a lawsuit instead of just talking with them about the problem. That was of course also yet another example of deception.
Minnesota’s AG had tried to get information from the company for some time, in response to many complaints about the company’s deceit. Among the many things the state tried to get from the company was full price information for its services, for example. According to Minnesota’s complaint, CenturyLink said the request for full price information was “unduly burdensome”.
What was not “unduly burdensome” was racking up more sales every day and somehow managing to clear $816 million in net income last year. After expenses, of course, and also somehow after assembling all that “unduly burdensome” data into a fully-auditable balance sheet that one of the big accounting firms could approve as accurate.
Ben Meiselas, from the law firm CenturyLink which filed the original class action lawsuit against CenturyLink for the same issues, said that “this massive fraud on consumers…has unjustly enriched CenturyLink to the tune of billions of dollars nationwide”. He went on to say that “We applaud Attorney General Swanson [of Minnesota] and call on all Attorneys Generals across the nation to protect its consumers against CenturyLink.”
The lawsuits as of this writing are in process, with the trial dates still far away.
Sadly, even if the cases are settled in the favor of the states which do sue and those represented in the class actions, the worst that will likely happen is a short-term write-off on CenturyLink, Inc.’s balance sheet, with the stockholders – not those responsible for the crimes – taking the hit. There may even be a slight adjustment of the massive bonuses going to the executives who made it all happen. With the even bigger bonuses of bringing their crime syndicate under the fold of their new owner, Level 3 Communications, however, it is doubtful any of them will even notice.
Sadder still is the motivation behind it all. It was not about innovating, creating jobs, making life easier, or saving the world. It was about old-fashioned capitalistic greed, which ripped off the masses without a single executive apparently even losing the slightest bit of sleep over the matter.
It also happened knowing that they all work under a government-corporate umbrella where no executive will ever be charged with a crime, despite all the harm they have caused.