Stockholder pushes for MCI boycott

An angry WorldCom stockholder proposing a boycott of the telecommunications company has received more than 17,000 e-mails,...

An angry WorldCom stockholder proposing a boycott of the telecommunications company has received more than 17,000 e-mails, including 7,000 in the past week, from supporters.

Neal Nelson wants the company, now doing business as MCI, to rewrite its bankruptcy plan in favour of stockholders. He has issued a series of press releases to publicise his boycott proposal.

Nelson, a Unix and Linux programmer, has been receiving about 1,000 e-mails a day this week from people saying they will boycott MCI because of a reorganisation plan announced in April which Nelson describes as "unnecessarily harsh" to stockholders.

Because of bankruptcy rules, banks and bondholders in the company will get most of the money in the reorganisation, with stockholders getting nothing.

"It's a really sweet deal for the new management at MCI," Nelson said  "It's very cosy arrangement for bondholders right now."

Nelson, who has also tried sending out spam to convert people to his cause, explains his objections at the MCI WorldCom Stockholders Group's Web site, http://www.wcom-iso.com/. Nelson put up the website about a year ago to track MCI bankruptcy news and has been threatening the boycott since the beginning of May.

Instead of the company erasing about $36bn in debt in the bankruptcy proceeding, the company should eliminate $20bn, about half its debt, and leave some money for stockholders, Nelson said. Because of the lower debt, MCI will have an advantage over competitors such as AT&T and Sprint, which are carrying larger debt loads, he added.

MCI spokeswoman Julie Moore would not comment specifically on the bondholders versus stockholders issue in the reorganisation. "Our restructuring plan has the support of 90% of the company's creditors."

Moore added that a boycott would make no sense. "MCI is a company of 55,000 hard-working, dedicated employees who have already suffered a great deal at the hands of the few who were involved in wrongdoing," she said. "We don't see what a boycott would accomplish here, other than to hurt the people who have suffered enough."

Other than a series of press releases carried on a public relations website, Nelson has received little media attention for his effort. He even tried sending out spam about the boycott effort, with about 300,000 unsolicited commercial e-mails going out earlier this month. But most responses, he said, have come from people reading the press releases.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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