A Needed Confrontation

It didnt surprise me a bit. Computerworlds Matt Hamblen and I spent a good deal of time last week speaking with CAs users at CA World in Las Vegas, and we found that almost none of them had Charles Wang top of mind. You cant blame them. They have real problems to solve, they need to understand how CA intends to help solve them, and they just dont have time to dwell in the past. Wang, CAs co-founder and CEO for nearly a quarter century prior to Sanjay Kumars assumption of the post in 2000, is a fading memory.

It was just a week and a half earlier that CA announced that its board of directors Special Litigation Committee had concluded that fraud pervaded the entire CA organization at every level and was embedded in CAs culture, as instilled by Mr. Wang, almost from the companys inception. The committee recommended that CA sue Wang to recover millions of dollars in damages.

The committees report was submitted to a Delaware court, which can accept or reject the legitimacy of its findings. If it is ultimately accepted, what should CAs next move be? Should it expend the time and resources necessary to undertake what would assuredly be a long, nasty legal battle against Wang?

After speaking about all this in an interview with CA CEO John Swainson last week, Im convinced that no decision has been made about whether CA will bring a civil case against Wang.

We have not made any determination about that, Swainson told me, making it clear that thats a decision the board of directors will have to make. I cannot tell you where the board will come out on this.

So I brought it down to a more personal level. I asked Swainson what, in his view, needs to happen for justice to prevail. He paused thoughtfully before responding. It was clear he was torn.

I dont know, he finally replied. On one hand, theres sort of this natural inclination for revenge. On the other hand, the company needs to put this stuff behind it and move on.

It will, no doubt, be a difficult decision. The more natural inclination might well be to just drop it and focus on the future rather than on the past.

The committee found that Wang had created a culture of fear at CA. When I asked Swainson if he still sees any vestiges of that, he responded that he doesnt. The ghost of Sanjay is in the halls, he said, but theres not much of Charles left at CA.

Swainson estimates that only about 30% of CAs current employees were there when Wang was. So there are more new people in the company than old; there are many more people who dont know Charles than do, he said. Even Swainson has met Wang only once, and that was in the mid-90s when Swainson was at IBM. I have not met him since then, he said, which probably says a lot.

It says a lot about Wangs eagerness to detach himself from the company, and about CAs determination to avoid Wangs ominous shadow. The fact remains, however, that the confrontation needs to happen.

Yes, it would mean an expenditure of resources that might otherwise be devoted to addressing users problems. But CA needs to take civil action against Wang anyway, provided the court accepts the committees report. The reason has nothing do with revenge. It has everything to do with justice. And thats more important than any users enterprise IT management problem will ever be.

Don Tennant is editor in chief of Computerworld. Contact him at don_tennant@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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