Don’t assume it won’t happen
“It’s never positive when the words ‘FBI’ and ‘subpoena’ are used in the same sentence,” cracks Thomas of the day last February when the FBI subpoenaed MLGW, looking for account records for a Memphis city council member. The then-president and CEO of MLGW, Joseph Lee, was accused of allowing the council member to run up thousands of dollars in utility bills without making payments.
Ever since Enron, these kinds of crises really draw the ire of the media, and therefore the public. “Operational issues will not provoke the kind of outrage that ethics violations will,” says Thomas. “For the media, any corporate misbehavior is interesting.” (And when utility customers face big winter bills at the same time the CEO gets accused of giving a city council member a free ride, the media fireworks are spectacular.)