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Lloyd Waters: Security company a few dollars short

February 24, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

Have you ever worked for a company that one day suddenly went bankrupt?

I have written several columns about cities and companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection, but not until recently had I worked for a company that filed for bankruptcy.

It is an interesting experience.

TW & Company was a government contractor that provided security services for 22 contracts in the country and had a workforce of 617 employees.

One of the most significant assignments of this contractor was the responsibility to dispose of the White House’s records. Reports suggest the company supervised the destruction of classified materials in an incinerator.

TW & Company also provided security coverage at several local sites, including one where I work. On a payday Friday in early 2012, employees there were advised they would not be receiving a paycheck for their work.

Rumors of financial difficulty began circulating immediately.

No one from TW & Company came forward that night to explain why the employees’ paychecks were not delivered.

I see this as a lack of integrity, which should be punishable by time in prison. Staff, after all, is your most valuable resource.

What’s the penalty for spending more money than you have?

Bankruptcy is a process often used as the result of greedy behavior.

TW & Company reported liabilities of $12.9 million and assets of only $7.36 million.

Some 617 employees, many with families, faced uncertainties as a result of the failure and bankruptcy of this company.

How does a company with 22 federal contracts go bankrupt? The answer must lie somewhere between mismanagement and poor leadership.

My grandmother would often tell me stories about people who were greedy. “People who are never satisfied with what they have will never be very happy at the end of the day,” she said.

Corporate America seems to be suffering from this particular ailment.

Making a profit is a noble goal, and employing people who want to work and prosper is an honorable endeavor; but wasting money, failing to be good stewards of one’s prosperity and destroying your business to the detriment of your employees is unacceptable. 

Although TW & Company performed services at the allocation of taxpayer dollars, there is another tidbit that you might find interesting.

According to reports, the company had not paid federal taxes since 2008.

How does a company secure 22 federal contracts, then “forget” to pay federal taxes for four years? You would think some studious bow-tied bureaucrat would have the responsibility to ensure that only reputable companies are selected to do business with the federal government.

In review of TW & Company’s business operation and resulting bankruptcy, was the right company selected? Shouldn’t a contractor doing business with the federal government be routinely required to pay federal taxes or suffer a penalty?

The company’s mission statement promised “a Commitment to Excellence.” It seems not to have understood the meaning of those words.

I believe bankruptcies are far too forgiving and self-serving. It should not be OK to spend more than you have and then say, “Oops, I can’t pay my bills.”

The example of TW & Company and the practices that contributed to its bankruptcy filing should be more closely examined to avoid placing our nation’s security at possible risk.

Our country, its taxpayers and its employees deserve no less.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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