The former head of global sales at Computer Associates International Inc.



In a letter written from prison by Stephen Richards, the former head of global sales at Computer Associates International Inc. (CA), to a University of Chicago graduate student, Richards responds to a number of questions posed by the student about the pressures and challenges he faced while a senior financial manager at Computer Associates.  Reading and discussing your views of Richards’ comments allows you the opportunity to confront difficult issues that managers can be forced to face.

Assignment Instructions:

Carefully read the “Letter from Prison” case included in your Harvard Business School pack and reflect upon the discussion points below. Upon completion of your analysis, please prepare a thoughtful write-up that addresses your views on the discussions points shown below. 

Discussion Points:

  • How serious were Stephen Richards’ actions? Why?
  • If Computer Associates achieved the same financial results through GAAP flexibility, does your answer to Question 1 change?
  • Does it matter what your competitors are doing?
  • Step back and consider management’s incentives and choices. What is the motivation to manage earnings?
  • Richards describes how difficult it is to operate in the “gray.” Richards wanted more “framework”: Do you agree or disagree? Do personal boundaries suffice?
  • Suppose you were placed in Stephen Richards’ position at Computer Associates and were under pressure to extend the fiscal quarter. How would you handle the situation differently? What would be the expected consequences?

Reflect on what you learned from this assignment and how you might incorporate the lessons learned in your future careers.

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