a peer-reviewed caseJames Mahar, Jr. jmahar@sbu.edu is an Assistant Professor of Finance at St. Bonaventure University. Carol Fischer cfischer@sbu.edu is a Professor of Accounting at St. Bonaventure University.


This case study is based on the experience of  one of many firms that got into financial trouble as the result of poor corporate governance and improper accounting practices in the post-Enron world of early 2002.  The primary subject matter of this case concerns poor corporate governance that allowed managers to benefit at the expense of minority shareholders. This corporate finance case involves a firm that was thought to be well managed and a pillar of the business community before a corporate governance crisis led to its eventual bankruptcy. The case shows that at times, too much managerial ownership can be detrimental to a firm’s stakeholders. Secondary issues include an analysis of this firm's rise, the risks and rewards of high leverage, the role of auditors and analysts as monitors, and the costs of financial distress as a firm nears bankruptcy. This case is designed to be taught in a 60-90 minute corporate finance or advanced corporate finance class and is expected to require three to four hours of outside preparation by students.  



After the economic expansion of the 1990s, the global economy slowed and stock markets around the world fell, in part due to the collapse of the Internet and technology “Bubble.” These declines were punctuated by the tragic events of September 11, 2001, which further pushed down the economy and stock markets.  Enron’s collapse, amid revelations of billions of dollars of off-balance-sheet debt, rampant fraud, and mismanagement, focused the US business community’s attention on managerial fraud and accounting practices. 


The cable industry is a classic high fixed cost, low variable cost industry with a high degree of business risk. This cost structure creates incentives that take advantage of economies of scale while the relatively high fixed costs make the industry susceptible to fluctuations. The 1990s brought good times to the cable industry as the expansion of services to the vast majority of the US population led to an increase in the number of cable customers. This increase in the customer base was coupled with the creation of many new television channels, allowing cable industry revenues to grow rapidly; not only did the number of customers go up, but the average customer’s bills also increased significantly.  As a result, the stocks of cable providers typically outperformed the broader stock market. The largest firms in the industry are listed below in Table 1.  (Philippe is the subject of this case.)

TABLE 1: Industry Comparison




(in millions of Dollars)


(2000 actual)

(in millions of Dollars)


(in 000s)

Total Debt to Market Value of Equity






Cox Communications





Hughes Electric










Cable Vision










Source: January 4, 2002 Value Line, p. 829-836.  

In the late 1990s, cable television was not the only reason for the industry’s success, as cable connections offered a significant speed advantage over slower dial-up Internet connections. Cable Internet access was thus seen as the growth segment of the industry and most of the major cable firms rapidly expanded into this sector. When the forecasted growth of this segment failed to materialize as quickly as predicted, the industry was beset with over-capacity problems.   



In 1952, Sean Borda borrowed money from his father to open a movie theater in Hamburg, MA. From this small beginning, the firm transformed itself by purchasing its first cable franchise for $300. The new cable firm grew rapidly by focusing its efforts on keeping its operations geographically dense so as to keep operating costs low, by emphasizing customer service, by staying in the suburbs instead of metropolitan areas, and once established, through aggressive acquisitions. Twenty years after the company was founded, the firm was incorporated and named Philippe. In 1986, the company sold shares to the public and began trading on the Nasdaq.  As is shown in Table 1, by 1999, Philippe was one of the nation's largest cable companies.  As the company grew it also expanded into other fields of business. It operated a telephone business (Philippe Business Solutions), a sports radio station, a sports cable channel (Philippe Network), and many other smaller subsidiaries.


Philippe Stock Price



Despite being a publicly held firm, the company remained a family-run business. The Bordas held five of the firm’s nine board seats. Sean was the CEO and chairman of the board. His sons, Carl (CFO), Tony (VP of Operations), and Mark (VP of Strategic Planning), made up much of the firm’s brain trust. In addition, Sean Borda's son-in law, Juan Martin, sat on the Board of Directors.

Philippe was headquartered in Hamburg, MA, a quaint town with a population of fewer than 5,000 people. The firm stressed its social responsibility by giving free basic cable and Internet connections to educational institutions, by sponsoring cultural and sporting events, and by supporting nearly any charity that needed assistance. This generosity was especially evident in Hamburg, where the company and the family spared no expense. Generous to a fault, Sean rarely turned anyone down: he provided corporate jets to fly sick townspeople around the country for medical treatments, and he was known to send unsolicited checks to people who he felt needed help.

The company’s largesse was not limited to its corporate hometown. For example, in Albany, NY, where the firm had a large operations base, the family purchased the NHL’s Albany Lions to keep the team in the relatively small-market city. The company also announced plans for a new office complex, designed to breathe life into a struggling section of the city.  While some questioned the extravagances, the more common opinion was that Philippe and the Bordas were prime examples of giving back to the community.

The firm did have its critics however, and a few chinks in its public persona began to emerge. The family’s large and extravagant homes, a lavish neo-classical corporate headquarters building, and other examples of extravagance led some to question Philippe’s spending. There were widespread stories of family trips, apartments, and other luxuries that were paid for with Philippe money. Additionally, Hamburg tax officials were puzzled when the taxes for both Philippe and Borda properties were paid with a single Philippe check.


The firm’s organizational structure was hierarchical. Decision-making was centralized, with the Bordas family involved in most major decisions. This pattern was true for all of the firm’s subsidiaries, but may be best demonstrated by the Albany Lions. The Bordas often controlled contract talks, and the comptroller for the Lions worked in Hamburg, approximately three hours away from the team’s home in Albany. While the parent Philippe Communications made the majority of managerial decisions, the subsidiaries were responsible for roughly two-thirds of the firm’s overall debt. This policy allowed Philippe (and the Borda family) to maintain control over the firm and yet be largely protected in the event of a bankruptcy of any individual subsidiary.     

Philippe, which had been founded with borrowed money, maintained its aggressive financing as the company grew. Much of this debt was on the books of the various subsidiaries. But by the end of 2001, the parent Philippe Communications did have 14 public debt issues outstanding with a total face value of $3.4 billion.  When subsidiary debt was included, total long term debt outstanding was approximately $12.6 billion. Beneath the parent firm, both the local cable subsidiaries and the non-cable divisions relied heavily on bank debt and other forms of privately placed debt to finance their operations. To arrange these loans, the subsidiaries would often use Philippe Communication common stock as collateral. Total subsidiary debt totaled about $9.2 billion, of which nearly $6 billion was owed to banks or other institutions with the rest coming largely in takeovers of firms that themselves already had public debt outstanding. (See Table 2 below) In addition to these long term-liabilities, the firm had short-term liabilities of $1.6 billion and deferred tax-liabilities of $2.1 billion, bringing total reported liabilities to about $16.2 billion. This leverage was significantly higher than that of other firms in the industry and as a result the firm spent twice the percentage of its revenue on debt service as its competitors.  

TABLE 2: Financial Leverage at 2000 Fiscal Year End

Philippe Communications (all numbers in 000s)

Short Term Debt


Deferred taxes


Public Debt Outstanding


Subsidiary Debt

Notes to Banks and Institutions

Subsidiary Public Debt

Other Debt

Total Subsidiary Debt








The remainder of Philippe’s financing was equity. In addition to the small amount of preferred stock, Philippe had two classes of common stock. Class A shares were publicly traded on the Nasdaq. These shares had one vote each. Class B shares carried 10 votes each and were held entirely by the Bordas, which allowed the family to control 60 percent of the votes.

The high degree of financial leverage, on top of a high degree of operating leverage, worried some, including Sean Borda himself, who, long before the firm reached its peak, is reported to have said, “I’m either going to become a millionaire or I’m going bankrupt”. The leverage, coupled with operational success, propelled the stock to a ten-fold increase during the second half of the 1990s.  However, after years of nearly uncontrolled growth, the cable industry was then hit hard simultaneously by the technology slowdown, a slowing economy, increased competition, and over-capacity problems.  From a high closing price of over $84 in May of 1999, Philippe’s stock fell faster than the industry as a whole. (See Figure 1 above.) To show support for the firm and to signal their faith in the stock, the Bordas regularly purchased more company stock as its price fell. 

The financial statements of the company reported that the Bordas were paid in line with other executives in the industry.  For instance, Table 3 (below) shows that Sean was paid significantly less than his counterparts at other firms. The other Borda family members were paid less than Sean. Their reported incomes are shown in Table 4 (below).  Unbeknownst to outside investors, the family was being paid many times their official compensation. For instance, in early 2001 Carl Borda's “notified James Barnes, Philippe’s finance executive in charge of the company’s cash, that he [Carl] must approve any further requests by his father beyond a $1 million-dollar-a-month limit. Over the next year, $12 million, paid in increments of about $1 million a month, was wired from Philippe to Sean Borda’ personal account at a local bank. This was totally unreported to investors.

TABLE 3: Executive Compensation in the Cable Industry



Total Compensation 2000




1999 Total Compensation

Philippe Communications

Sean Borda






Cablevision Systems Corp.

John King






Comcast Corp.

Frank McAdoo






EchoStar Communications Corp.

William Cortez






RCN Corp.

Roger Brown







Total compensation adds the columns of salary, bonus, and "other"; "other" includes the following columns in the annual proxy-other annual compensation, long-term incentive plan payouts, realized gains from the sale of stock options, and "all other" compensation.  


TABLE 4: Philippe Executive Compensation




Restricted Stock Awards

Securities Underlying Options

All Other Pay

Juan Borda










Karl Borda



244,880      223,856






Mark Borda












The second half of 2001 and early 2002 had been a bad period for Philippe investors. Philippe’s stock had fallen from $47 in August 2001 to about $22 on March 27, 2002 when Philippe was set to release their 2001 financial statements. At the firm’s earnings conference call for analysts and investors, Carl Borda appeared upbeat and positive as he went over the financials and stressed the growth in the Internet cable business. It was said that the recent bankruptcy of Philippe Business Solutions was not expected to have a significant impact on the parent firm and that the future was bright.

As the briefing was seemingly winding down, Abraham Stein, a bond analyst with a major brokerage, raised questions as to how the Bordas could afford to purchase so much stock. Specifically he wanted clarification about a footnote to the financial statements that stated that the firm was potentially liable for certain borrowings of the Bordas family.  In years past, such a question might have been brushed aside, but because the recent collapse of Enron had been sparked by similar off-balance sheet liabilities, the importance of this question almost immediately became apparent to all.  What had been a fairly light-hearted meeting turned deadly serious as Carl Borda could come up with no good answer. As the meeting broke up, the stock quickly fell more than $6 per share to below $16.00 before rebounding slightly to close the day at $16.70 on over 21 times its average volume.

In the past, Philippe was famous for its ability to evade analyst questions. While the family hoped that outside board members would close ranks and the mess would blow over, this time it was not meant to be. There was now blood in the water and it became apparent that things were not as the financial statements had suggested. Analysts, reporters, investors, and regulatory officials turned their attention to the firm, looking for the next Enron. Although little happened publicly for a few days due to the Easter holiday, on April 1 (the Monday after Easter), the company announced that it would not complete the filing of its financial statements as had been planned and that it would have to restate its previously released numbers


Stock Performance

Philippe, Cable Industry

S&P 500

Philippe is at the top; the cable industry is in the middle; and the S&P is at the bottom.



Investigations soon revealed that Philippe’s accounting system was a nightmare. In addition to overstating the number of subscribers and earnings, the accounting system exhibited an almost complete lack of internal controls: “Revenues from Philippe subsidiaries and the scores of businesses owned by the Bordas family were dumped into one central account.  Bills were then paid out of the same account”. This co-mingling allowed the smaller Bordas-owned firms to show large profits while the expenses were shared with the many Philippe shareholders.  Moreover, the “Bordas doctored financial records and created sham transactions” including overstating the number of cable subscribers.

The investigations also showed that the firm was responsible for $2 to $3 billion of additional borrowing by the Bordas over and above what had been previously known. This money had been used to buy Philippe stock (which was now worth little), to purchase apartments in New York City that were used rent-free by the Bordas family, to purchase vacation homes, to pay for an extended African safari for members of the Bordas family, to pay a $700,000 country club membership, to buy three corporate jets, and even to finance the family’s large stake in the Albany Lions. The line of separation between corporate funds and family funds was simply non-existent.

Moreover, the troubles went beyond the firm lending money to the family. There was also a widespread pattern of self-dealing involving Philippe and Bordas-controlled firms.  Some of the more egregious, even if not necessarily most expensive, of the problems dealt with these relationships. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported that Philippe bought its high-priced office furniture through Eleanor Interiors, a small local supplier owned by the Bordas and run by Sean Borda’s wife. The self-dealing did not stop with office furniture; Philippe also leased cars and even contracted for landscaping and snow plowing through Borda's-controlled firms.

These findings, coupled with an almost complete lack of faith in the accounting numbers, led to only one conclusion: the firm was in deep financial trouble. Its stock fell into the single digits. Minority investors and outside board members insisted that the Bordas give up control, threatening to take everything to the press if the Bordas refused. The Bordas balked at giving up control and, because the family controlled the majority of the voting rights, minority shareholders could not force the issue.

On May 15, after long negotiations, Sean Borda stepped down as CEO in return for a severance package of $1.4 million a year for the next three years. He was replaced by David Jones, who was named interim CEO.  Sean Borda’s resignation was the signal for his sons to leave as well.  By May 23, the three brothers, as well as Charles DuBarry, the long-time VP of finance, all had resigned their positions at Philippe and given up their seats on the firm’s Board of Directors. The only family member who remained on the board was Sean’s son-in-law, Juan Martin, who refused to step down even after the rest of the board passed a resolution calling for his resignation. On May 24, in an effort to show that the problem was solved with the departure of the Bordas, the firm released further details concerning the extent to which the family had used corporate money as its own.

However, these actions did not end Philippe’s difficulties. The Nasdaq requires that all listed firms file audited financial statements within four months of their corporate year-end. Philippe still had not done this for 2001, and the company had now run out of appeals. On May 25, the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel decided that, due to the lack of audited financial statements, as well as all of the other problems at the firm, Philippe would no longer be allowed to trade on the Nasdaq. This further reduced liquidity, which led investors to demand a higher liquidity premium and a lower stock price. More importantly, the delisting started the 30-day clock on the mandatory payment of $1.4 billion to investors who had exercised put provisions on bonds and preferred stock of the firm.

Complicating matters was the fact that the firm was running out of money. If the firm used its remaining money to make interest payments, it would then need more money for operations. Alternatively, if Philippe’s remaining money was used for operations, the firm would have to either default on its loans or raise new money.  (And, raising new funds would likely be very difficult because the firm was by this time largely shut off from external financing as a result of its financial and accounting problems.) As a result of these “complications”, the firm placed many of its assets for sale, although few buyers were ready to pay the prices that the firm had hoped.

By this time, the possibility of bankruptcy was looking more and more likely.  If the firm did enter bankruptcy, existing creditors would have to wait for their money and in the end might not get full value back. The firm’s best chance of avoiding bankruptcy was to convince its current lenders and investment bankers to lend the company the estimated $1.5 billion that was needed immediately. This might allow the lenders a better possibility of recouping their money.  Moreover, avoiding a bankruptcy filing might save the investment bankers who had sold shares and bond issues for Philippe from having their reputations further tainted since they had not caught the problems earlier. However, this hope for additional loans was tempered by the now-widespread distrust of the accounting numbers as well as the high probability of bankruptcy regardless of the cash infusion. 

A bankruptcy would change the rules of the game. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy is designed to allow the firm and its creditors to negotiate a solution to the financial difficulties. If the firm were to announce Chapter 11 bankruptcy, then the lenders would still be able to lend money to the firm while also receiving greater protection and priority in the event of liquidation. This so-called Debtor in Possession (DIP) financing is typically made at a higher rate than loans made prior to the bankruptcy announcement and is secured by the firm’s assets. While only about a third of firms that file Chapter 11 receive DIP financing, Philippe was a likely candidate since the business model was sound and the firm had significant assets.

The new board began to assign blame. On June 9, its auditor, Kennedy and Jimenez, was fired for not finding the accounting problems and bringing them to the attention of investors.  This major accounting firm did not go quietly. The two parties engaged in public name-calling, motivated at least in part by the accounting firm's desire to shift blame back to Philippe and the Bordas in hopes of avoiding the troubles that had put Enron’s auditor out of business. On July 10, another prominent firm, Burns and Williams was selected as the new auditor. The new auditor’s first course of action was to attempt to get to the bottom of the mess – a step that would involve restating previous years’ financial statements.

On July 6, Philippe filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Almost immediately it was announced that the firm had successfully negotiated $1.5 billion in DIP financing.  However, because the firm was now in bankruptcy, the money could not immediately be used. The bankruptcy court had to approve any major expenditure. This delayed the access to the cash, but in the end, the judge did approve a $500 million disbursement.

To improve the corporate governance at the firm, yet another new Board of Directors was selected. Initially after the Bordas resigned, Thomas Bagwell and Charles Alexander had been named to the board. They each were from Mercury Communications (a firm that Philippe had acquired). After a dispute over asset sales designed to generate cash to help pay off debt, the two appointees resigned their positions. To fill these positions the firm went outside and, with an emphasis on ethics, selected cable industry veteran and investor Sam Jacobs and the dean of a prominent law school.

The bankruptcy and cash infusion ensured that the firm would be able to continue operations. Meanwhile, the spring and summer of 2002 were marked with several more high-profile corporate fraud cases. Partially as a result of these cases, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen to a four-year low. Investors demanded action and politicians were happy to oblige. Congressional investigations were held, President Bush promised that the SEC would crack down on white-collar crime, and a new Department of Justice corporate fraud task force was created. Philippe provided the perfect first case for the task force.

Early on Thursday July 24, police arrested Sean Borda at his Manhattan apartment. Within minutes, the scene was repeated in other parts of the city as both Carl and Tony Borda were also arrested.  In each case the accused was handcuffed and led, in front of cameras, to waiting police cars.  Later that morning, similar events played out in , where the former VP of Finance, and the former director of internal reporting and treasury functions, were also arrested.

TABLE 5: Philippe Timeline


Event Description

March 27, 2002

·         Philippe Communications discloses that the Borda family borrowed $2.3 billion that was not reported on the company’s balance sheets.

·         Philippe Business Solutions Inc. files for bankruptcy protection.

·         Philippe’s stock drops 18 percent.

April 1, 2002

·         Philippe delays filing its annual reports to address questions about off-the-book debts.

April 2, 2002

·         Shareholder lawsuits accuse Philippe of misleading stockholders.

April 3, 2002

·         Philippe confirms that the SEC is conducting a formal inquiry into agreements between the company and partnerships owned by the Borda family.

April 4, 2002

·         Philippe says it has hired three investment banks to explore possible cable asset sales and other ways to reduce debt.

April 17, 2002

·         Philippe reveals that the SEC has opened a formal investigation into its accounting practices.

May 2, 2002

·         Philippe says it expects to restate 1999, 2000, and 2001 financial results.

May 8, 2002

·         Philippe announces it is soliciting bids for cable systems in the Los Angeles area, Florida, Virginia, and elsewhere in the Southeast to reduce debt.

May 15, 2002

·         Sean Borda announces that he is stepping down as chairman, president and chief executive officer.

·         David Jones, chairman of Philippe board’s audit committee, is named chairman and interim chief executive officer.

·         Nasdaq stops trading in Philippe’s stock, saying that it needs “additional information.”

May 16, 2002

·         Philippe announces the resignation of CFO Carl Borda.

May 17, 2002

·         Philippe discloses that federal grand juries from New York and central Pennsylvania are probing into the company’s finances.

·         Jones says the company has missed $44.7 million in bond interest payments. 

May 23, 2002

·         The Borda family relinquishes control as Sean Borda and his sons, Carl, Tony, and Mark, resign as directors.

·         The family agrees to turn over assets to help cover loans. Philippe estimates it is liable for $3.1 billion in family debts.

May 24, 2002

·         Philippe releases details showing that the Bordas family used the company’s assets for personal use.

·         Many of the deals weren’t approved by the board.

May 29, 2002

·         Shareholder Leon Baker and his colleague James Kramer join the board.

May 30, 2002

·         Nasdaq announces it will delist Philippe’s stock June 4.

June 3, 2002

·         Philippe’s stock is dropped from Nasdaq.

June 9, 2002

·         Philippe dismisses Kennedy and Jimenez as its accountant and is seeking a replacement.

June 10, 2002

·         Philippe says it will revise its subscriber count down by more than 47,000 to 5.67 million.

·         Bagwell and Alexander resign from the board.

June 11, 2002

·         Juan Martin resigns from the board of directors.

June 14, 2002

·         Philippe says it has hired Burns and Williams and terminated employees “whose primary function was to provide service to members of the Borda family.”

June 17, 2002

·         Philippe misses $96 million in bond interest and preferred stock dividend payments.

June 21, 2002

·         Philippe reaches agreement with two banks for $1.5 billion in financing to continue operating while it reorganizes under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

June 25, 2002

·         Philippe files for bankruptcy.

July 24, 2002

·         Karl, Tony, and Mark Borda arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud.

TABLE 6: Selected Financial Data 1998-2000

Statement of Operations  

Nine Months Ended December 31,


Year Ended December 31,


Year Ended December





$2, 909,351

Operating Expenses:





Selling, General, Administrative












Operating Income:




Other Income (Expense):





Net Loss:




Comprehensive Loss:






Philippe provides an unfortunate example of what can happen when high leverage is mixed with an inadequate system of corporate governance. That Philippe’s problems were allowed to continue to grow until they eventually forced the firm into bankruptcy is the result of outright fraud, managerial self-dealing, and the lack of transparent financial statements. The fact that the firm’s minority shareholders and stakeholders lost substantial amounts is the unfortunate result of a larger pattern of managerial self serving that was enabled by poor corporate controls.



1.  Who is to blame for Philippe’s financial problems outlined in the case?

2.  Explain the Bordas’ ethical responsibility to act in shareholders’ best interests.

3.  Managerial ownership is seen as a way of aligning shareholder and management interests. Yet in this case many view management ownership as being part of the problem. Why might high levels of managed ownership be “too much of a good thing”?

4.  While the Bordas were seen as being generous to their community, they were doing it with the firm’s money. Why is it easy to be generous with someone else’s money? Should firms be generous with their money? Do firms that engage in corporate social responsibility meet the objective of maximizing shareholder wealth?

5.  One group that deserves some of the blame is the bankers who lent the money to the Bordas (this borrowing was then essentially co-signed by Philippe). What incentive might the bankers have had to make these loans? 

6.  What special problems are created when a large company is the only significant business in a small town or city?

7.  Calculate the degree of leverage for Philippe using market value weights.  How did this leverage change as the stock price fell and when it was announced that the firm was liable for the debt taken out by the Bordass?   (Hint: use the conservative estimate of $2 billion).

8.  For each of the following positions, discuss what role the group had and discuss what they could have done to prevent Philippe’s problems from developing. 

            a. Outside member of the Board of Directors:

            b. Auditor:

c. A manager or employee at the firm: 

d. Analyst:

9.  Discuss why a firm would lend money to their own executives. Is this any different from guaranteeing (or co-signing) a loan for executives? Take a position and argue for it.

10.  Financial frauds such as those discovered at Enron and Philippe lead to major reform. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 created new regulations that are intended to enhance corporate governance and improve the reliability of financial reporting. Discuss how the Act that would potentially have prevented problems of this nature. See "The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002: An Overview, Analysis, and Caveats".

Editors note:

Since this article was published, the  founder of the company this case is based on and one of his sons was convicted of conspiracy and securities-fraud.

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