Modern Continental may have been proven to be a lying and cheating company but it got a big break earlier this month when federal prosecutors allowed officials to plead guilty to 39 charges — but let them off the hook in connection with a tunnel collapse that killed a woman three years ago.
Modern Continental may have been proven to be a lying and cheating company, but it got a big break earlier this month when federal prosecutors allowed officials to plead guilty to 39 charges — but let them off the hook in connection with a tunnel collapse that killed a woman three years ago.
The Big Dig is one of the architectural marvels of our time. But the $15 billion project also brought out the worst in corporate behavior, with Modern Continental at the forefront. Company officials admitted that its employees knew it was doing shoddy work that led to expensive repairs and costly delays. The company pleaded guilty to 39 counts of making false statements and admitted it overbilled taxpayers for 15 years while doing $3 billion in work on the project.
The court case, which Attorney General Martha Coakley said last week “for all intents and purposes” closes the book on Big Dig litigation, may satisfy some people since Modern Continental has been brought to “justice.” But the bankrupt company is unlikely to come up with any restitution.
So the Big Dig, from the first turn of the shovel to the last court deposition, may finally be put to rest.
Modern Continental, once a respectable company started in 1967 by first-generation American Les Marino and his friend Kenneth Anderson, was not alone in ripping off the public and doing shoddy work. It seemed to be the common way of doing business in this seemingly endless project. Engineers are still dealing with water leaks plaguing the tunnels under Boston and drivers will always wonder if they will someday be crushed by a falling ceiling panel, as was Milena Del Valle, 39, who died after 26 tons of concrete fell on her car in 2006.
Corporate greed was at the heart of all of the project’s woes. There also was the complicity of public officials who oversaw poor workmanship and were then rewarded with high-paying positions with the companies they had dealt with. It brought out the worst in human nature and Massachusetts taxpayers are still dealing with the economic fallout from the biggest boondoggle in American history.
It doesn’t make us feel better that Modern Continental has been convicted on felony charges. No company officials are behind bars and the case is effectively completed.
But it is important to remember that deceitful decisions in this case were not made by a faceless corporation, but by accountants, engineers and business executives, none of whom have paid the full price of their duplicity