Sins of the father

As any enterprise customer who's spent time with Sanjay Kumar will confirm, the former CEO of Computer Associates International is a genuinely nice man, a talented business leader and a well-respected figure in the industry. In every regard, Kumar is viewed as a vast improvement over his contentious mentor, infamous CA co-founder Charles Wang.

So it was a sad moment for many last week when Kumar resigned his CEO role in the merciless glare of two federal investigations into CA's accounting practices. So far, 14 CA executives have resigned or been fired in connection with the widening scandal. It's an ugly but familiar tale of corporate greed.

One fact is painfully clear, however. Regardless of what he knew and when he knew it, Sanjay Kumar was the company president while former CFO Ira Zar and other now-indicted executives allegedly engaged in illegal accounting practices, securities fraud and obstruction of justice. Zar claims he met regularly with two as-yet-unnamed top executives who knew he was cooking the books. At the time, he reported to Kumar, who reported to Wang, who is now retired and enjoying life as a wealthy sports mogul. CA's rivals aren't waiting for any bodies to cool.

Smart CIOs will keep a wary eye on the worst-case scenario of CA -- the company itself -- ending up with a criminal conviction. That's what destroyed accounting firm Arthur Andersen.