Time Magazine named three women whistle-blowers as its "Persons of the Year." The winners include Enron's Sherron Watkins and WorldCom's Cynthia Cooper, both of whom uncovered massive accounting fraud at their companies.
Ms. Watkins, a former accountant, wrote a blunt 7-page memo to Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay in 2001 that uncovered questionable accounting and warned that the company could "implode in a wave of accounting scandals." Her letter came to light during Congressional investigations after Enron declared bankruptcy.
Ms. Cooper undertook a one-woman crusade within the giant telecommunications company this year after she discovered WorldCom had disguised $3.8 billion in losses through improper accounting.
The third winner is Coleen Rowley, an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In May, she wrote a scathing 13-page memo to FBI Director Robert Muller detailing how supervisors at an FBI field office brushed aside her requests to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. Her letter resulted in new inquiries over the intelligence-gathering failures related to the attacks.
The three women beat out other heavy-weight contenders, including President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer. "It came down to did we want to recognize a phenomenon that helped correct some of the problems we've had over the last year and celebrate three ordinary people that did extraordinary things," said Time managing editor Jim Kelly.