The abrupt departure of the embattled chief executive of the controversial Cambridge, Massachusetts consulting firm Monitor Group raises questions about the reason behind the hasty exit.
Mark Fuller was one of the co-founders of Monitor Group. The international consulting firm was formed in the1980’s by a group of Harvard Business School professors. Fuller led the team into uncharted waters and managed to build an impressive business empire.
Fuller’s resignation announcement came three days before Monitor Group admitted violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act over its multi-million dollar contracts with Muammar Khadafy’s murderous regime in Libya. Monitor Group engaged in an extensive lobbying campaign with an elaborate “visitor” program and handled difficult public relations assignments for the Libyan dictator without reporting to the Justice Department as required by law.
Fuller’s sudden departure from the helm of Monitor Group at the time of the company’s greatest crisis has fueled three camps of speculation around corporate water coolers in Boston.
First, the official company line, espoused by both Monitor Group and Fuller himself, is that Fuller has been planning to step down for months and his departure signals a strong company ready to take on new clients. The story goes that Monitor Group’s problems with the Department of Justice are merely coincidental to Fuller’s resignation.
The other two popular explanations for Fuller’s departure from the Monitor Group top spot both accept a linkage between the company’s Libya problems and the resignation. One view is that Fuller is a corporate hero choosing to fall on his own sword to protect colleagues and subordinates. The other view is less flattering and is akin to a rat leaving a sinking ship.
The third theory of resignation is that Fuller, who was point man on the Libyan operation, is merely trying to lower his profile to escape prosecution under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Although prosecutions for unregistered lobbying are rare, Fuller’s actions put him at risk for a five year federal prison sentence.
A close examination of Fuller’s letter of resignation for clues reveals plenty of irony but little about motive. Fuller claimed, “This is a joyous outcome for me.”
“Thirty years ago, seven individuals resolved that it was time to challenge the conventions of the consulting world, through the introduction of novel content and by framing a new concept of professional community. We did not know what we were doing,” wrote Fuller.
The “did not know what we were doing” line is Monitor Group’s current defense for noncompliance with FARA requirements. A company spokesman has claimed the failure to comply with the lobbyist registration law wasn’t an attempt to hide Monitor Group’s work for Muammar Khadafy but was merely a “misunderstanding” of the law.
“I am delighted that Monitor is so well positioned to continue to challenge and change our industry, and world, by innovating distinctive content and by providing unmatched client service.” Part of Fuller’s unmatched client service for Muammar Khadafy included helping the dictator polish his image with media stories and a “visitor” program besides making recommendations on how to run the secret police security apparatus..
Fuller calls his race to the door “a clear indication of my confidence in our future” and ended his letter describing leadership of Monitor Group as “ a central passion of my life.”
Mark Fuller, despite his “joyous” attitude leaves Monitor Group floundering to salvage its reputation, under possible criminal investigation by the Justice Department, and scrambling to head off a public relations disaster.
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