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For week ended November 14, 1999 Posted 14 Nov 1999

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LDS Computer scientist blows the whistle, costs Toshiba $2.1 billion (Whistle-Blower In Toshiba Case Stands to Gain)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Computer scientist blows the whistle, costs Toshiba $2.1 billion (Whistle-Blower In Toshiba Case Stands to Gain)
without permission. For list info see
LDS Computer scientist blows the whistle, costs Toshiba $2.1 billion (Whistle-Blower In Toshiba Case Stands to Gain)

Twelve years ago, Phillip Adams, LDS head of a high-level scientific SWAT team at IBM, began an investigation that discovered a bug in computer chips that randomly deleted or altered data being transferred to floppy-disk drives without the users' knowledge. Today, Mr. Adams is on a crusade to track the same chip problem in other manufacturers' computers.

As a result of his efforts, Toshiba Corp. of Tokyo has agreed to a $2.1 billion settlement of a class action claim. With this discovery, other industry giants are on the defensive and Adams in a position to make a lot of money.

Phillip Adams has been called a whistle-blower, filing lawsuits under state and federal false-claims law. He stands to receive a percentage of the damages, as well as the profit from a pair of patented software programs. One program detects the flaw while the other corrects the problem without slowing down the computer. He will kick off his publicity of his new product next week in Las Vegas with scheduled appearances at Comdex, the annual industry showcase.

After leaving the industry following the investigation, Mr. Adams served a two-year professorship only to return to find the same defect popping up in other makers' personal computers. He guessed that other chip makers must somehow be using the original faulty design.

Adams set out on a personal mission to investigate the glitch, alert government officials, develop his software fix and ultimately hire a law firm. For all of his trouble he received ridicule and threats. He was vindicated earlier this month when Toshiba settled the class-action suit, based largely on his work.

Adams' attorney, Lon Packard, declined to comment on whether his client or the law firm will receive any of the $l47.5 million slated for the attorneys in the Toshiba case. Sighting principle for the reason he stuck with the investigation for so many years, Mr. Adams said, " absolutely crucial data integrity is. It simply cannot be compromised, no matter what."

"After such a long time, it's absolutely thrilling to have all this come out," Mr. Adams said. "My goal, from the start, was to get this information on the table, to eradicate it once and for all." Helping to spawn a number of continuing state and federal investigations, Mr. Adams and his lawyers have filed at least four separate federal and state suits that remain sealed in accordance with false-claims law.

Craig Johnson, a partner at Packard, Packard &Johnson, who represent Mr. Adams said the storage bug became so widespread because makers of later computers didn't start from scratch. "They unwittingly incorporated the old defective design by building on 'cores' of microprocessors widely available from various sources," Johnson said. With consumers not clamoring for a fix, manufactures were slow to act. Compaq Computer Corp. has vowed to defend itself against "completely baseless" allegations.

The burly 46-year-old Adams has always been something of a maverick. A Utah native, he began teaching at the University of Utah in 1975. He earned two doctorate degrees, nine patents and visiting professorships at Tehran, Iran, and Moscow Universities. He resigned as a senior programmer and technical trouble-shooter at IBM's headquarters in Boca Raton, Forida. He worked in Moscow where he took on a project to update Russia's banking system. He then worked at Novell Corp. of Orem, Utah until he resigned in 1998 "for personal reasons."

Mr. Adams is an avid skier and devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His mormon faith have taken he and his wife around the world from Kenya to Bolivia to Vietnam. Here they have helped build hospitals and schools.

Greg Simco, a former graduate student says, "The most impressive thing about him is the ability to look at things from a new perspective." But when he makes up his mind, Mr. Simco says, "you're not going to push him off his stand."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information