Her stint at Lucent is what rocketed her to fame, at least in the business world. The company, which made telecom equipment like fiber optic cable, grew revenues 58% and added 22,000 jobs while Fiorina was there, a success she parlayed into her HP job and then her self-financed run for Senate.
One of her biggest deals at Lucent was one in which a small start-up, PathNet, bought a huge amount of fiber optics -- a deal worth between $440 million and $2.1 billion.
But, as Fortune reports, the deal wasn't a model of stability. PathNet only had some $1.6 million in annual revenue at the time. How did they pay for the equipment? Lucent, Fiorina's company, loaned them the money.
As Fortune points out, it was a common deal in the heady, easy-credit days of the late-90s telecom industry, before the bubble burst -- as it did soon after Fiorina left Lucent.
But Fiorina has since touted her resistance to using irresponsible methods to fuel short-term growth at any cost. A spokeswoman told Fortune their story, which compares Fiorina's deals to subprime mortgages, "almost libelous."