Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Worldcom-Chief Ebbers found guilty over WorldCom fraud

A jury has found Bernie Ebbers, the former head of WorldCom, guilty of the biggest accounting fraud in history over his role in the firm's $11bn collapse. After deliberating for eight days, the New York jury found Ebbers guilty on nine counts, one each of conspiracy and securities fraud and seven of false regulatory filings. He faces a possible 85 years in jail when sentenced on 13 June.

In a trial that pitted Ebbers' word against that of his former chief financial officer, Scott Sullivan, it's virtually impossible to know for certain whether Ebbers was responsible for the $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom, the largest in U.S. history. The jury clearly believed Ebbers was.

The court heard that WorldCom fixed its corporate figures to the tune of $11bn over 2000 to 2002 in order to keep the share price high. When the company collapsed, investors lost $180bn and 20,000 people were laid off."

The conviction of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers, a former milkman, bouncer and motel manager, underlines the accountability of business leaders, according to legal and corporate analysts.

While his wife and stepdaughter cried, Ebbers, 63, sat impassively and listened to the jury's decision: Guilty of one count of conspiracy, one count of securities fraud and seven counts of false regulatory filings.