Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030

Former WorldCom CEO gets 25 years for his part in an $11B corporate scandal UPDATED 3PM

July 13, 2005

3 Min Read
Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030

NEW YORK -- Former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers today was slapped with a 25-year sentence for his role in an $11 billion corporate scandal, the largest of its kind in U.S. history.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones said during the sentencing that she had taken into account Ebbers's age, health, and charitable works. While Ebbers faced the possibility of an 85-year sentence, Judge Jones said it would have been "excessive" to force the 63-year old man to spend anything more than 30 years behind bars.

However, she added: "A sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of this crime."

Following the pronouncement, Ebbers, accompanied by his wife Kristie, declined to make any statement in court and remained tight-lipped as he made his way through a scrum of photographers and reporters outside. The former WorldCom CEO must report to prison on October 12th.

Reid Weingarten, Ebbers’s lawyer, said that he was “extremely disappointed” and “very upset” with the sentence handed down to his client. “This was not a good morning,” he said. However, he promised to pursue Ebbers’s appeal “as vigorously as possible” (see Ebbers Is Appealing).

Jacob Zamansky, a lawyer representing a number of WorldCom shareholders told Light Reading that the sentence was “tough but fair.” Prior to sentencing, both defense and prosecution attempted to tug at Judge Jones’s heartstrings in a last-ditch attempt to influence the sentence. Henry J. Bruin Jr., a former WorldCom employee and shareholder, told the court how his life had been ruined by the demise of the telecom giant, swallowing up his pension, savings, and stock options.

Bruin, who was been unable to find employment since getting laid off at WorldCom in early 2003, said that his life had been “destroyed by the greed of Bernie Ebbers and his co-conspirators.”"Where do I get my life savings back from, or my career reinvigorated?” Bruin asked the court.

Weingarten, however, highlighted Ebbers’s charitable works and heart condition in an effort to sway the judge. “It’s common knowledge that the Bureau of Prisons is not the place that you want to go if you have a complicated health condition,” he said. The lawyer also described Ebbers as an “angel” who has contributed over $100 million to charity.

Ebbers was found guilty for his part in the WorldCom scandal earlier this year when a jury convicted him of securities fraud, conspiracy, and seven counts of false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (See Ebbers: GUILTY!, Ebbers Trial: Sex, Drugs & Numbers, Ebbers Day II: 'Look After Pennies', and Ebbers: Of Motels & Men).

WorldCom's $11 billion accounting scandal put the carrier into bankruptcy, but the company later cleaned house and re-emerged as MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP).

Earlier this year, a poll of Light Reading and NDCF readers said that Ebbers should do some serious jail time. Around 35 percent of people said he should go down for ten to 20 years and nearly 33 percent said that Ebbers should spend the rest of his life behind bars (see Readers Want Jail for Ebbers).

But this criminal case is not the only legal action Ebbers faced in recent months. He has already agreed to hand over most of his personal assets to WorldCom shareholders and bondholders who lost out in the aftermath of the fraud. The settlement was reached last month with New York State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, who led a class action lawsuit against the former WorldCom chief (see Ebbers Gives It Up and Ebbers Sells His Ass(ets), Settles Case).

Earlier this week, a judge approved the settlement, which could be worth as much as $45 million.

Scott Sullivan, the former WorldCom CFO whose testimony helped convict Ebbers, faces sentencing later this summer for his role in the fraud (see Ebbers: Bumpkin or Bully?).

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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