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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skinbop 12/5/2012 | 3:08:08 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 I think your headline is a bit sad - gloating over a 25 year prison sentence.

I am sure there are a lot worse dangers to society on the streets today...
darkone 12/5/2012 | 3:08:08 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 Finally, a white collar criminal who gets what he deserves.
LightMan 12/5/2012 | 3:08:08 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 I actually know Worldcom administrative assistants and such who earned very little and poured their entire 401k's into Worldcon because of the hype that was talked up by Ebbers & crew.

While I would never want to spend a day in jail, how can one say 25 years is excessive when numerous families who had little and tried to do a good thing by saving their pennies to put their children to college and have something in the future. To think of it another way grand theft carries a sentence of around 8 years. He certainly swindled 1000's of families out of much more than $5k each.

I always knew Ebbers built a house of cards, he reminds me of another "leader" and if his crime is unjust for his age he should have done it earlier in his life.

Guilty since day 1
Ben_Stern 12/5/2012 | 3:08:07 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 I can't wait for former Enron chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay to get 100 years.

"I told you not to be stupid, you moron." - Ben Stern
Lite Rock 12/5/2012 | 3:08:07 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 Skin,

You both are on the money.

Reducing BernieGÇÖs sentence because of his multi millions to charity would have been an injustice, just as you point out with other more heinous crimes receiving lighter sentences.

If equal justice is attainable, we have to start somewhere and it might as well be with Bernie.

skinbop 12/5/2012 | 3:08:07 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 Your comments are fair.
I am only pointing out that there are greater dangers to society receiving lesser sentences if any.
lightreceding 12/5/2012 | 3:08:06 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 And what or who might those dangers be? You mentioned "street" in your first post. I think you are exibiting a common misconception. Most Americans are so irrationally frightened of street crime that they pushed for most of our crime fighting resources to be focused on it.

White collar crime is a much bigger problem. White collar crime has wiped out the savings of tens of thousands of Americans. It is about time that one of these financial mega criminals got what he deserves.
optical 12/5/2012 | 3:08:05 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 Bernie's sentence is just Act I. I want to see what Scott Sullivan gets because he's just as guilty!
MP_UK 12/5/2012 | 3:08:04 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030
I'd just like to add that IMHO, this is a good result. It certainly proves that US justice has got some teeth, and that no matter how much money someone can spend on a lawyer, guilty is guilty.

Maybe Bernie has been made an example of, but I'm still not feeling very sorry for him. Hopefully other would-be fraudulent executives are paying attention!
bored_lurker 12/5/2012 | 3:08:03 AM
re: Ebbers Sentenced: See You in 2030 skinbop said "I am sure there are a lot worse dangers to society on the streets today..."

Really? How many others on the street ruined the lives of 10s of thousand? How many stole billions?

Certainly there are people who commit horrific crimes. Selling drugs (the #1 reason for incarceration in the US) gets people high which can lead to ruining their life. The good folks at WC ruined the lives of thousands. A murder takes the life of one or perhaps a few. This stole the lives of many, perhaps not the breath of life but truly much of the joy of it. I hold certain truths to be inalienable, that among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness (property rights), Burnie and his gang took countless people's pursuit of happiness away.

Imagine a world filled with Bernies. Imagine every company out there was like WC and Enron, having people who didn't care who they hurt by embezzling $M or even $B. Now what does our economy and your life look like?

The parent is correct - FINALLY! If the government does not stop this behavior with strong penalties then we can just say good by to the way of life as we know it.
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