WorldCom execs face possible jail time

Ex-chief executive Bernard Ebbers and sacked former chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, who is also accused of hindering outside auditors investigations, invoked fifth amendment constitutional rights against self-incrimination on Monday to avoid testifying at a congressional hearing into the scandal.

In the wake of accounting frauds at WorldCom, Enron, Global Crossing and Xerox, Michael Oxley, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said that serious charges should ‘mean time in federal prison’.

At a press conference Monday afternoon president George Bush alluded to the issue, as he promised to name and shame later today those chief executives he holds accountable for blackening the name of corporate America.

Instead of taking the stand, Ebbers issued a written statement claiming that ‘no one will conclude that I engaged in any criminal or fraudulent conduct during my tenure at WorldCom’.

WorldCom is accused of hiding over $1.22bn of losses in expenses to keep up with analyst expectations and is being sued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Resisting offers to sell its assets, new WorldCom boss John Sidgmore has promised to put things right.

‘WorldCom is a key component of our nation’s economy and communications infrastructure,’ he said in written testimony, promising to restore the reputation of the company which is said to carry around half the world’s internet traffic.

Related reading