Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010

Bernie Ebbers, WorldCom

In 1995, the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame inducted Bernie Ebbers, a graduate of the obscure Mississippi College who had risen to become CEO of WorldCom. And why not? Ebbers had started with a small telecommunications company that acquired smaller competitors and eventually created one of the largest companies in the world. In 2000, WorldCom was soaring, and his personal worth was more than $1 billion. But in 2002, investigators revealed that WorldCom had executed what was then the largest accounting fraud in history, with more than $11 billion in accounting misstatements. It was also alleged that Ebbers had taken $366 million in personal loans from the company. By the time the carnage settled, WorldCom's stock had plummeted from more than $64 per share to just over $1, costing stockholders more than $100 billion in losses. Ebbers was found guilty of nine felonies and sentenced to 25 years in prison. In September 2006, Ebbers drove himself to prison in his Mercedes, which he is not scheduled to see again until 2028.