A Month After Prison Release, Ex-WorldCom CEO Is Dead

Bernard Ebbers, the 'telephone equivalent to Bill Gates,' had been jailed for securities fraud
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 3, 2020 7:38 AM CST
'Telephone Equivalent to Bill Gates' Dies at 78
In this Jan. 30, 2006, file photo, former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers exits Manhattan federal court in New York.   (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, File)

The former chief of WorldCom, convicted in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in US history, died just over a month after his early release from prison. Bernard Ebbers was 78, the AP reports. The Canadian-born former telecommunications executive died Sunday in Brookhaven, Miss., surrounded by his family, per a family statement. WorldCom collapsed and went into bankruptcy in 2002, following revelations of an $11 billion accounting fraud that included pressure by top execs on subordinates to inflate numbers to make the company seem more profitable. The collapse caused losses to stockholders, including those who'd invested through retirement plans. Ebbers, who was once referred to by an analyst as "the telephone equivalent of Bill Gates," was convicted in New York in 2005 on securities fraud and other charges and received a 25-year sentence.

In July 2019, one of Ebbers' daughters submitted a request that her father receive compassionate release from a federal prison medical facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Per court papers, that request was denied in August. A family statement said Ebbers experienced a "rapid decline" in October, followed by multiple hospitalizations. US District Judge Valerie E. Caproni said late last year it fell within her discretion to order the early release of Ebbers after a lawyer cited severe medical problems. Ebbers was not in court when Caproni announced her ruling on Dec. 18; his lawyers said he was hospitalized. Ebbers was imprisoned from September 2006 until Dec. 21, when he was released by the Bureau of Prisons. By the time of its collapse, WorldCom was the nation's second-largest long-distance business. It reemerged as MCI, which was eventually absorbed by Verizon.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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