As former WorldCom finance chief Scott Sullivan took the stand for a fourth day today in Bernie Ebbers’ fraud trial, jurors showed obvious signs of restlessness, if not outright boredom.
They gazed out into the courtroom, rubbed their eyes, stared down at the floor.
When Sullivan first took the stand Monday afternoon, jurors had been very attentive. This is the prosecution’s star witness, the one they say will directly connect Ebbers, WorldCom’s former chief executive officer, to the $11 billion accounting fraud at the former Clinton, Miss.-based telecommunications company.
Prosecutors today picked up with a look at the company’s declining revenues and use of one-time items to keep to hit the number Wall Street analysts had projected.
Without the increase of $131 million of one-time adjustments, WorldCom’s growth in the second quarter of 2001 would have been 8 percent. Instead the adjustments allowed the company to be at 12.2 percent revenue growth, which was in line with previous projections.
Instead of waiting to receive money from customers billed for not meeting their contract obligations, the company began booking the charges as revenue once the bills went out, Sullivan testified. The problem with that strategy, he said, is many of these customers were emerging telecommunications companies that at the time were in financial distress. He said he felt it would be difficult to collect the money.
Sullivan testified he and Ebbers talked about the adjustments.
“I told Bernie, ‘We are now recording the revenue when we bill it, not when it’s collected. This is not right. We’re making adjustments to hit a growth percentage.'”
Sullivan said he saw the core business was sliding, that operational growth was less and less.