Bernard Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, was yesterday accused of telling “lie after lie after lie” about the telecommunication firm’s fragile finances to shore up its share price and protect his personal fortune, US federal prosecutors said yesterday.
The remarks were part of opening statements in Mr Ebbers’ trial in New York. He stands accused of orchestrating an $11bn (£6bn) fraud that led to the company filing for the biggest bankruptcy in history.
“What this case is really about is the choice Bernard Ebbers made in the fall of 2000,” federal prosecutor David Anders told jurors.
Mr Anders said he could admit that the company’s finances had taken a turn for the worse, along with the rest of the industry, or hide the truth. “Faced with that choice, Bernard Ebbers chose to lie. Not once, not twice but again and again and again.”
Mr Ebbers pleaded not guilty to the charges. He claims to have relied on numbers provided by his chief financial officer.
Reid Weingarten, Mr Ebbers’ lawyer, later said the government’s case reminded him of “one of those well-crafted docu-dramas you see on television”. He said Mr Ebbers, who teaches a Sunday school class, “is not capable of committing the crimes charged”.