A U.S. bankruptcy judge is due to rule on Wednesday on WorldCom Inc.’s historic settlement with regulators, capping a long fight over how much the telephone company should pay for its accounting fraud.
The settlement calls for WorldCom to pay $500 million in cash and $250 million in new stock in the reorganized company to a fund for those who lost money in its $11 billion accounting scandal.
WorldCom agreed to increase the payout with stock after a federal judge involved in the case raised questions about the settlement.
The fine, initially set at $1.5 billion, has now been increased to $2.25 billion to reflect the revised settlement. WorldCom, however, will pay only $750 million because it is in bankruptcy.
Already approved by the federal courts, the settlement is now in front of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who is overseeing WorldCom’s bankruptcy case and must approve all payouts by the company.
Judge Gonzalez on Tuesday heard arguments from opponents of the settlement — including a group of bondholders and HSBC bank — that painted the payments as excessively high when compared with fines paid in other fraud cases.
WorldCom and the SEC responded by pointing to a changed landscape since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, saying previous settlements can’t be used a yardstick.