A US Court of Appeals has upheld the fraud conviction and 25-year sentence of former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers.
Ebbers claimed he did not receive a fair trial because the government did not offer immunity to former WorldCom employees who could have backed-up Ebbers' claims that he was not aware of the fraud. In his appeal, Ebbers also claimed that proper General Acceptable Accounting Practices (GAAP) information was not relayed to the jury and that his sentence was excessive.
The appeals court did not agree. In a 47-page decision filed on Friday, the Judge Ralph Winter explained that differences in sentencing were straightforward and had everything to do with "culpability and co-operation." He pointed out that Ebbers was the only one to plead not guilty, where the rest pleaded guilty. And the judge went on to say that the others were all subordinates of Ebbers. "Ebbers, as CEO, had primary responsibility for the fraud," the judge said in his decision.
Ebbers was convicted of nine counts of conspiracy and fraud in March, 2005 and sentenced in July of last year. He filed an appeal in September and has been free since. While it is believed that it was unlikely that Ebbers would win his appeal, there was a slight chance his sentence could have been reduced. Ebbers received 25-years, whereas former CFO, Scott Sullivan received a five-year sentence and a handful of other executives received fewer years and one received no time and was put on three-years of probation.
The court has yet to set a date as to when Ebbers will report to prison.