Bernard Ebbers: Billionaire to Prison Inmate

Bernard Ebbers in prison till the age of 87 at the least.

Bernard “Bernie” Ebbers was the first Bernie, to be imprisoned for investor fraud. Ebbers first formed LDDS, which was a discount telephone company in 1993. Two years later he changed the name of the company, to WorldCom in 1995. By then WorldCom owned 60 telecommunications companies, and in 1997 would merge with MCI for $37 billion.

Ebbers was born Bernard John Ebbers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on August 27, 1941 and is now 73 years old.

He operated a chain of motels in Mississippi and was known to have cleaned rooms himself, to save on housekeeping expenses.

The ultimate corporate shopaholic, Ebbers bought an obscure telephone carrier in the 1980s and went on a 17-year acquisition binge that turned it into the world’s largest telecom company. Alas, his passion for deal­making didn’t translate into the savvy necessary for running the complex business. When telecom stocks went south in 2000, the company’s massive debt was exposed. Ebbers tried to disguise it through fraudulent accounting. In 2005, three years after WorldCom filed for bankruptcy, he was convicted of overseeing $11 billion worth of accounting fraud. He’s now serving a 25-year prison term.

THE STAT: When Ebbers resigned, in 2002, WorldCom stock had fallen to $1.79 from a peak of $64.50 in 1999. (from CNBC.com)

The WorldCom debacle hit me personally, since I had an Army friend lose his job, because of the WorldCom collapse, since he worked for WorldCom. It devastated him and I don’t know if he will ever recover, from the loss of his job.

At one point Ebbers was earning $37 million a year, between his salary and other financial considerations. However, that didn’t stop him from ending free coffee for WorldCom workers, as coffee machines that charged 35 cents a cup took the place of the free coffee.

Home for Bernie Ebbers through 2028

Ebbers resigned from WorldCom on April 30,2002. He was later convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud, and false regulatory findings in 2005. He wouldn’t be sentenced till 2006, after the appeals process had been exhausted. He drove himself, to the Oakdale, Louisiana Federal Prison and reported for his incarceration.

This is what a typical day in prison is like for Ebbers:

A typical day would start at 6 a.m. with work starting 1 and a half hours later.

Work usually ends at 3:35 p.m.

At 4 p.m. comes “count time” when each inmate, unless he is assigned to the food service area, must be by their bunk, Truman said.

Mail call follows count time which is then followed by dinner, served in staggered shifts.

After that, inmates can typically walk in the recreation yard around the track or go to the chapel or the library, Truman said.

Depending on the institution, the day most likely finishes around 9 p.m. when inmates are required to be back in their bunks with lights out.

Ebbers will be required to wear a khaki uniform. An on-facility commissary allows inmates to buy personal items such as soap, toothpaste, or toothbrushes.

From money/cnn.com

Ebbers was convicted by a jury in March 2005 of nine counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and other crimes that led to the phone company’s July 2002 bankruptcy.

Ebbers transformed WorldCom into a telecommunications powerhouse through a string of takeovers. He was known as a grandfatherly CEO who preferred cowboy boots to suits, but he also has been described as an exacting, cost-obsessed boss.

WorldCom emerged from bankruptcy as MCI Inc., which was later acquired by Verizon Communications Inc (up $0.46 to $37.96, Charts). Ebbers agreed last year to forfeit almost all of his personal wealth in a settlement with WorldCom investors.

Mail can be sent to Ebbers at this address, which may not be the correct address after 2028. Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards was housed, in the same facility until his release.

INMATE NAME & REGISTER NUMBER
FCI OAKDALE
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
P.O. BOX 5000
OAKDALE, LA  71463

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

11 thoughts on “Bernard Ebbers: Billionaire to Prison Inmate”

  1. I was one among many who lost money in the failed WorldCom. Mr. Ebbers did give millions to Mississippi College where I worked for many years and it helped with the building program.

  2. It was sad the way that Bernard Ebbers ran his company in the ground, by spending so much money on himself and his shady accounting practices caught up with him in the end. Most of the criminals who blew investor’s money had no contrition. A lot of people that thought they could retire had to keep working to make it.

    1. I had an Army friend that lost his job because of Ebbers when he worked for WorldCom after leaving the Army. Ebbers is 75 and will be 86 when he is eligible for parole in 2028. He is living in a prison that is low security that is more like a school dormitory than a prison. He got off easy in my book, but the people he left behind with their lives in shambles didn’t get off easy. There is no sentence harsh enough for someone like Ebbers. He needs to be serving time in a real prison not a country club prison.

  3. We were in the same MC graduating class, 1967 but our paths never crossed. There is something monstrous about the 25 year sentence meted out by Ms. Jones – a life sentence if you will. I have friends and family who were devastated by the Bush administration’s collapse of the economy. I think that disaster overshadowed the collapse of WorldCom. Would that Dubya and his admin could share Bernie’s country club prison or even a real one.

  4. I started working at then MCI Inc. in 1988 and was laid off by WorldCom in 2002. I lost some $$$ since I put some of paycheck into the ESOP (Employee Stock Option Plan). It’s been a very long road and struggle for me since then. After my first initial lay off from WorldCom I was laid off 2 more time between 2003 and 2006. To get back into the job market I’ve had to take a pay cut in order to get a job, so I haven’t a pay raise since 2001, which was my last full year at WorldCom. A lot of people suffered financially because of Bernie Ebbers. He should serving his time in a full scale prison until the day he dies.

    1. Abby, Thank you for sharing about your experiences with WorldCom and Bernie Ebbers. I had an Army friend that was working for WorldCom and it shattered his life, and not sure if he has ever recovered from it. I agree that Bernie Ebbers should not be in a country club prison, and needs to be breaking up rocks like a real prisoner, and learn what it is to live in fear each minute of his imprisonment. Ebbers completely ruined the lives of thousands and thousands of WorldCom employees. No reason for him to get an easy ride in a country club prison.

  5. I worked for MCI/Worldcom from January 1995 – December 2000 out of a Colorado Springs, CO call center. I knew the end was near. The signs were evident internally. Moral was low and the stock was already tumbling from a high in the low $90 range. I ultimately lost the Worldcom stock investment within my 401(k) but it was far less than many long-term employees who had higher balances that were largely vested in Worldcom stock. As I saw the writing on the wall I warned many co-workers to sell their company stock but few likely took my advice before I left. It was a great company until Bernie came along. His actions hurt thousands of employees, many of whom were providing for their families.

    1. Thank you for sharing what happened during your time with MCI/Worldcom. One of my Army friends while in Hawaii later worked for Worldcom and it shattered his life. Wish more co-workers had taken your advice and sold their stock, before it hit rock bottom. It is a shame that the only regret Bernie Ebbers has is that he got caught. People like Ebbers usually wind up in prison, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those he left behind in financial ruin. No punishment is too harsh for a scumbag like Ebbers.

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