Regulation

WorldCom Witnesses Back Ebbers

A former chairman says that ex-CFO Scott Sullivan told him that Bernard Ebbers didn't know about accounting irregularities. And the internal audito...
Lisa YoonFebruary 28, 2005

Testifying for the defense in the trial of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers, a one-time WorldCom chairman said late last week that former CFO Scott Sullivan told him that Ebbers was in the dark about the accounting fraud that brought down the once high-flying telecom giant.

The former WorldCom board chairman, Bert Roberts, testified that former Sullivan told him in 2002 that Ebbers was unaware of the accounting irregularities, according to published reports.

Scoring another point for the defense, Cynthia Cooper, the internal auditor who first uncovered the improprieties, testified that Ebbers had her disclose information to the audit committee that Sullivan wanted to withhold, the Wall Street Journal.

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Ebbers has been denying charges of conspiracy, fraud, and lying to regulators in the high-profile trial in Manhattan. Sullivan has consistently maintained that he kept Ebbers informed of the accounting fraud all along.

But when he took the stand last Thursday, Roberts said he specifically asked Sullivan if Ebbers knew about the cooked books. “Scott’s answer to me was that Bernie did not know of the journal entries,” according to the newspaper’s report of Roberts’ testimony.

For her part, Cooper painted Sullivan as the conspirator while Ebbers supported her proper disclosure of irregularities, according to the Journal. She testified that at one time that Sullivan launched “into a tirade” when she raised a question with WorldCom’s outside auditors without asking Sullivan first.

Cooper said that the fraud was “a spider web of transactions, and it was not easy to trace,”