Accounting & Tax

WorldCom’s Yates Gets a Year and a Day

''I chose the easy way out,'' says the former director of general accounting.
Stephen TaubAugust 9, 2005

Buford “Buddy” Yates, WorldCom Inc.’s former director of general accounting, has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for his role in the company’s $11 billion accounting fraud, according to press reports.

Yates pleaded guilty to fraud in October 2002. “I came to believe that the adjustments I was being directed to make in WorldCom’s financial statements had no justification and contravened generally accepted accounting principles,” Yates told the judge at the time, explaining that he had expressed his concerns to his supervisor. “I concluded that the purpose of these adjustments was to incorrectly inflate WorldCom’s reported earnings in order to meet the expectations of securities analysts, and mislead the investing public of the company’s financial condition.”

Today he reportedly told U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones: “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think back to my actions and regret my decisions. I chose the easy way out.”

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Despite his plea, Yates wound up “perhaps the least useful” of the five former WorldCom executives who pleaded guilty to fraud and helped the government in its case against former chief executive officer Bernard Ebbers, according to the AP’s account of the judge’s comments.

Yates, who was also fined $5,000, was ordered to report to federal prison on October 10, reported the wire service. “We think the sentence is just and appropriate,” Yates’ lawyer David Schertler told reporters, according to the AP. The wire service also explained that by receiving a sentence longer than one year, Yates is eligible to receive time off for good behavior, albeit only a few weeks. There is no parole in the federal

Yates is the first of three WorldCom sentencings scheduled for this week. On Wednesday, former controller David Myers faces the judge; on Thursday, former chief financial officer Scott Sullivan — the star witness against Ebbers — learns his fate.