By now you've heard the news. Former WorldCom -- now MCI
Ebbers, who built his firm atop a pretty impressive cult of personality, had little to say today. After the verdict was read, according to reports, he simply hailed a cab and sped off. As one of my colleagues asked, "What's the deal with being convicted in an $11 billion ripoff and just being able to head out the door and hail a cab?"
Alas, that is America, where our greatest thieves are often treated with kid gloves. But maybe the times are a-changing.
As you can imagine, many in Fooldom are hoping Ebbers won't be sent to one of those country clubs for sophisticated larcenists. Most are suggesting a prison of the kind described in the barbecue scene from Office Space. You know the one.
If you're behind in the story, prosecutors made the case that Ebbers had knowingly spearheaded the crooked accounting that supported WorldCom's stock price by failing to account for expenses. Ebbers' lawyers were relying on an "aw, shucks" defense, attempting to convince the jury that this milkman, hoops coach, and ex-bumpkin just didn't understand all that fancy Wall Street figurin'. This was, of course, the same guy who kept an eye on tiny line items like coffee and who enriched himself via complex low-cost loans paid for by WorldCom investors.
Luckily, the jury didn't buy it. One news report said this was a great victory "for the government."
This was a victory for shareholders everywhere. It showed that prosecutors and juries aren't going to let slippery CEOs shrug their shoulders and retire to their humble, 50-room mansions after their companies implode because they ordered their subordinates to "make the numbers."
We'll have to wait until sentencing to see what kind of justice ruined WorldCom investors can enjoy. Ebbers could get up to 85 years. But until then, we can at least bask in the knowledge that one of the bad guys will be reaping what he's sown.
For related Foolishness:
- Don't blame me! I never did much cipherin'.
- Here's how to learn from the looting.
- The good thing about America? There are ways to profit after the carnage.
- Lately, MCI's been the most popular debutante at the cotillion.
- The board took some blame, so why not Bernie?
Seth Jayson suggests that the court begin Ebbers' sentence by locking him into a room full of old ladies -- each with a sack full of doorknobs -- who lost their retirements thank to Ebbers. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.