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WorldCom seeks OK to pay severance

The bankrupt telecommunications giant says it owes severance pay to about 5,100 former employees and requests permission from a New York federal bankruptcy court to pay them up to $23.7 million.

Bankrupt telecommunications giant WorldCom said Monday that it owes severance pay to about 5,100 former employees and sought permission from a New York federal bankruptcy court to pay them up to $23.7 million.

The No. 2 U.S. long-distance telephone company and the world's biggest carrier of Internet traffic buckled under a mountain of debt and a $3.85 billion accounting scandal and filed for the largest Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. history on Sunday.

WorldCom said June 25 it would cut 17,000 jobs, which includes the 5,100 already let go. The court filing said the company has 57,900 full-time employees and about 6,200 part-time employees.

"In order to maintain employee morale, the debtors seek authority to continue to provide these recently terminated employees with severance benefits not yet paid, subject to the $4,650 per severed employee cap," the company said in a court filing.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York is set to hear a series of motions and requests by WorldCom later Monday, including one seeking approval for $2 billion in debtor-in-possession financing so the company can operate while in bankruptcy protection.

Former employees probably will have to wait at least a week before receiving word on when they will get the severance pay, WorldCom Chief Executive John Sidgmore said Monday. "We are looking at that right now and I can't give you a definitive answer," he said in response to a question during a news conference. "We'll probably have a definitive answer in a week or so."

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