Former WorldCom CEO seeks clemency

Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom who is serving a 25-year prison term for masterminding an $11 billion accounting scandal, wants President Bush to lighten his sentence.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

WorldCom's former CEO Bernard Ebbers is seeking clemency from George Bush in the final days of his presidency.

Bernie Ebbers
Bernie Ebbers CBS News

Ebbers, who was convicted of helping mastermind an $11 billion accounting fraud, is asking the president to reduce his 25-year sentence. Ebbers has filed a petition for commutation to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. And the petition is under review, a Justice Department spokeswoman told Reuters.

The U.S. Constitution grants the president the power to pardon convicted felons either erasing their convictions or reducing their prison sentences. And it's common in the last days of an administration for criminals of all stripes to seek clemency from the president.

Reuters said Bush has already granted 14 pardons and commuted two sentences in low-profile cases. But the news service points out that Bush has so far granted far fewer clemency requests than his predecessor, former President Clinton.

An expert cited in the Reuters article said it's a tough time for white collar convicts to ask for clemency given the state of the U.S. economy. I'd have to agree. I think it would be very difficult for the U.S. public to accept leniency for a man that caused thousands of people to lose their retirement funds. Especially, when the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars to bailout banking executives, who many suspect also gamed the system for their own benefit.

Ebbers founded the telecommunications company WorldCom, which grew to become a darling on Wall Street in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Early in 2002, things started to unravel at the company, and a massive accounting scandal was uncovered. Billions of dollars in market value vanished almost overnight. The Mississippi-based company filed for the largest bankruptcy protection in U.S. history in the summer of 2002. The company, which was renamed MCI, was later sold to Verizon Communications.

In 2005, Ebbers was convicted of fraud and conspiracy for his role in the scandal. And he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Ebbers, who is now 67, isn't expected to be released from prison until 2027 when he will be 85.