What a long, strange and ultimately sad trip it has been for Bernard J. Ebbers.
From the near mythic story of the founding of LDDS in a Hattiesburg coffee shop to the pinnacle of the telecommunications industry as WorldCom, Bernie Ebbers represented all that was right about the bold and gutsy tech boom of the 1990s, and now, all that appears to have been wrong about it, too – questionable accounting, cozy deals and a loyalty to Wall Street`s expectations rather than those of customers and shareholders.
Now Ebbers finds himself facing federal indictment. At a news conference last Tuesday Attorney General John Ashcroft asserted that Ebbers was instrumental in the planning and execution of what is considered the biggest accounting fraud in American business history.
The former chief of WorldCom must answer charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and participation in filing false records with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Of course, in Mississippi Bernie Ebbers faces a different kind of trial – one that is ongoing and personal. It`s the judgment of the thousands of Mississippians whose belief in Ebbers and in WorldCom helped fuel the dream and downfall of Mississippi`s little company that could.
The future for Bernie Ebbers is uncertain, but innocent or guilty in court, the legacy he will leave is set – it is one of great disappointment and no winners.