American Greed: Season 2

Inside the WorldCom Scam Evidence Files



Bernard Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, started his career as a milkman, bar bouncer, basketball coach and motel owner. Becoming a partner in a long distance telephone company changes his life and others. (Source: Kurtis Productions)

The Deal

Mississippi entrepreneur Murray Waldron partnered with Bernard Ebbers and helped form Long Distance Discount Services (LDDS), which went on to become WorldCom. Waldron remembers Ebbers saying, "he didn't know anything about long distance or telephone business, but he knew how to read numbers and he was a number cruncher." (Source: Kurtis Productions)

WorldCom Explodes

Ten years after its start as LDDS, WorldCom grows into a company with $948 million in annual revenue. WorldCom is one of the fastest-rising companies in history. In 1996, they build a new corporate campus in Clinton, Mississippi. (Source: WLBT)


Ebbers is CEO and he receives $27 million worth of WorldCom stock options in 1999. Living on top of the world, Ebbers buys a ranch, golf course, crawfish farm, soybean and rice farm, hockey team, yachts, and builds a five-million dollar lodge in Clinton, Mississippi. In order to purchase all of these luxuries, Ebbers secures $408 million in personal loans from J.P. Morgan and Citibank.

WorldCom Victims

John Mosley, who owns an auto body shop in Clinton, Miss., lost $30,000 after investing in WorldCom stock. Sam Owens, a Mississippi insurance salesman, invested in WorldCom hoping its stock would rise. Owens ended up losing $100,000. (Source: Kurtis Productions)

The Auditor

In 2002, WorldCom's internal auditor Glyn Smith notices a discrepancy in WorldCom's accounting. WorldCom leases phone lines, which have been recorded as a capital expense instead of an operating expense. By doing this, WorldCom's profits appear to be greater than they actually are. (Source: Kurtis Productions)

The Cover up

Scott Sullivan is WorldCom's Chief Financial Officer. Glyn Smith, an internal auditor, confronts Sullivan on the accounting error. Sullivan defends the method as a way to save WorldCom. WorldCom fires Sullivan shortly after the board goes public with their investigation. Later, he pleads guilty to falsely inflating earnings and cooperates with prosecutors.

Ebbers Goes to Trial

The Justice Department launches an investigation into WorldCom's fraudulent balance sheet. Bernard Ebbers is charged with falsely inflating WorldCom's earnings by approximately $11 billion. Attorney Reid Weingarten led Bernard Ebbers' defense team during his 2005 trial for conspiracy and securities fraud. (Source: Kurtis Productions)

The Dream Comes to an End

Bernard Ebbers is known for being part of the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. He was found guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud and is now serving a 25-year sentence at Oakdale Federal Prison in Louisiana.

Investor's Settlement

Sean Coffey filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of defrauded WorldCom investors who collectively lost $30 billion. Coffey later settled for a record $6 billion. (Source: Kurtis Productions)