Bernard John "Bernie" Ebbers (born August 27, 1941 in Edmonton, Alberta) is a Canadian-born businessman. He co-founded the telecommunications company WorldCom and is a former chief executive officer of that company. CNBC named Ebbers as one of the "Worst American CEOs of All Time".
On August 27, 2003, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed a 15-count indictment against Ebbers. The indictment charged that he violated the state's securities laws by defrauding investors on multiple occasions between January 2001 and March 2002. These charges were dropped, with the right to refile retained, on November 20, 2003. An agreement to extend the statute of limitations on these charges, allowing Oklahoma prosecutors time to see the results of federal sentencing, was signed on March 30, 2005.
Federal authorities indicted Ebbers with security fraud and conspiracy charges on March 2, 2004. An amendment to the indictment on May 25, 2004 increased the list of charges to nine felonies: one count each of conspiracy and securities fraud, and seven counts of filing false statements with securities regulators. Ebbers was found guilty of all charges on March 15, 2005. On July 13, 2005, federal judge Barbara Jones, of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York in Manhattan, sentenced Ebbers to twenty-five years in a federal prison in Louisiana, the toughest sentence yet among other recent corporate accounting scandals. Ebbers was allowed to remain free for another year while his appeal was being considered, however, his conviction was upheld in a federal circuit court on July 28, 2006. On 6 September 2006, the presiding judge ordered him to report to jail on 26 September to start serving his 25-year sentence. Ebbers self-reported to Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana on September 26, 2006, driving himself to the prison in his Mercedes. He is serving his sentence as inmate #56022-054 in the low-security portion of the complex, which typically houses non-violent offenders and is built more like a school dormitory. The earliest date he can be released is in July 2028, at which time he will be over 85 years old.
On 11 October 2002, WorldCom investors brought a class action civil lawsuit against Ebbers and other defendants, alleging injuries as a result of Ebbers' securities fraud violations. Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the parties in the lawsuit to participate in settlement negotiations. On 12 September 2005, Judge Cote approved the settlement reached by the parties, and dismissed the lawsuit against Ebbers. The parties agreed that Ebbers and his codefendants would distribute over $6.13 billion, plus interest, to over 830,000 individuals and institutions that had held stocks and bonds in WorldCom at the time of its collapse. Under the terms of the settlement, Ebbers agreed to relinquish a significant portion of his assets, including a lavish home in Mississippi, and his interests in a lumber company, a marina, a golf course, a hotel, and thousands of acres of forested real estate. It is believed that Ebbers was left with around $50,000 in assets after settlement.
At his peak in early 1999, Ebbers was worth an estimated $1.4 billion and listed at number 174 on the Forbes 400. His personal holdings included:
- Douglas Lake - Canada's biggest ranch, 500,000 acres (2,000 km²) in British Columbia. General partner/president. Acquired in 1998 for about $65 million.
- Angelina Plantation - 21,000 acres (85 km²) farm in Monterey, Louisiana. Co-owner with brother, John Ebbers. Acquired in 1998.
- Joshua Holdings - which combined with Joshua Timberlands and Joshua Timber totals 540,000 acres (2,200 km²) of timberlands in Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama. Majority owner. Acquired properties in 1999 for about $600 million
- Pine Ridge Farm - Livestock and crop farm in Mississippi. Owner. Limited-liability company formed in 1997
- Columbus Lumber - High-tech lumber mill in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Majority owner since at least 1996
- Yachts - BCT Holdings, owner of Intermarine, a yacht building and repair company in Georgia. Primary owner. Intermarine acquired in 1998 for about $14 million
- Hotels - Nine hotels in Mississippi and Tennessee: Co-owner or owner.
- Trucking - KLLM, a trucking firm in Mississippi. Director. Acquired with partner in 2000 for about $30 million. Its present President is K. William Grothe, who served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for WorldCom, where he headed the company’s merger and acquisition activities
- Sports - Mississippi Indoor Sports/Jackson Bandits, a minor league hockey team. 50% owner. Acquired in 1999.