After an early release from prison last month due to his declining health, former WorldCom CEO and president Bernie Ebbers passed away Sunday.
Ebbers, 78, will forever be known for being found guilty on nine counts, including fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, in 2005 for falsifying WorldCom's financial records. Ebbers participated in one of the largest accounting frauds in U.S. history while leading WorldCom.
During his heyday, people often referred to Ebbers as the "Telecom Cowboy" because, unlike the straight-laced telecom executives who dressed up every day in a suit and tie, he wore cowboy boots and jeans.
In 1998, WorldCom bought MCI, which was the second-largest long distance provider at the time, for $37 billion, and named Ebbers CEO.
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In 2002, Ebbers resigned from WorldCom and was replaced by former Compaq Computer executive Michael Capellas, who renamed it MCI and led the company until it was acquired by Verizon in 2006. At the time of his firing, Ebbers owed WorldCom more than $400 million.
In 2005, a New York federal judge sentenced Ebbers to 25 years in a federal prison. After a failed attempt to get the conviction overturned, he was ordered to report to prison. During his trial, Ebbers claimed that he didn't know the company's finances were being manipulated.
Ebbers was 65 in 2006 when he began serving his 25-year sentence. He tried to appeal his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied. He also filed a request for clemency with the U.S. Department of Justice.
His death on Sunday was confirmed by his daughter, Joy Ebbers Bourne. Ebbers served a total of 13 years of his sentence.
"I know many of the victims of WorldCom opposed Dad's release. Many also wrote in support of release," his daughter said in her statement. "Many stockholders and employees lost their investments in the fall of WorldCom. Many of our friends -- and many in our family -- did too. Thankfully, Judge (Valerie) Caproni agreed with us -- keeping Dad in prison, especially in his unexplained and undiagnosed deteriorated condition, would not bring back anyone's investments. My family and I continue to pray for everyone affected by the fall of WorldCom."