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Ebbers: 'A Lot of People Got Hurt'

September 09, 2003|From Bloomberg News

WorldCom Inc. former Chief Executive Bernard J. Ebbers, indicted on charges of defrauding investors, told CNBC that he didn't "know the facts" about alleged accounting fraud at the long-distance company.

Ebbers' remarks to CNBC reporter David Faber are his first public comments on the collapse of WorldCom since the company filed for bankruptcy protection about a year ago after it admitted it had misstated its finances.

Ebbers' lawyer Reid Weingarten had said previously that Ebbers did nothing wrong in the accounting irregularities, which are estimated at $11 billion.

The interview in Mississippi, part of a program called "The Big Lie: Inside the Rise and Fraud of WorldCom," will be broadcast today on CNBC, according to a transcript of it obtained by Bloomberg News.

The collapse of WorldCom, which filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2002, was "terribly sad," Ebbers told Faber. "A lot of people got hurt in the thing. It didn't have to happen."

Ebbers' interview remarks centered mostly on the business aspects of the company he founded, according to the transcript. WorldCom collapsed because of a drop in demand for new services by existing corporate customers, Ebbers said.

The former chief executive was interested in "small-level decisions" at the company, including travel expenses and meals, Robert Hudspeth, WorldCom's former vice president for customer service, told CNBC in an interview for the program.

Ebbers told Faber that allegations about his attention to expenses are "a lie."

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