WorldCom Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection after overstating results by $11 billion, on Thursday pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that it defrauded investors in Oklahoma of at least $64 million.
WorldCom and ex-Chief Executive Bernard J. Ebbers and five other former officials last month were charged with securities fraud in the state for allegedly falsifying the company's accounts to inflate its stock price. Ebbers pleaded not guilty last week.
The charges against WorldCom, the second-biggest U.S. long-distance telephone company, come as it tries to repair its image and emerge, under the name MCI, from the biggest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. They are the first criminal charges against Ebbers and WorldCom stemming from the alleged accounting fraud.
"This action against MCI as a company only hurts innocent employees who have already suffered greatly," Carol Petren, deputy general counsel for the company, said in a statement. "We understand the desire to see justice done, and the former executives accused of committing fraud are rightly being investigated as individuals."