Edmondson to press Oklahoma case against Bernard Ebbers

Wednesday, March 3rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Federal prosecution of Bernard Ebbers will not stop Oklahoma from pressing its securities case against the ex-WorldCom chief executive, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Tuesday.

``We see no development out of New York that will forestall our action in Oklahoma,'' Edmondson said after an indictment was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan accusing Ebbers of conspiracy, securities fraud and falsely filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The indictment is similar to one filed against former WorldCom chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, who also is charged in Oklahoma.

Edmondson said charges would be refiled against Ebbers by the end of the month. They were temporarily dropped late last year after a judge denied Edmondson's request to delay a preliminary hearing for Ebbers.

Ebbers and Sullivan and six other former employees of WorldCom, now known as MCI, are accused of 15 violations of Oklahoma securities laws tied the company's $4 billion accounting scandal. Prosecutors say the scandal led to heavy losses by Oklahomans, including $64 million lost by state pension funds.

MCI also was charged as a company in the Oklahoma case and has been having discussions with state attorneys. In that case, Edmondson said, the state is interested in restitution of Oklahoma losses and the company is interested in avoiding a loss of business.

He declined to be more specific.

``There are some things we want to achieve through the prosecution; there are some things they want to avoid. If we can meet those accommodations, then we may have an agreement,'' Edmondson told The Oklahoman.

Edmondson also said WorldCom officials are helping state prosecutors build a criminal case against former top executives.

``They're volunteering to do more than turn over subpoenaed documents,'' Edmondson said. ``They're volunteering to go over them with us and to actually lead us to the ones that will probably be most helpful to us.''

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for the company on March 29 and for Sullivan on May 17. Sullivan pleaded guilty to federal charges on Tuesday and agreed to testify against Ebbers.

Edmondson said Tuesday's federal indictment ``validates our position'' that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Ebbers in the scandal.

He said he believes the Oklahoma charges, the first filed against Ebbers, ``got the attention'' of federal authorities but it is debatable whether it affected their timetable for filing charges.