US: WorldCom Figure Is Sentenced
The former director of accounting at WorldCom, Buford Yates Jr., was sentenced to a year and a day in prison yesterday for his role in the large fraud at the company.
Mr. Yates, 48, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan nearly three years ago to charges of conspiracy and securities fraud stemming from his part in a scheme to defraud investors by falsifying the financial condition of WorldCom.
Mr. Yates, who is to surrender to a federal correctional center on Oct. 10, was also fined $5,000 and given three years' probation by Judge Barbara S. Jones. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on the two counts and fines of more than a million dollars.
The judge said Mr. Yates was "deserving of a significant reduction in his sentence" because of the "substantial assistance" and "cooperation" he gave prosecutors. While Mr. Yates did not testify at the trial of the former chief executive, Bernard J. Ebbers, Judge Jones took into consideration that he did not receive anywhere near the salary or the stock options of other executives and that he was pressured by superiors to falsify the company's books to help it meet profit expectations.
Mr. Ebbers was found guilty in March and sentenced to 25 years last month after being found guilty of orchestrating the fraud that resulted in WorldCom's collapse.
In pleading guilty on Oct. 7, 2002, Mr. Yates admitted he participated with other officers and employees in a scheme to inflate artificially WorldCom's publicly reported earnings by falsely reducing expenses.
This scheme allowed WorldCom to report higher earnings in its quarterly and annual financial statements filed with the Securities Exchange Commission. Before Judge Jones imposed sentence, Mr. Yates told her that "there are no words to describe my shame and humiliation."
"When faced with a decision that required strong moral courage," he said, "I took the easy way out."
- 186 Financial Services, Insurance and Banking