Back stateside after traveling in Southeast Asia and Southern Europe: I see the many headlines about the conviction of former Worldcom CEO Bernie Ebbers. Among the many articles about the guilty verdict, one that stood out was one that appeared in The Washington Post, "Verdict Weakens Ignorance Defense."
Still, Ebbers’s conviction sends a strong warning
that jurors will be skeptical of business executives who pocketed
hundreds of millions of dollars yet claim they were simply functioning
as a "coach" rather than running the show.
The message to others awaiting like trials as well
as those running other corporate giants is clear: If you play in big
leagues, but only intend to coach, expect to get benched to the nearest
federal prison," said Charna E. Sherman, a defense attorney.
The Los Angeles Times was among the newspapers that concurred.
The tipping point, [one juror] said, was the argument that Ebbers would have to know about WorldCom’s troubles because of regular revenue statements and numerous other financial reports.
"We had to come to the conclusion that his testimony was not truthful," said Nulty, a grade-school teacher. "It wasn’t that we were quick to dismiss what he said. It took us a very long time."
Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky said he believed the jury’s decision "will embolden prosecutors to bring more such cases."
"I think it puts more pressure on white-collar defendant CEOs to consider guilty pleas," he said.