Not Guilty Plea In World Com Case

Former WorldCom chief executive Bernie Ebbers is shown in this Oklahoma County Sheriff's Dept. booking photo. Ebbers surrendered to authorities Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2003, in Oklahoma City, where he is accused of violating Oklahoma securities laws.
AP
Former WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers pleaded innocent Wednesday to the first criminal charges brought against him in the long-distance company's $11 billion accounting scandal.

The 62-year-old Ebbers was freed on $50,000 bail, and a pretrial conference was set for Oct. 30.

Earlier in the day, he was fingerprinted and photographed after surrendering to face the charges brought against him last week.

He and five other former officials with WorldCom, now known as MCI, are accused of 15 violations of Oklahoma securities law, each carrying up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 fine. The company was also charged.

The charges were brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who said WorldCom's falsified books cost Oklahoma investors millions, including a $64 million hit taken by state pension funds.

Ebbers' attorney Reid Weingarten said Ebbers should be exonerated.

WorldCom's collapse last year was the nation's largest bankruptcy and part of a wave of scandals to rock corporate America in the past two years.

Although these are the first criminal charges against Ebbers and the company itself, other former WorldCom executives have been charged in federal court.

U.S. Attorney James Comey in New York has expressed concern that the Oklahoma charges could interfere with the federal investigation. And the Securities and Exchange Commission has said it was "disappointed" by the state action.

Edmondson has said he would cooperate with federal officials but intended to press his case because Oklahoma laws were broken.