By Joseph Kay, WSWS 16 July 2005
On July 13, former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the biggest corporate accounting fraud in US history.
The fraud carried out at WorldCom amounted to a staggering $11 billion, far greater even than the accounting manipulations at Enron. Thousands of workers lost their jobs and life savings after WorldCom collapsed in the summer of 2002, and tens of thousands of investors were defrauded.
Such convictions of individual executives or Wall Street traders have happened before and will no doubt happen again. Their main purpose is always the same—the individual executive is a sacrificial lamb offered up to the god of self-preservation. The prosecution of someone like Ebbers is part of an attempt to bolster the very social system that created him.
The problem is systemic. The rise of Ebbers from a small-town college basketball coach to one of the richest people in the world was bound up with an extraordinary growth of social inequality.
The social system of which his rise and fall are but one expression goes on unabated. Multimillion-dollar handouts to corporate CEOs are as prevalent as ever, most recently at Merrill Lynch and Boeing. The massive assault on working class living standards and social services upon which tens of millions depend continues, as the American ruling elite attempts to solve its economic crisis on the backs of ordinary people.
Only Bernie Ebbers no longer has his share of the bounty.