The Worldcom Fraud Essay


The intent of this study is to look into and discourse the accounting fraud that occurred at WorldCom in order to urge improved schemes to Berkshire Hathaway’s direction for avoiding investings in companies with deceitful financials. Accounting fraud is a offense committed by high degree employees at an organisation to pull strings the organization’s fiscal statements and deliberately mask company public presentation. The fraud is committed without the cognition of proprietors ( stockholders and investors ) to profit the persons commiting or perpetrating the fraud and consequences in a negative impact on the proprietors.

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This study will give a brief background on WorldCom and the telecommunications industry. and so discourse the inside informations of the WorldCom accounting fraud in order to supply relevant recommendations to Berkshire Hathaway. Inc. for extenuating future losingss due to puting in deceitful companies. We expect direction to go more knowing sing high fraud hazard investings and hence do better informed investing determinations. Recommendations to Berkshire Hathaway include bettering current hazard appraisal processs and heightening investing policies.

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WorldCom and the Telecommunications Industry

WorldCom was the leader of the telecommunications industry during the 1990’s ; in 2000. WorldCom was the 25th largest company in the universe ( Anderson. 2013. p. 48 ) . The telecommunications industry has grown exponentially over the past decennaries and is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC ) . As a consequence of the 1934 Telecommunications Act. the FCC was established as an independent bureau of the U. S. authorities and is responsible for modulating just pattern among the diverse communications industries ( Economides. 2005. p. 54 ) . The chance for WorldCom to vie in the long-distance communications industry arose as a consequence of the dissolution of AT & A ; T’s monopoly in the 1980’s ; at one point market portion was 90 % . In 1984. AT & A ; T was broken down and chance for competition gave rise to companies such as Sprint. MCI. and finally WorldCom ; the new competition led to the complete deregulating of long-distance telecommunications in 1995 ( p. 49 ) . From January 1996 to March 2001. the industry grew 36 % ( Carbone. 2006. p. 27 ) . Presently. the industry is even more complicated with all the promotions in engineering and the switch to digital information. so although there is still ordinance in some countries. there is a great trade of services in telecommunications that remain deregulated ( Economides. 2005. p. 54 ) .

WorldCom originated in Clinton. Mississippi as a reseller of long-distance services in the early 1980’s after the deregulating of the telephone industry under the name of Long Distance Discount Company ( LDDC ) . Bernie Ebbers was named CEO in 1985 and took LDDC public with the acquisition of Advantage Cos. in 1989. In 1995. LDDC became known as WorldCom. and started merchandising under the heart symbol WCOM. In June of 1999. WorldCom portions were merchandising at $ 61. 99 a portion. WorldCom acquired over 60 houses in the late 1990’s and handled 50 % of U. S. cyberspace traffic. every bit good as 50 % of emails worldwide. Their largest purchase was of MCI for $ 37 billion in 1997. By the bend of the century. growing had significantly decreased due to overexpansion in the industry ; nevertheless. from 1998 to 2001. WorldCom was the 2nd largest long-distance operator in the U. S and had over 20 million clients ( O’Reilly. 2005 ) .

The WorldCom Fraud

The monolithic fraud conducted by CFO. Scott Sullivan and CEO. Bernie Ebbers was revealed on June 25. 2002. WorldCom increased grosss by reassigning money from their modesty histories ; the militias were liabilities stand foring estimated costs expected to be paid in order to utilize equipment controlled by outside parties. In add-on. Sullivan directed staff members to misclassify operating disbursals as long-run investings. blow uping assets and net income at the same clip. From the 2nd one-fourth of 1999 through the first one-fourth of 2002. WorldCom fraudulently reduced its line costs by over $ 7 billion. From the 2nd one-fourth in 2001 through the first one-fourth of 2002. WorldCom improperly capitalized line disbursals as long-run assets in the sum of over $ 2 billion. After all probes were concluded. over $ 11 billion worth of accounting fraud had been discovered ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 9 ) ( WorldCom. 1999-2002. Financial Information ) .

Table 1. Sum of WorldCom Misstated Expenses 1999-2002
Reported Expenses Harmonizing to WorldCom’s Records
Actual Expenses Harmonizing to Security and Exchange Commission Difference ( Amount of Improper Expense Recognition )
Improper Expense Recognition Percentage
$ 24. 878
$ 24. 145
$ 733
2. 95 %
$ 26. 059
$ 22. 513
$ 3. 546
13. 61 %
$ 25. 785
$ 22. 545
$ 3. 240
12. 57 %
$ 9. 179
$ 8. 406
$ 773
8. 42 %
*All dollar figures are in 1000000s.
**Expenses include: Line Costss. Selling. General and Administrative Expenses. and Other. Beginnings: Beresford. D. . Katzenbach. N. . & A ; Rogers. Jr. . C. B.
( 2003 ) WorldCom. Financial Information ( 1999-2002 )

Due to the overexpansion of the telecommunication industry. in September 2000. WorldCom was $ 828 million short of Wall Street’s net incomes mark. Betty Vinson. Director of Management Reporting was instructed by direction to cover the shortcoming with modesty histories for line costs that had been set aside for estimated possible losingss. Scott Sullivan. the CFO. ordered Vinson and the Director of General Accounting. Buford Yates. to happen grounds for the modesty decrease to hide the existent ground of run intoing Wall Street’s marks. Although Yates did non hold. he went along with it since Sullivan claimed it would be a erstwhile accommodation. Both Yates and Vinson considered vacating due to Sullivan’s petitions ( Anderson. 2013. p. 49 ) .

In April. right before Quarter 1 net incomes release. Sullivan ran out of militias to cover the staying $ 771 million mark shortage. He made the switch from the modesty decrease method to the misclassify disbursal method of fraud. Both Vinson and her colleague uttered feelings of being cornered into perpetrating what they knew to be deceitful coverage. Vinson told her workers that she was traveling to happen another occupation. but first she recorded an entry to reassign $ 771 million of operating disbursals to a capitalized long-run plus history and backdated it to February ; the entries were made every one-fourth for a twelvemonth ( Anderson. 2013. p. 50 ) .

In 2002. the US Securities and Exchange Commission ( SEC ) was informed by WorldCom’s internal audit squad of possible abnormalities. For the old ages last old ages prior to discovery. David Myers ( the Controller ) and Sanjeev Sethi ( the Director of Financial Planning ) . both continued capitalizing concern disbursals they knew should hold been expensed. The Vice President of Internal Audit. Cynthia Cooper. had been coercing the work forces to explicate the entries during an internal audit of capital outgos in May 2002. She finally notified the audit spouse of KPMG. Farrell Malone. of the issue. every bit good as the audit commission. Once the SEC prompted their probe. Myers and Sanjeev confessed to the entries and Sullivan tried to stretch the regulations of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles ( GAAP ) while explicating the entries to the audit commission ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 124 ) .

Sullivan knew he was in problem when both their former hearer Arthur Andersen and their new hearer KPMG did non acknowledge the entries to be GAAP. He was concerted with jurisprudence enforcement and was a cardinal informant in the strong belief of CEO Bernie Ebbers. For Sullivan’s cooperation. he received a decreased sentence of five old ages in prison ; In July 2005. Bernie Ebbers received a 25 twelvemonth sentence ( Young. Sarcey. Koppel. 2005 ) .

Fraud Risk and the Culture of WorldCom

One of the typical traits of the civilization at WorldCom provided force per unit areas for the fraud to happen and for the fraud to take topographic point for so long: Bernie Ebber’s attitude towards doing the Numberss. It is apparent that Ebbers was concerned with small else than doing the analysts marks and forestalling the company from demoing fiscal adversities. Scott Sullivan. although influenced by Ebbers mentality. was besides known by employees to coerce that certain information be kept secret from hearers and lower degree history directors ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 18 ) .

When WorldCom executives started the fraud. they were able to apologize their actions as doing up for a concern trade gone incorrect and so continued to apologize their deceitful coverage. Before the fraud began. WorldCom’s unsuccessful command for Sprint Communications began a lessening in stock monetary values and executives began the fraud to forestall the company from worsening ( Morton. 2005. p. FP1 ) . WorldCom executives were able to apologize the fraud in the old ages to come based on the company civilization and tone that had been created over old few old ages. After the fraud had begun. the executives were able to warrant their actions based on the being of their past deceitful activities.

The directions overall place in the company gave them the chances and authorization to keep the fraud. WorldCom executives were making everything they could to hide the fraud and they were really clear sing any effects of prising. In July 2001. the Controller. David Myers. ordered a computing machine system security employee to deny entree to Internal Audit ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 18 ) . Sullivan. like Ebbers. developed a repute for endangering and baning employees at WorldCom whom were being asked about the deceitful entries. The tone at the top at WorldCom and the management’s ability to overrule internal controls were cardinal factors lending to the fraud.

Although separation of responsibilities allows for a decrease in fraud hazard because it is less likely everyone will desire to take part. both Ebbers and Sullivan were easy able to pull strings directors and other executives to adhere to their docket of fraud. Inefficient internal controls allow the chance for direction to overrule or short-circuit them ensuing in a inactive attitude of employees below. WorldCom did hold a policy in topographic point for employees who felt cornered ethically on the occupation. but merely two ailments were of all time filed and both resulted in no action against anybody. Most employees claimed they feared they would lose their occupation if they of all time pushed a concern excessively far with direction. The deficiency of internal controls and management’s place of power provided the needful chances for the fraud to take topographic point at WorldCom ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 18 ) .

In add-on to the suppressed attitude of lower degree employees. direction had the chance to short-circuit internal controls. every bit good as design them to their benefit. When employees in the Internal Audit section were asked about the procedure. some did non even know internal audits were traveling on. Most of them claimed they conduct largely operational audits to measure operational efficiency. Furthermore. the individual of whom Internal Audit studies to was Scott Sullivan. CFO. Not merely was Sullivan intimidating the really section that was responsible for guaranting stockholders that he was making his occupation. he besides was in charge of the sort of internal audit ; of course Sullivan opted to necessitate operational audits as opposed to Cynthia Cooper’s CapEx audit ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 23 ) .

The WorldCom civilization helped to further an environment that was susceptible to fraud. Although there were many grounds why WorldCom’s fraud was able to take topographic point. the presence of all three elements of the fraud trigon provided WorldCom executives with the ability to perpetrate the fallacious Acts of the Apostless. As a consequence of the executive’s actions. the fraud ended up negatively impacting big groups of persons.

The Effects of Fraud

WorldCom’s $ 11 billion dollar fraud influenced non merely the WorldCom executives. but besides the environing community. Investors in WorldCom were able to retrieve less than half of their investings in the many old ages following the fraud. Bondholders accounted for $ 13. 3 billion in losingss and are merely expected to retrieve $ 5 billion after all of the colonies are complete ( merely 37 % recovered ) . WorldCom stockholders are merely expected to retrieve 2 % of their entire estimated losingss. Even though some of the investors are expected to acquire back portion of their investings. they frequently have to wait old ages to have their payments from colony differences ( Crawford. 2005 ) .

The community where WorldCom operated suffered monolithic losingss. Ebbers and Sullivan were both actively involved in their surrounding community and Ebbers even taught Sunday school at a local church. Their presence and known contributions to the community led to unease about the beginning of contributions received ( Morton. 2005. p. FP1 ) . In add-on. the fraud led to the loss of 10s of 1000s of occupations for employees of the company. impacting the households of all persons ( Hevesi. 2005 ) . The province of Oklahoma suffered a $ 64 million loss in pension financess that would stop up negatively impacting persons all over the province ( Mecoy. 2003 ) . Frauds have the ability to bring forth important negative impacts on infinite persons and groups.

Although there were many negative impacts of the WorldCom fraud. the fraud had some overpowering positive impacts on puting in the hereafter by assisting to organize two commissariats in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act against actions similar to WorldCom. First. WorldCom executives were big shareholders in the company and Sarbanes-Oxley limits the per centum of portions that executives are allowed to keep. Additionally. Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley addressed the failings that existed in WorldCom’s internal controls and requires an appraisal of a company’s internal controls to be performed by an external hearer. Sarbanes-Oxley ordinances would hold prevented the big ownership of portions by WorldCom executives and corrected the unequal internal control environment at WorldCom ( Norris. 2005. p. 1 ) . The presence of deceitful companies should promote investing companies should execute more extended due diligence patterns to protect themselves from puting in organisations with possible deceitful activities.


Berkshire Hathaway needs to hold successful investing activities in order to stay successful. Investing successfully involves puting in organisations that are able to supply us with a return on our investings and are bring forthing net incomes from honest concern patterns. WorldCom’s concern environment and civilization fostered unethical concern patterns and led to the continuance of the accounting fraud for 4 old ages. Before accepting a new investee. Berkshire Hathaway should use the undermentioned patterns to measure the ethical dependability of a company and avoid investment in deceitful organisations with environments similar to WorldCom.

First. Berkshire Hathaway should look at a possible investee’s hearer to find if the hearer has equal makings and has a repute for following auditing processs for executing the audit. Arthur Anderson was the hearer of WorldCom during the clip of the fraud and their deficiency of probe while executing the audit led to the hearers overlooking the fraud ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 229 ) . Although it is non possible to find the extent of an audit by looking at the scrutinizing company. Berkshire Hathaway should seek to guarantee that a big prospective investee companies are audited by a big house with a strong repute. If an investee is audited by a little auditing company that may non hold the experience or resources to execute the audit. it could be a mark that the organisation has hired an under-qualified hearer to hold the fraud go undetected.

Second. big accounting frauds are frequently the cause of top direction of a corporation. doing it of import to find the management’s cooperation to work with Berkshire Hathaway during the hazard appraisal. During WorldCom’s audit. the direction was non concerted with the hearers and frequently keeping control of certification that Anderson required to finish their audit. It was besides apparent that WorldCom direction was changing paperss to hide information from the hearers ( Beresford. Katzenbach. Rogers. 2003. p. 24 ) . Berkshire Hathaway should take note on interactions with investee direction to guarantee that the direction is non interfering with the hazard appraisal procedure. An investee’s direction may be susceptible to execute deceitful activities if they avoid any interview inquiries or decline to supply requested information.

After measuring management’s cooperation. Berkshire Hathaway should interview investee’s employees sing the construction of the organisation and undertaking deputation. It is of import to find if the organisation has proper segregation of responsibilities for activities that could impact the fiscal representation of the organisation. As was the instance in WorldCom. the CEO and CFO both had the ability to execute all degrees of activities. beltway any bing controls. and complete their minutess without reappraisal by an extra person. Segregation of responsibilities ensures that a individual person does non manage all parts of the accounting and expense system and diminishing the opportunity of deceitful describing taking topographic point ( Wells. 2005. p. 82 ) . The failure to segregate responsibilities. make a system of cheques and balances. and maintain strong internal controls could make an environment vulnerable to fraud.

Groupthink is a outlook among persons where members of a group perform whatever action is asked of them without oppugning or opposing unethical actions. Berkshire Hathaway should analyse the outlooks of a few single workers at prospective investee companies for groupthink features of going unwilling to talk up against the group or demoing a high sum of trueness to the organisation. When groupthink is present in a concern environment. the features result in a concern environment that non merely environment fraud. but besides maintains it ( Scharff. 2005. p. 109 ) . Berkshire Hathaway should guarantee that groupthink is non present at investee organisations before doing an investing determination.

Execution of these recommendations could be clip devouring and dearly-won to Berkshire Hathaway. The extra preparation and planning that would be needed to execute these extra hazard appraisals could take to a higher cost associated with geting new organisations to put. The decreased hazard of loss from puting in a fishy fraud company will outweigh the initial execution costs associated with the extra processs. These increased hazard appraisals could significantly diminish the alteration of Berkshire Hathaway retrieving merely 37 % of their investings after the find of a fraud. Decision

The WorldCom accounting fraud instance is one illustration of a type of fraud that can take topographic point at a company and the consequence that the fraud has on the organisation. employees. and investors. Berkshire Hathaway success is dependent on the ability to do profitable investing determinations with honorable organisations by integrating aggressive due diligence patterns. Integrating due diligence patterns such as analysing hearer makings. detecting investee’s cooperation. analyzing investee internal controls and work segregation. and supervising for groupthink will assist Berkshire Hathaway to avoid puting in fishy organisations. These processs will make a powerful system to assist protect Berkshire Hathaway from deceitful organisations. Berkshire Hathaway’s direction should look into the costs and benefits associated with implementing the increased hazard appraisal processes to find if they can be successfully incorporated into company processs.


Anderson. M. ( 2013 ) . WorldCom’s Betty Vinson and Cynthia Cooper: A Tale of Two Professionals. Strategic Finance. 95 ( 7 ) . p. 48-51. Retrieved from World Wide Web. ebscohost. com

Beresford. D. . Katzenbach. N. . & A ; Rogers. Jr. . C. B. ( 2003. March 31 ) . Report of Investigation by the Special Investigative Committee of the Board of
Directors of WorldCom. Inc. ( EX-99. 1 3 ) . p. 1 – 340. Retrieved from U. S. Security and Exchange Commission: hypertext transfer protocol: //www. sec. gov/Archives/edgar/data/723527/000093176303001862/dex991. htm # ex991902_5

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Crawford. K. ( 2005. March 17 ) . J. P. Morgan settles for $ 2 billion. CNN Money. Retrieved from hypertext transfer protocol: //money. cnn. com/

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WorldCom. ( 1999-2002 ) . Fiscal Information: 1999 – 2002. Retrieved from Mergent Online database: hypertext transfer protocol: //www. mergentonline. com/companydetail. php? compnumber=4103

Morton. P. ( 2005. July 14 ) . Ebbers became symbol of dirts: ruin began with out of use Sprint command in ’97. National Post’s Financial Post & A ; FP Investing ( Canada ) National Edition. p. FP1. Retrieved from: World Wide Web. lexisnexis. com/?us/lnacademic

Norris. F. ( 2005. July 14 ) . A Crime So Large It Changed The Law. The New York Times. p. 1. SC. Retrieved from: World Wide Web. lexisnexis. com/?us/lnacademic

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