Updated from Aug. 8

The thin ice is melting under WorldCom's feet.

The big telco, which sought bankruptcy protection last month after disclosing a $3.85 billion accounting sham, said Thursday evening it would have to make additional restatements amounting to $3.3 billion. News reports indicated the restatement covered the company's treatment of certain reserves for bad debt.

WorldCom also said it would probably write off the goodwill accrued on its balance sheet from the company's long string of acquisitions through the 1990s. That figure, now $50.6 billion, will probably be charged off when the company releases audited 2000, 2001 and 2002 financial reports, WorldCom said. Goodwill is the difference between the amount a company pays for an asset and its carrying value.

News of the possible added restatements comes as no surprise to some observers. When WorldCom fessed up in June to improperly shifting $3.8 billion in operating expenses over to capital expenses, it only helped confirm what some suspected was a much deeper problem lurking in accounting practices in its past.

These investors and analysts say WorldCom's accounting practices were aggressive throughout the late 1990s Internet boom, particularly in areas such as receivables and sales lost to failed customers like upstart phone companies. One guess had the company's total restatements ranging as high as $10 billion once the smoke clears and the various cases against the company and former execs get under way.

"This probably is just the tip of the iceberg," Susan Kalla, who follows the company for Friedman Billings Ramsey, said in June after WorldCom disclosed the first accounting issues. "So far, the disclosures have been limited to the EBITDA numbers for 2001 and part of 2002. Who knows what else they will find?"

WorldCom routinely took large reserves for bad debt and doubtful payments. And as these additional findings come out, it certainly makes those early suspicions look eerily prescient.

WorldCom and subsequently Qwest ( Q) have admitted to some of these tricks or "mistakes" that, intentionally or not, helped overstate the value of their companies not only to shareholders, but also to banks, who now find themselves on the hook for billions in loans and credit agreements.

WorldCom could be feeling added pressure to come clean on its past misstatements now that the government has nabbed a number of top executives at big companies, including WorldCom, as it seeks to put an end to corporate misdeeds. WorldCom is the subject of a number of accounting probes, including investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. In making additional restatements, WorldCom's new management could signal to prosecutors its intent to fully cooperate.

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