Talk about a company that keeps on giving.

Hard to believe, but we at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab once thought we had exhausted all the Dumbness we could wring from the company that used to be known as WorldCom.

Yes, after spending countless hours last year writing about WorldCom's then-CEO Bernie Ebbers -- the miser who cut off employees' coffee and scrapped workers' telephone benefits while borrowing $400 million from the company till -- we really thought the well had run dry.

Of course, as on so many other occasions at the lab, we were wrong.

First came that whole bankruptcy thing -- not really Dumb, but Sad -- and then that little unpleasantness with the accounting fraud. The fictional $9 billion in profits. The guilty pleas. The transformation of the company into the New and Improved MCI.

Which leads us to this past Monday, when both the special investigative committee of WorldCom's board of directors and bankruptcy court examiner Dick Thornburgh issued reports of the size and weight usually reserved for Vogue's fall fashion issue.

By now you know the broad outlines of the reports: The two sets of books. The sleepwalking board of trustees. The clueless accountants.

But as horrifying as these headline items are, the real devil is in the details. And these reports have plenty of details.

Enough, we daresay, to fill up a whole column of Dumb Things.
Ahoy, Bernie!
Oh cap'n, my cap'n

So after spending the week curled up next to our Bunsen burners and reading each report cover to cover, we've decided to make this a Special WorldCom edition of the Five Dumbest Things. Your regular scheduled programming will return at the appointed time next week.

Here goes.

1. Whatever Floats Your Boat

Question: How obsessed was Bernie Ebbers with doing deals?

Answer: Obsessed enough, according to the bankruptcy examiner, to name his yacht Aquasitions.

2. The Great Telecom Bully Market

Bernie as Rummy
What was that, son?

Now just because Ebbers appears to have had a wry sense of humor, don't go thinking that he was a nice guy. He wasn't. As portrayed in the reports, he was a bully and a hypocrite.

Which corresponds to our first-hand memory of Ebbers, back in 1997 when he first announced his bid for MCI. Our dim recollection was that when some reporter or analyst asked Ebbers what the CEO believed to be a stupid question, he said so. Everybody laughed.

Back then, we thought to ourselves, "What a blunt, plain-spoken, no-nonsense kind of guy!" But now, in 20/20 hindsight, we think, "What an --."

Actually, this being a family publication, we can't say what we think.

Of all the new evidence of what an unpleasant guy Bernie Ebbers is, this example from the bankruptcy examiner's report is our favorite: "Mr. Ebbers apparently received a daily list of all employees who exercised options and sold the underlying stock. Mr. Ebbers would on occasion call employees to inquire about the stock sales."

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