WorldCom's disgraced chief, Bernie Ebbers, pleaded innocent to federal securities fraud charges Wednesday. At a late-morning arraignment in Manhattan federal court, Ebbers was silent as his attorney, Reid Weingarten of Washington, read the innocent plea. Ebbers was released on his own recognizance and has two weeks to raise $10 million in bail. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones set the trial for Nov. 9. Prosecutors said they may add charges or co-defendants to the indictment before then. Meanwhile Ebbers' Mississippi home, valued at $2.5 million, is being held as security, and his travel is restricted to New York, Washington, D.C., Mississippi and Louisiana. After the arraignment, at which Ebbers formally faced charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements, Weingarten renewed his defense of his client. "We're looking forward to our day in court," the lawyer told reporters on the courthouse steps in lower Manhattan's Foley Square. "A fair jury will never conclude that Bernie did anything wrong." Ebbers was the CEO of WorldCom as the company built itself into a telecom behemoth through some 60 acquisitions. He stepped down in the spring of 2002, just months before the company collapsed under $11 billion of accounting missteps. Ebbers' former right-hand man, ex-financial chief Scott Sullivan, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the same charges Ebbers now faces. Sullivan will now cooperate with prosecutors as they seek to prove that Ebbers orchestrated what they say was a two-year-long campaign of outright accounting fraud.
Even though AT&T tried a last-minute bribe of promising 5,000 new U.S. jobs to help gain support for the deal, the Justice Department filed a complaint to fight the combination of the nation's No. 2 and No. 4 wireless carriers.