As gusts of hot air surged through Capitol Hill,
longtime top two executives held their tongues.
Founder and ex-CEO Bernie Ebbers and onetime financial chief Scott Sullivan appeared under subpoena Monday afternoon before the House Financial Services Committee. Both declined to testify, exercising their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. WorldCom shares have plunged into the pennies since the company disclosed late last month nearly $4 billion worth of accounting irregularities over the last five quarters. Since the irregularities took place under Ebbers' and Sullivan's watch, the two have come under fire from legislators taking a timely stand against corporate misdeeds.
The session mostly went as scripted, with the executives looking on as members of the House berated corporate greed and criticized the wanton ethical culture of corporate America. In pleading the Fifth Ebbers in particular emphasized that he has nothing to hide, saying he was declining to testify on advice of counsel. Also taking some heat Monday was Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jack Grubman, who said he didn't know about the accounting at WorldCom. "I had no advance knowledge of the fraud," said Grubman. "We are not auditors."