NEW YORK -- A former top accountant at WorldCom Inc. testified yesterday she was told to make improper accounting entries because chief executive Bernard Ebbers did not want to lower expectations for Wall Street.
Betty Vinson, testifying for the prosecution at Ebbers' fraud trial, described making false entries quarter after quarter from 2000 to 2002, including fudging some numbers that she said she pulled ''out of the air."
''I felt like if I didn't make the entries, I wouldn't be working there," said Vinson, who went so far as to draft a resignation letter in 2000 but stayed with the firm.
Vinson said she took her deep concerns in October 2000 to WorldCom chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, who told her that Ebbers knew accountants were unhappy with what they were asked to do.
''Scott said Bernie didn't want to lower third-quarter expectations, so that we needed to make the entry," Vinson testified. ''He told us not to jump out of the plane, hang in there, help him get through the quarter."
A second former WorldCom accountant, Troy Normand, testified yesterday about the same meeting -- but made no mention of Sullivan saying Ebbers knew about the improper adjustments accountants were making.
Sullivan ''indicated he had a discussion with Bernie Ebbers, asking Bernie to reduce projections going forward, and that Bernie had refused," Normand recalled. Normand's testimony appeared to contradict testimony given earlier by former WorldCom controller David Myers, who was at the same meeting.
In Myers's version, given on the witness stand last week, he said Sullivan claimed he and Ebbers had already agreed to lower the company's financial forecast.
Vinson, Normand, and Sullivan have all pleaded guilty in the $11 billion accounting scandal and agreed to help the government in its case against Ebbers, who is charged with ordering the fraud.