Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, a company that was once the largest company in the U.S. (capitalization). Of course, that ranking assumed that the accounting was accurate. It was not — the company had $3 billion in accounting overstatements on its revenues. When WorldCom declared bankruptcy, it was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history with $107 billion in assets.
Mr. Ebbers was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was scheduled to be released in 2028. However, he was released in December 2019 because he was in the advance stages of dementia. Mr. Ebbers died at home this past week at the age of 78.
Bernie Madoff, he of the largest Ponzi scheme in American history, has requested early release from his 150-year prison sentence because he has “chronic kidney failure” and a life expectancy of 18 months. He is in the comfort-care unit of the prison and initially refused dialysis, but is now undergoing treatment.
Tragic endings for two men who had everything from cattle ranches to Miami and East Hampton estates to Bentleys. It was never enough. The desire for wealth consumed them, yet mere mortals they were and are, subject to the ravages of time and the debilitation of disease.
“The wretch, concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.”
Sir Walter Scott
The Lay of the Last Minstrel