Disgraced former WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers testified at his trial in federal court here that he was "unschooled" in the areas of finance and accounting as he took the stand in his own defense in his trial on charges of masterminding an $11 billion fraud that eventually bankrupted the company. Ebbers, 63, said that while his specialty was technology, his former chief financial officer Scott Sullivan -- the primary witness against Ebbers -- had what he termed "uncanny knowledge" of accounting complexities. When asked by his attorney, Reid Weingarten, whether he had studied accounting, Ebbers replied, "The closest thing I've ever had to an accounting course is a preliminary course in economics.'' Sullivan had earlier testified that he repeatedly warned Ebbers that the only way to meet earnings projections was to "cook the books." Sullivan said that Ebbers reiterated his demand that the telecommunications concern "hit the numbers." Sullivan said that he took that as an order to commit fraud. Sullivan has already pleaded guilty to fraud charges and will be sentenced following Ebbers' trial. If convicted on all counts, Ebbers could face as much as 85 years in prison.
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