Ebbers found guilty!

After eight days of jury deliberation, former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers was found guilty of fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents, which led to the massive $11 billion accounting fraud at the telecommunications carrier.

Ebbers, 63, faces up to 85 years in prison. His sentencing has been scheduled for June 13.

At his trial in federal court here, Ebbers portrayed himself as "unschooled in accounting," and therefore not sophisticated enough in financial matters to gauge what was going on at the company. His defense team had tried to portray former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan as the engineer behind the fraud. Sullivan, who pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence, was expected to be sentenced following the completion of the Ebbers trial.

Ebbers still faces civil litigation, which will include MCI - the new post-bankruptcy incarnation of WorldCom - which backed Ebbers' roughly $400 million in personal loans when Bank of America demanded larger collateral when the company's stock price began plunging.

Best to rebrand as Sage

Sage Ltd., which lost the right to use the Sage name in the United States four years ago after a court fight, has purchased the rights to the brand in this country and will phase out the name Best Software by March 2006.

The company did not disclose the terms of its purchase of the rights from Quick Technologies, a Dallas-based company.

"The good news is that we've gotten good at branding," said Ron Verni, the CEO of Best's U.S. operations. Best has boosted its name recognition into the 20 percent range, "and we're climbing toward the 30s," he added. While the company will have to start its efforts again with the Sage name, "We haven't lost all the equity in that name," Verni said. International business is a major reason the company wanted to be able to use the name in all markets. A major challenge for the company is that the names of its products, such as Act, MAS 90 and Peachtree, are generally better known than the company name.

Plante to merge in Mich. firm

Super-regional CPA and business advisory firm Plante & Moran said that it would merge in BKR Dupuis & Ryden, a Flint, Mich.-based concern, effective July 1.

Terms were not disclosed.

Going forward, the firm will operate under the brand Plante & Moran PLLC. The union with BKR adds seven partners, 60 staff and $7.5 million in revenue to Plante & Moran.

Bill Hermann, P&M's managing partner, said that the marriage with BKR "closes the gap" in the firm's geographic footprint in mid-Michigan, better positioning it in the Flint, Saginaw and midland corridor markets. The addition boosts Plante & Moran to a total of 204 partners, a total staff of 1,450 and annual revenue of roughly $210 million. Plante & Moran ranked No. 15 on Accounting Today's 2005 Top 100 Firms ranking.

Senate passes bankruptcy bill

By a 74-25 margin, the Senate easily passed legislation toughening the nation's bankruptcy laws and thereby making it more difficult for consumers to wipe out their debts.

The bill now will go before the House and, if passed, will be signed into law by President Bush.

"By reforming the system with this commonsense approach, more Americans - especially lower-income Americans - will have greater access to credit," the president said in a statement. Both credit card providers and the retail industry have been pushing for bankruptcy reform for years, while critics argue that the reform legislation serves as a reward for lenders who aggressively market consumers to assume higher debt.

The reform bill also contains a means test to determine if people should enter compulsory repayment plans.

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