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The state of Oklahoma agreed to settle its criminal fraud case against the telecommunications giant MCI, saying the company had taken “significant steps” to reform. Under terms of the agreement announced Friday, the company formerly known as WorldCom would create 1,600 new jobs in Oklahoma over the next 10 years. The company also pledged to assist the state in its prosecution of former executives, state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. “Since WorldCom’s collapse a new company has emerged from the rubble. It was never our intention to put the company out of business, and MCI has taken significant steps to clean its own house,” Edmondson said. “MCI has purged itself of bad actors, appointed new executives and an entirely new board of directors. It has developed an extensive training program on business ethics,” he said. MCI, the nation’s second largest long-distance company, had faced a March 29 preliminary hearing in district court on charges contained in an indictment issued last year. Former WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers was hit with federal charges earlier this month accusing him of directing an $11 billion accounting fraud, the biggest in U.S. corporate history. Ebbers’ lawyer entered a plea of innocent on his behalf. Similar state charges against Ebbers were temporarily dropped late last year after a judge denied Edmondson’s request to delay a preliminary hearing for Ebbers. The state charges against Ebbers are expected to be refiled by the end of the month. State prosecutors said the scandal led to heavy losses by Oklahomans, including $64 million lost by state pension funds. A May 17 preliminary hearing is set in Oklahoma for former WorldCom chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, who was charged along with Ebbers in the state case last year. He has already pleaded guilty to federal charges in New York and agreed to testify against his former boss. WorldCom filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2002, about three months after Ebbers resigned amid questions about the company’s finances. WorldCom changed its name to MCI — the name of the company WorldCom merged with in 1997 — last April and moved its headquarters from Clinton, Miss., to Ashburn, Va. MCI still has about 1,875 employees at its office in Tulsa, according to assistant attorney general Tom Bates. The company had employed about 3,000 before layoffs in 2002. The 1,600 new jobs will be created in Tulsa, the company said.

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