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Joe Nacchio, once head of high-flying US telecommunications company Qwest, was on Thursday convicted on multiple counts of insider trading, in a verdict that brings the curtain down on the financial scandals emanating from the telecoms bust.
After six days of deliberations, a jury in federal court in Denver found Mr Nacchio guilty of 19 out of 42 counts. He is to be sentenced on July 19 and faces a maximum of 10 years on each count.
A former senior executive at AT&T, Mr Nacchio quit when he was passed over for the top job in the late 1990s, moving on to become the head of a company whose early success encapsulated the rise of a new breed of telecoms operator during the boom years of the late-1990s.
Mr Nacchio was accused during his trial of acting on inside information when selling 2.5m shares in Qwest in the first five months of 2001 for $101m.
He argued that he did not have privileged information about Qwest’s problems at the time, and had issued his growth forecasts in good faith.
Alongside Bernie Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, Mr Nacchio was one of the most prominent executives to emerge during the US telecoms boom. Mr Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment two years ago for orchestrating an $11bn fraud.
Known for his huge ambition and an impatient and aggressive style, Mr Nacchio’s rise was capped by his acquisition of the former “Baby Bell” US West.
That deal symbolised the speed at which newcomers such as Qwest appeared to be eclipsing the traditional telecoms operators.
During his trial, however, former executives of Qwest testified that Mr Nacchio had been aware of problems at the company, even as he was promising high growth to Wall Street and selling some of his own personal holdings in the company.
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