WorldCom chief executive Bernie Ebbers has been found guilty of $11bn worth of fraud, having failed to convince a jury that he was unaware of falsified accounts handed to him by his chief financial of

Ebbers may be just the first of many executives facing jail under new hardline corporate legislation, with Richard Scrushy, founder of HealthSouth Corp, already in the dock as the first executive facing prosecution under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

"The image of chief executives being taken to jail under corporate governance legislation has been around for months now, but has been viewed by many as an empty threat," said Paul Hands, CEO at compliance specialist, QUMAS.

"The thought of Ebbers spending the rest of his years behind bars will act as a stark warning to other executives.

"Fraud is a serious issue, and companies need to look to introduce a compliance framework that can deliver accountability, process control and centralised visibility into how accounting information develops and is reported."