[JURIST] A federal judge has delayed the start of the class-action fraud suit against WorldCom [JURIST Hot Topic archive] until March 17, so that lawyers can interview witnesses from former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers fraud trial [AP report] after it ends in the next few weeks. US District Judge Denise Cote also issued strict guidelines for testimony and arguments, and ordered that the case wrap up by early July, rejecting estimates from attorneys that the proceedings would take nine months. The class-action suit, brought by WorldCom investors, alleges that the company used fraudulent accounting practices to inflate profits, cover up known financial weaknesses, and cheat investors. Judge Cote previously has refused to enter a settlement in the case [AccountingWeb.com report] on the grounds that it was unfair to the banks also named in the lawsuit. Reuters has more on the delay of trial. In a related story, the company, which is out of bankruptcy and now called MCI [corporate website], is looking to merge with Verizon [corporate website], but shareholders Friday filed a lawsuit to block the buyout [Reuters report], saying the price is too low.