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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Enron Exec’s Convictions Still Stand, Court Rules

(CN) - For the second time, the 5th Circuit has upheld the convictions against former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

A jury found Skilling guilty in 2006 of 19 criminal counts, including conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements and insider trading for his role in the energy giant's 2001 collapse.

About four months after Skilling resigned from Enron on Aug. 14, 2001, the company crashed into bankruptcy.

An investigation revealed that Skilling, Kenneth Lay and other Enron executives had manipulated Enron's earnings to satisfy Wall Street expectations, and then covered up the scheme by cooking the books.

The former executive claimed on appeal that federal prosecutors "made it more likely that the jury would rely on the honest-services theory rather than on the securities-fraud theory."

Back in 2009, the New Orleans-based federal appeals court upheld the convictions but ordered resentencing. But the Supreme Court vacated part of the conviction in June 2010, taking issue with the so-called "honest services law," which gives prosecutors authority to try cases against executives who deprive companies of their honest services.

The court said that law did not apply to Skilling's crimes since his alleged misconduct entailed neither bribery nor kickbacks.

Remanded to the 5th Circuit, the panel ruled that the jury's consideration of honest-services fraud did not affect the other convictions.

"The jury was presented with overwhelming evidence that Skilling conspired to commit securities fraud, and thus we conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the verdict would have been the same absent the alternative-theory error," Judge Edward Prado wrote for the court. "It is not true, as Skilling claims, that the Government's theory at trial was that Skilling made bad business decisions; its argument was that Skilling hid those bad business decisions from investors."

Skilling still faces resentencing because the lower court incorrectly applied an enhancement for substantially jeopardizing a "financial institution."

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