Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, currently serving time for his role in one of the most famous financial scandals in recent history, caught a major break today. A federal judge reduced his sentence from 24 years down to 14. Skilling was convicted in 2006 of 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, and insider trading. So why the leniency? The energy giant's former frontman wouldn't stop fighting his conviction and the constant appeals were holding up the $40 million in restitution meant for victims. Now he could be out by 2017.
"Skilling's lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli of O'Melveny & Myers, had heralded the sentence reduction as bringing "certainty and finality to a long and painful process," adding that the deal would allow Skilling to get back a "meaningful part of his life."
Along with former CEO Kenneth Lay, Skilling transformed Enron from a pipeline company into the world's largest energy trading company. The company's stock price surged as Skilling touted its online prowess in matching buyers and sellers in markets ranging from broadband to electricity.
Skilling took the reins of the company himself in February 2001, in the process reaping an annual salary of $132 million. But he resigned in August of the same year, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. All the while, he was unloading massive amounts of his own shares of the company, and even took a massive short position against AES, an energy producer that stood to suffer from the demise of Enron. Skilling reportedly made as much as $30 million from that trade.
Enron filed for bankruptcy protection in December of 2001. By inventing revenue and hiding losses via elaborate partnerships with dummy companies, Enron was possibly the largest accounting fraud in history, a debacle that cost investors and employees billions of dollars. It also resulted in the conviction and demise of its auditor, accounting firm Arthur Anderson, an ancillary disaster that also resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs."
Kenneth Lay died while on vacation in Aspen, Colorado before ever serving any prison time.
A wealthy prisoner being allowed to extort his way into a reduced sentence is yet another failing within our "justice" system.