Jury saw through corporate deception
A federal jury has convicted the chief executives of Enron Corp. of fraud and conspiracy changes.
THE corporate scandals that resulted from excesses in the last decade reached a climax yesterday with the fraud and conspiracy convictions of Enron Corp. chief executives Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling. The convictions should send a chill through shady corporate offices that the complexity of finances provides no protection from criminal prosecution.
A federal jury's verdict in Houston adds to government successes in response to the corruption from the stock-market excesses of the 1990s. President Bush's corporate task force, formed soon after the Enron collapse in 2001, has brought about the conviction of more than 900 people, including 92 corporate presidents, 82 chief executive officers, 40 chief financial officers, 14 chief operating officers and 17 corporate attorneys, according to the Washington Post.
Future corruption is more susceptible to government scrutiny because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which requires executives of publicly traded companies to be more accountable. Such companies must establish ethics compliance standards and procedures or explain to the government why they have not.
"The jury's verdicts help to close a notorious chapter in the history of America's publicly traded companies," said Rep. Michael G. Oxley, R-Ohio. "Appeals aside, the end of the trial will mark the end of a dark era."
That is of little solace to the 5,600 Enron employees who lost not only their jobs but investments they made in the company as pension plans, or the thousands of other investors. Enron's collapse took with it more than $60 billion in market value.
Lay, 64, and Skilling, 52, will remain free on bond while their convictions are on appeal. The victims of the Enron skullduggery then will see justice when the two men begin serving most of the rest of their lives behind bars.
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