I don’t know about you, but when I heard that Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive officer of Enron, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the massive fraud that precipitated the crash of the once high-flying company, I could only think of one word: “Sweet.”
Actually, that was only the first word. Others followed later, like “well-deserved,” “justice is served” and “about time.”
I visualized him being brought to jail and then heard the heavy door slam shut, with that slam reverberating over and over again–just like it does in the movies when the criminal gets thrown in the clinker for a long, long time.
Skilling, who routinely showed no remorse for what happened on his watch and even at his sentencing maintained his complete innocence, is of course going to appeal the federal judge’s decision. But I would hope and expect that the sentence is maintained on appeal.
In terms of years it comes only slightly behind that of Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, who got 25 years and is now incarcerated.
For Skilling to maintain his innocence of any and all wrongdoing in Enron’s fall is simply beyond the realm of plausibility. And obviously that’s what the jury thought when it convicted him on 19 counts, including one on inside trading. Indeed, the judge who sentenced him said that Skilling “repeatedly lied to investors,” which of course means that he knew exactly what was happening but made deliberate misstatements about it.
The sentence, if it is upheld, will probably bring some sort of closure–however small–to the thousands of Enron employees who were robbed of their retirement savings because of the accounting fraud that had so many manifestations in the years that Enron catapulted into the corporate stratosphere.