In September, I will mark my 10th anniversary at the helm of Accounting Today.
In that time, I've reported to 16 people including seven publishers. Like they say, the only constant is change.
But if there was one constant, for more than eight of those years, one of the oft-recurring threads was the name Jeffrey Skilling.
When the former chief executive of Enron was sentenced to 24 years in prison back in 2006, I, and I'm sure the 21,000 Enron investors who lost billons in one of the largest frauds in U.S. history, thought we were thankfully rid of him at least until Social Security ran dry, or U.S. citizens are fully broadsided by the costs of ObamaCare.
But I digress.
As most of you know, the Supreme Court is considering granting Skilling a new trial after a series of appeals were lodged complaining that the jurors in the Houston trial were biased against him and that the High Court's ruling may hinge on the phrase "honest services."
A key issue in Skilling's appeal the statute makes it a crime to deprive investors or the public of
"the intangible right to honest services."
In layman's terms statute presumes a public official/company executive owes the public a duty of "honest services." When they fail to do so using mail or telephones or some have pointed out - e-mail - while concealing a financial interest, it is elevated to crime status.
For those keeping score at home, Enron emerged from bankruptcy in 2004 and changed its name to Enron Creditors Recovery Corp. Enron Creditors Recovery Corp.'s mission strategy is to reorganize and liquidate the remaining operations and assets of Enron.
Because his case was so well-publicized, Skilling claims he did not receive a fair trial four years ago, and has been pleading for a rehearing for years.
But as some have argued, the honest services statute has been rather liberally applied to obtain a conviction, where previously it may have been harder to prove.
At first glance, the political make-up of the High Court would lead me to believe that they would not grant Skilling a new trial, and with millions of investors poring over the remnants of their 401(k)s after the last 18 months, the court of public opinion may not be keen on retrying one of the biggest frauds in financial annals.
And I'm sure there are at least 21,000 folks who would be happy if Skilling remained just where he was for the next 20 years or so.
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