Former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling was convicted in 2006 for making false statements to investors. He received one of longest sentences in U.S. history for a white collar crime. His 24-year sentence was reduced this week by a federal judge after he reached an agreement with prosecutors. Mr. Skilling agreed to drop his appeals for a new trial in order to secure the prosecutors’ recommendation of a shorter sentence. Prosecutors were seeking a sentence between 14 and 17 ½ years. Depending on his conduct during his incarceration, he could be released before the decade is complete.
The Enron scandal played a prominent role in a change in the way white collar crime was perceived throughout the country. Mr. Skilling’s sentence was just one of many that have placed white collar crime above serious violent crimes in terms of sentence length. The Enron scandal led to charges filed against more than 30 executives and employees of the company. In addition, federal officials targeted firms that did business with Enron, principally the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Many of the people charged were acquitted or had their convictions overturned on appeal.
The change in sentencing was based on the amount of money potentially involved in white collar crimes. The improper conduct at Enron forced the company into bankruptcy. It cost hundreds of people their jobs and cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars. It was argued that the harm resulting from the false statements is what justified harsh penalties.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Ex-Enron CEO Skilling’s Sentence Cut to 14 Years,” 21 June 2013