White-Collar Crime

Court Hears Appeal Today by Ex-Enron CEO

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Lawyers for former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling are asking a federal appeals court to overturn his conviction in oral arguments today.

Experts told the Associated Press that Skilling has a good chance of winning his attack on the prosecution theory that he deprived the company of honest services. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing the case, has already overturned Enron-related convictions for lower-level employees prosecuted under this theory. The court said the employees did the corporation’s bidding and did not profit as a result.

Skilling’s lead appellate lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers, argues his client was acting in an effort to improve the company’s stock value. Skilling is serving a 24-year sentence for his conviction on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors.

Petrocelli also claims the government failed to turn over FBI notes that contradicted statements by government witness Andrew Fastow, the American Lawyer reports. Fastow, the former Enron CFO, is serving a six-year sentence.

Petrocelli represented Skilling at trial and in his appeal, which is “a bit of an unusual move,” according to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. White-collar criminals often change lawyers and hire appellate specialists for their appeal.

Bloomberg News reports that even if Skilling gets his fraud convictions overturned, he may still have to serve at least four years in jail for his conviction for lying. Jacob Frenkel, a Rockville, Md., defense lawyer, told Bloomberg the lying conviction rests on firmer evidence, as does the insider trading conviction.

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