Corporate Finance & Governance | Ethics & Professional Issues | Legislative / Regulatory

Supreme Court rules for — and against — Skilling

Jail I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but there it was -- the Supreme Court lending a sympathetic ear to Jeffrey Skilling.

In ruling on Skilling's appeal, the nation's highest court agreed with the former Enron CEO that prosecutors overstepped their bounds by using the vague argument that Skilling deprived Enron of his "honest services."

"The honest-services law has been a darling of government lawyers because it is broadly worded and gives them room to prosecute a wide range of conduct," Brent Kendall reports in the Wall Street Journal.

Skilling-- who is serving a 24-year, 4-month prison sentence for conspiracy, insider trading and making false statements to auditors -- won't be packing for home quite yet, though.

First of all, in her written opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the flaws in the prosecutors' strategy "did not necessarily require reversal of his conviction on conspiracy charges."

Second, the court ruled against Skilling's argument that he did not receive a fair trial due to extreme negative publicity in Enron's home of Houston.

The really interesting part in all of this is the potential impact the ruling could have on other high-profile white-collar trials, including the ongoing trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. For his part, a federal judge has refused to delay Blagojevich's trial in the wake of the Skilling ruling.

Something tells me that won't keep Blago down for long, though. Stay tuned.


Bill Sheridan