Houston Community News >> Enron Skilling Sentenced to 24 Years in Jail

10/23/2006 Houston- FORMER Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced today to more than 24 years in prison for massive fraud and conspiracy in one of the biggest corporate scandals in US history.

"Crimes of this magnitude deserve severe punishment," Judge Sim Lake said when handing down the 292-month sentence. Skilling, 52, who had faced a maximum of 185 years in jail, told the court he planned to appeal his conviction stemming from the 2001 collapse of the Houston-based energy giant under a mountain of shady deals. "I am innocent of these charges," Skilling told the court.

Skilling also said media reports that characterised him as unremorseful were wrong. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he told the court. "I can't imagine more remorse."

Skilling's co-defendant in the massive fraud case, Enron founder Kenneth Lay, died of heart failure in July.

Lay's conviction on 10 counts of fraud, conspiracy and banking violations was thrown out last week because he died before he could appeal the verdict. Before Skilling's sentencing, the disgraced CEO faced a host of disgruntled former employees. "You should be ashamed," said Ann Beliveaux, an 18-year employee who lost her entire retirement savings of $500,000.

"When things got bad, you jumped ship," she said, adding that Enron's collapse was "only because of your greed". Kevin Hyatt, who worked for 17 years for Enron, said in the last five years of his employment he "witnessed a competitive, me-first culture". This, he said, was a "virus actively cultivated by management".

Enron's spectacular collapse in 2001, then the largest corporate bankruptcy in history with more than $US40 billion in outstanding debt, rattled energy and stock markets. Thousands lost their jobs and life savings. While a raft of other business scandals followed, such as Tyco, ImClone, Adelphia and Worldcom, it was Enron that became synonymous with corporate malfeasance

And Skilling and Lay personified greed for hiding company losses and hyping the stock's value while selling their own shares on the sly. Skilling and Lay were unrepentant throughout their widely publicized four-month trial. They claimed they had done nothing wrong and asserted Enron was a thriving company brought down by unfavorable news reports and the deceit of its chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow.

The Government's charges were "a total misrepresentation of the facts", Skilling testified. "I am devastated because a fine corporation was brought to its knees, in my view, unnecessarily."

(Contributed by News.com.au)