Sometimes, you just gotta pay the piper. I have to say I was a little surprised when the Supreme Court rejected Jeff Skilling’s appeal this morning—this court has been more than generous of late toward corporations, after all—but I think I may have been alone in my ignorance.
More folks around here echoed the sentiment of one attorney, who said, “I’m sure Jeff thinks it’s a big deal, and [his lawyer] Petrocelli thinks it’s a big deal, but after that, for God’s sakes.” In other words, he was found guilty, and the Supreme Court still thinks he’s guilty, and no amount of money is going to change their minds. As Houston criminal attorney and Enron expert Philip Hilder put it, “They heard the arguments and I don’t think they feel there’s anything more to say.”
When I wrote about Skilling back in 2010 I thought he might have a chance before the court. At the time, a play about Enron was a hit on the British stage, and I thought it might become a Broadway hit too. But the play bombed, and, a year later, no one much seemed to care much about the tenth anniversary of the company’s collapse. History had repeated itself on a much larger scale by then, with far fewer repercussions: “… I can’t help but picture Skilling in his prison cell, feeling like a modern-day Christian martyr. Sure, Lehman is gone, but no one from Citigroup, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS, et al., is suffering a penance anything like his for coming up with their own unconscionable financial schemes. Those people got bailouts or bonuses instead and are pretty much back to business as usual. Unlike Enron’s meltdown, this financial crisis has yet to produce any real reforms.” And it’s unlikely that it will, at this point.
Still, Skilling has one more shot at a semi-silver lining. “Now the only thing Mr. Skilling has to look forward to is the resentencing by the district court, which will probably end up lowering his sentence some, but not by a lot,” Hilder says. “He can look forward to some minor relief but that’s the end of it. It’s a done issue.”