Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling May Leave Prison Early

Jeffrey Skilling, former Enron Corp. executive.  F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg News.
F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg News
By Aruna Viswanatha and Jonathan Stempel

WASHINGTON and NEW YORK -- Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron Corp. chief executive serving a 24-year prison term for the energy company's spectacular collapse, may get a chance to leave prison early.

The U.S. Department of Justice has notified victims of Enron's fraud and 2001 bankruptcy that prosecutors may enter an agreement with Skilling that could result in a resentencing.

Skilling, 59, has served about 6¼ years in prison following his May 2006 conviction by a Houston federal jury on 19 counts of securities fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors.

It is unclear how much Skilling's sentence could be reduced, and a Justice Department official said no agreement has been reached. CNBC, the television business channel, said prosecutors and Skilling's lawyers have been negotiating a shorter term.

Skilling had previously agreed to forfeit $45 million to be used as restitution for victims of Enron's fraud. That money has been held up because of the negotiations on a new sentence.

"The department's goal is, and has always been, to ensure that Mr. Skilling be appropriately punished for his crimes, and that victims finally receive the restitution they deserve," another Justice Department official said.

Skilling has maintained his innocence, and according to court filings has been pursuing a new trial. He is scheduled to leave prison around February 2028, assuming good behavior, according to federal prison records.

Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Skilling, didn't respond on Thursday to a request for comment.

A new sentence would have to be approved by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in Houston, who had imposed the original sentence.

Once ranked seventh on the Fortune 500 list of large U.S. companies, Enron went bankrupt on Dec. 2, 2001. Its demise led to reforms including the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

April 17 Deadline

In its Wednesday notice, the Justice Department advised former Enron employees, stockholders and other victims that it is "considering entering into a sentencing agreement" with Skilling.

The notice gives recipients until April 17 to voice objections. In 2009, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Skilling's conviction, but called his sentence too harsh. The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court also upheld the conviction, but rejected one legal theory behind it. In 2011, the 5th Circuit reaffirmed the conviction.

Skilling is being held at a low-security prison for men in Littleton, Colo.

At the 2006 trial, the Houston jury also found Kenneth Lay, who was Enron's chief executive before and after Skilling's six-month term, guilty of fraud and conspiracy.

Lay died in July 2006, and his death led to his conviction being thrown out.

Among those who testified against Skilling and Lay was Andrew Fastow, who was Enron's chief financial officer and considered the mastermind behind the company's fraud.

Fastow was sentenced to six years in prison and released in December 2011.

The case is U.S. v. Skilling, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 04-cr-00025.

Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha in Washington and Jonathan Stempel in New York; additional reporting by David Ingram in Washington; editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Jeffrey Benkoe and Phil Berlowitz.

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I hope the people that lost their shirt to this fool, put out a contract on him.

April 07 2013 at 6:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The rich rob us of millions and sleep in thier own beds or get really short sentances while the druggies robs a store for less than a hunderd dollars goes to jail for years. The poor have less and less and rich get more and more than they will ever need in 10 life times and never give back to the commuity.

April 07 2013 at 9:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Maybe the citizens that fell prey to this ******* could enlist the help of the CIA to "terminate with extreme prejudice" as the government is fond of doing.

April 06 2013 at 8:43 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Why arent we prosecuting the CEO of Solynrda? A123? Fisker? Billions and billions of Taxpayer Dollars absconded with, and yet no action of accountability, punishment, or recoupment? Why are we worried about his 'victims', when America is being Victimized daily, in front of our eyes?

April 06 2013 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just another corporate scum-bag,,, TOO BIG to do his time at Club FED!!!

April 06 2013 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

I think he needs to serve most of his time and he needs to be monitored to make sure he doesn't have millions hidden. What kind of deterrent is 6 years? 6 years for fraud and stealing millions from people who trusted him?

April 06 2013 at 6:55 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

We so definately need some LEADERSHIP .. with SCROTUM... NOT someone elected by the people who after a Short time inoffice.. .Becomes ONE OF THE GOOD OLE' BOYS... WE need someone who can say NO... and Stick to it...

April 06 2013 at 6:48 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

our justice system at work...
I wonder how much he is going to pay to get out early but the THOUSANDS that were destroyed by HIS company aren't getting a break..
hey Judge... I hope you can look yourself in the mirror for the INJUSTICE you are even considering in this case !!!!

April 06 2013 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

When he gets out maybe it time for the people he stole from to look for some other kind of justice.

April 06 2013 at 6:46 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

25 years is not long enough, the money he took from hard working people. Hope he gets what he deserves.

April 06 2013 at 6:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to quata56's comment

He was sentenced to 24 years but somehow that is now 6.5 years.

April 06 2013 at 6:57 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply