How High Profile White Collar Criminals Fared in the Legal System

A long post, compliments of the Wall Street Journal. I thought this was a great piece. They chronicled how various high-profile white collar defendants fared. The lineup includes Frank Quattrone, Bernie Ebbers, Richard Scrushy, John Rigas, Dennis Kozlowski, Mark Belnick, Andrew Fastow, Martha Stewart, Joseph Nacchio, Walter Forbes, Martin Grass, and Jamie Olis.

Frank Quattrone (CSFB) – Conviction Overturned

After one mistrial, a subsequent conviction and an 18-month prison sentence, Frank Quattrone was granted a new trial. Mr. Quattrone, a former star investment banker whose success epitomized the Internet-stock boom of the late 1990s, had been convicted of obstruction of justice after forwarding an email in December 2000 urging employees to “clean up” their files during an investigation of allocations of initial public offerings at the firm then known as Credit Suisse First Boston. A federal appeals court Monday overturned the verdict, citing erroneous instructions given to the jury. The successful appeal was based partly on a May 2005 Supreme Court decision voiding a criminal conviction of Arthur Andersen LLP, the former accounting giant charged with shredding documents during an investigation of its client Enron Corp. The appeals court remanded the Quattrone case to the district court for retrial and ordered that it be assigned to another judge.

Bernard Ebbers (WorldCom) – Guilty

Bernard Ebbers, milkman-turned-WorldCom CEO, was convicted on all nine counts for his role in an $11 billion accounting scandal, the largest in U.S. history. In July 2005 a judge sentenced Mr. Ebbers to 25 years in prison — one of the stiffest sentences handed out in a white-collar case in recent years. But Mr. Ebbers appealed that conviction in January 2006, arguing that he was denied a fair trial in part because the government failed to grant immunity to three former WorldCom executives that the defense believes would have bolstered its case. Mr. Ebbers also is appealing his lengthy sentence, though it was below federal guidelines due to his charitable giving and health conditions. Five other former executives, including Scott Sullivan, the ex-financial chief that Mr. Ebbers pinned as the real mastermind behind the fraud, pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Mr. Sullivan was sentenced to five years in prison, while the other executives received significantly shorter sentences. Mr. Ebbers, 64 years old, is free on bail pending his appeal.

Richard M. Scrushy (HealthSouth) – Acquitted

HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard M. Scrushy was acquitted in June 2005 of all charges related to the $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the chain of rehabilitation and outpatient-surgery clinics he led for nearly 20 years. After deliberating for 21 days, the jury found Mr. Scrushy not guilty on all 36 criminal counts. Mr. Scrushy repeatedly proclaimed no knowledge of the fraud, claiming subordinates were responsible for wrongdoing. In December 2005, he sued HealthSouth for firing him. In January 2006, a judge ordered Mr. Scrushy to return about $36.4 million in bonuses he received during the massive accounting fraud at HealthSouth and pay the company about $11.5 million in interest on bonuses he received. He plans to appeal. He is facing separate charges, filed in October, that he bribed former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in order to get a seat on a state regulatory board.

John Rigas (Adelphia) – Guilty

Adelphia Communications Corp.’s founder, John Rigas, and one of his sons, former financial chief Timothy Rigas, were indicted on numerous counts of fraud and conspiracy. A jury found the pair guilty of looting the cable company they ran of more than $100 million, hiding more than $2 billion in debt the family incurred, and lying to the public about Adelphia’s financial condition. John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand said he would have imposed a much harsher sentence but for Mr. Rigas’s age and poor health. Timothy Rigas was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Michael Mulcahey, the only non-Rigas family executive at Adelphia indicted on charges of conspiracy and fraud, was acquitted on all 23 counts. One of Mr. Rigas’s other sons, Michael, received a lighter sentence: 10 months of home confinement for making a false entry in Adelphia’s records.

L. Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco) – Guilty

The former chief executive of Tyco International Ltd. was convicted in June 2005 of grand larceny, conspiracy, securities fraud and eight of nine counts of falsifying business records, as well as one count of grand larceny related to his purchase of artwork with company funds. Former Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz also was found guilty of grand larceny, conspiracy, securities fraud and eight counts of falsifying business records. Both men were acquitted on one count of falsifying business records related to the company’s Florida relocation program. A New York state judge denied their bids to get out of jail while their appeals are being heard.

Mark Belnick (Tyco) – Acquitted

Former top Tyco lawyer Mark Belnick successfully defended himself in 2004 against charges of grand larceny, securities fraud and falsifying business records in connection with as much as $32 million in bonuses and loans he received. Mr. Belnick, who argued that all bonuses and extra compensation were authorized by former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski, was acquitted of all charges. Mr. Kozlowski and former Tyco finance chief Mark H. Swartz were convicted of grand larceny and conspiracy and are in prison while appealing their cases.

Andrew Fastow (Enron) – Guilty

Andrew Fastow, Enron Corp.’s former finance chief, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts — wire and securities fraud — of a 98-count indictment. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the former energy giant’s colossal accounting scandal. His wife, Lea, served one year in prison for tax fraud, and the government has seized nearly $30 million from the Fastows. The trial of former Enron Chief Executive Kenneth Lay and President Jeffrey Skilling started in January 2006; as part of a plea deal, Mr. Fastow testified at that trial and will be sentenced after the Lay-Skilling trial ends.

Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) – Guilty

A federal appeals court in 2006 upheld conviction of Martha Stewart. The founder of the homemaking empire was released last March after serving five months in prison, and finished serving an additional five months and three weeks of home confinement at the end of August. She was convicted in federal court in 2004 of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements related to a personal sale of ImClone Systems stock. Her former broker at Merrill Lynch, Peter Bacanovic, served a five-month sentence.

Joseph Nacchio (Qwest Communications) – Indicted

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio was indicted in December 2005 on 42 counts of insider trading accusing him of illegally selling off $101 million in stock. In 2006, former Qwest executive Marc B. Weisberg was fined $250,000 and sentenced to 60 days of home detention after pleading guilty to wire fraud. He pleaded guilty last year to a single charge of wire fraud in a deal that requires him to cooperate with prosecutors trying to convict Mr. Nacchio.

Walter Forbes (Cendant) – Two Mistrials

Prosecutors plan to try the former Cendant Chairman for a third time on charges he participated in a massive fraud that cost the company and investors more than $3 billion. Mr. Forbes’s first two trials ended in mistrials — the second in February after a U.S. District Court jury in Hartford deliberated for 27 days without reaching a verdict. In the second trial, prosecutors reduced the number of charges from 16 to four — conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud and two counts of false reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Forbes argued that he didn’t know about the fraud at the real-estate and travel-services company. Jurors in 2004 convicted Mr. Forbes’s co-defendant, former Cendant Vice Chairman E. Kirk Shelton, of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud and making false statements to the SEC.

Martin Grass (Rite Aid) – Guilty

The former chief executive of Rite Aid Corp. was sentenced in 2004 to eight years in prison for his role in a massive accounting fraud at the drugstore chain his father co-founded. His sentence also included a $500,000 fine and three years’ probation. Five other executives were also found guilty. In August 2005, a federal court judge trimmed Mr. Grass’s sentence to seven years to reduce the disparity between his sentence and other defendants for similar crimes.

Jamie Olis (Dynegy) – Guilty

The former vice president of finance and attorney for Dynegy Inc. was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison without the chance of parole for his role in an accounting scheme dubbed Project Alpha. Two of his former colleagues reached plea agreements that included no more than five years in prison, but Mr. Olis maintained his innocence throughout and his case went to trial. In a significant reversal, a federal appellate court in 2005 threw out the sentence. Mr. Olis was to be re-sentenced in January 2006, but U.S. District Judge Sim Lake decided to hold off until experts hash out how long Mr. Olis should remain behind bars. Mr. Olis has been in prison since May 2004.

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