Former Enron CEO Skilling in deal to cut prison term

Wed May 8, 2013 6:38pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron Corp chief executive, could be freed from prison nearly a decade sooner than originally expected, under an agreement with federal prosecutors to end the last major legal battle over one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history.

The agreement calls for Skilling to see his federal prison sentence reduced to as little as 14 years, down from the 24 years imposed in 2006. It could result in Skilling's freedom in late 2018, with good behavior.

In exchange, Skilling, 59, who has long maintained his innocence, agreed to stop appealing his conviction. The agreement would also allow more than $40 million seized from him to be freed up for distribution to Enron fraud victims.

A resentencing became necessary after a federal appeals court upheld Skilling's conviction but found the original sentence too harsh.

Once ranked seventh on the Fortune 500 list of large U.S. companies, Enron went bankrupt on December 2, 2001 in an accounting scandal that remains one of the largest and most infamous U.S. corporate meltdowns.

Thousands of workers lost their jobs and retirement savings, and images were beamed around the globe of staff carrying possessions out of Enron's downtown Houston office tower, past the company's "crooked E" logo.

Wednesday's agreement, which is subject to court approval, recommends that Skilling be resentenced to between 14 and 17-1/2 years in prison, including time already spent there. Skilling has been in prison since December 2006.

"The proposed agreement brings certainty and finality to a long painful process," Skilling's lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said in a statement. "Although the recommended sentence for Jeff would still be more than double any other Enron defendant, all of whom have long been out of prison, Jeff will at least have the chance to get back a meaningful part of his life."   Continued...

 
Former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeff Skilling (C) walks with attorney Daniel Petrocelli (R) as he is escorted from Federal court in Houston, after he was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison for his part in the financial scandal that brought down the company and came to symbolize a dark era in U.S. business, October 23, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Richard Carson