Revisiting Enron: The Trial

By Ben Dell’Orto, IAC Student Intern Fall 2018

The highest profile case was bound to make it to our nation’s highest profile court.

Jeffrey Skilling joined Enron in 1990 before working as the company’s president and CEO from February to August 2001. Essentially, he presided over the ultimate fall of the company in its final months after working as an executive for several years.

As Enron was based in Houston, Skilling was tried in the Southern District of Texas. Charged with a litany of offenses, mostly based around securities fraud but also including making false statements to auditors and insider trading, the court found Skilling guilty of nineteen counts on October 23, 2006. Several Enron executives testified against him.

The judge sentenced Skilling to 292 months in prison.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed Skilling’s conviction, but it ordered that the case be remanded to the district court for resentencing.

Skilling continued to the Supreme Court, arguing that the jury was biased due to the massive publicity surrounding the trial, and that the fraud statute used to convict him was incorrectly used or unconstitutionally vague.

Ignoring the statute questions, Justice Ginsberg found that the jury was not biased given the large population of Houston compared to smaller cities where publicity would play a greater part.

To avoid another trial over sentencing, the Justice Department reduced the sentence to fourteen years. Skilling spent more time in prison than anyone else involved in the Enron scandal, released this August after eleven years in prison.

Though convictions like this one offer some solace to victims, perhaps the most important outcome from the scandal has been new legislation.