Enron's Kenneth Lay, Skilling found guilty
Enron, once the seventh largest company in the US collapsed less than three months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.india Updated: May 26, 2006 02:57 IST
Sending a strong signal to the US corporate community, a jury on Thursday found two former business executives guilty of criminal fraud and conspiracy in one of the country's biggest corporate frauds ever that led to the Enron energy company's collapse in 2001.
The two men -- former chairman Kenneth Lay, 64, and ex-chief executive Jeffrey Skilling, 52 -- face at least 25 years in prison for their role in the Enron's collapse, which erased some $70 billion in market value, cost thousands of jobs and wiped out employee pensions.
Given their age, even a 25-year sentence could be the equivalent of life in prison, and the charges could bring sentences of up to 175 years.
Skilling's lawyer Dan Petrocelli, in broadcast remarks, indicated he would lodge an appeal.
"We will take it from here and continue to fight the good fight," Petrocelli said.
Skilling, looking relaxed and unphased by the verdict, told reporters, "We fought a good fight. Some things work and some things don't."
Their sentencing will occur on September 11, Cable News Network reported, and they would likely be led from the courtroom in handcuffs after that court session.
The Houston-based trial for fraud and conspiracy began in January after four years of investigation. Prosecutors charged they presided over a scheme that used off-the-books partnerships to manipulate Enron's finances and make the company appear to be earning more profits than it was.
The verdict was reached on the sixth day of deliberation by the eight women and four men on the jury.
Skilling was found guilty on 19 of the 28 charges against him. The jury found him not guilty on most charges of insider trading, broadcast reports said.
Lay was found guilty on all six charges against him. In a separate case that did not involve a jury, Lay was also found guilty by a judge of bank fraud -- a more serious charge that could carry up to 100 years in jail.
Enron, once the seventh largest company in the US collapsed less than three months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, jolting already shaken US financial markets and fuelling a government push to clean up corporate accounting practices.