In U.S. prosecuting white-collar criminal cases can be tough.
"I am not a crook," jokes former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling (with attorney Daniel Petrocelli) in 2006. June 24, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled some of Skilling's charges may not have been covered by a law used to prosecute him.
A Supreme Court decision siding with two imprisoned former corporate executives is another reminder to a U.S. public angered by financial scandals that prosecuting white-collar criminal cases can be a lot tougher than it looks, according to Reuters.
Federal prosecutors, who have suffered setbacks in the past year in probes stemming from the financial crisis, were dealt a blow on Thursday in two cases that many people thought were long over.
The high court said prosecutors had gone too far in using an “honest services” law against convicted former Enron Corp CEO Jeffrey Skilling and ex-media mogul Conrad Black, who both are behind bars for corporate fraud. The law is a favorite tool in public corruption and corporate cases where there are allegations of bribery and kickbacks.
“It’s going to have an impact on essentially all phases of commercial and public life because it affects public officials and it impacts executives,” said Kelly Kramer, a partner at the law firm Nixon Peabody who focuses on government investigations and white-collar defense.
“It impacts anybody who has any fiduciary responsibilities,” Kramer said. “It’s a significant limitation on the government’s ability to prosecute such cases.”
Thursday’s ruling came as President Barack Obama’s administration has boosted the prosecutorial ranks, partly because of public pressure and expectations that some individuals or corporations should be held accountable for the financial meltdown in which middle-class citizens lost their homes and savings.
During the past two years, the government has prosecuted a host of executives from Wall Street financial advisory firms to small city mortgage lenders and brokers to millionaires charged with avoiding taxes.
Thursday’s unanimous opinion of the nine high court justices does not mean Skilling or Black will be released from prison.
However, it does give them…READ MORE HERE.