HOUSTON – Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, the most vilified figure from the financial scandal of the decade, was sentenced Monday to 24 years, four months in the harshest sentence yet from the energy trading giant’s collapse.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered Skilling, 52, to home confinement, wearing an ankle monitor, and told the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to recommend when Skilling should report to prison. Lake recommended no date, but suggested Skilling be sent to the federal facility in Butner, N.C., for his role in a case that came to symbolize corporate fraud in America.
Skilling, insisting he was innocent yet remorseful in a two-hour hearing, was the last top former official to be punished for the accounting tricks and shady business deals that led to the loss of thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in Enron stock and more than $2 billion in employee pension plans when Enron collapsed.
Lake denied Skilling’s request for bond.
Skilling’s term is the longest received by any Enron defendant; former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow was given a six-year term after cooperating with prosecutors and helping them secure Skilling’s conviction. It falls just shy of the sentence imposed on WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, who received 25 years for his role in the $11 billion accounting fraud that toppled the company he built from a tiny telecommunications firm to an industry giant.
Skilling stood with his hands clasped below his waist, with attorney Daniel Petrocelli at his side. He gave no visible reaction to the sentence. After court adjourned, Skilling hugged Petrocelli.
Skilling’s arrogance, belligerence and lack of contriteness under questioning made him a lightning rod for the rage generated by the collapse of Enron in 2001.
“Your honor, I am innocent of these charges,” Skilling told Lake. “I’m innocent of every one of these charges.
“We will continue to pursue my constitutional rights and it’s no dishonor to this court and anyone else in this court. But I feel very strongly about this, and I want my friends, my family to know that.”
Skilling also disputed reports that he had no remorse for his role in the fraud that led to Enron’s collapse in 2001, which wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.
“I can tell you that’s just the furthest thing from the truth,” he said. “It’s been very hard on me, but probably, more important, incredibly hard on my family, incredibly hard on employees of Enron Corp., incredibly hard on my friends and incredibly hard on the community.
“And I want my friends, my family to know this.”