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Skilling Sentence Marks Latest Crackdown on Corporate Crimes

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced Monday to more than 24 years in prison for his part in accounting practices that led to the company's collapse. His is the latest in a series of cases of corporate corruption that have rocked the business world.

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    Since its bankruptcy in December 2001, the name "Enron" has come to symbolize an era of corporate fraud. Yesterday in a Houston courtroom, former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling received a 24-year prison sentence, capping a series of high-profile convictions and punishments.


    So, yes, I mean, of course I feel bad. I feel horrible, but that's not to say that I think I did something illegal.


    A federal jury convicted Skilling in May for 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and other criminal acts that led to the loss of billions of dollars for Enron shareholders and employees. In addition to his prison term, Skilling was ordered yesterday to pay $45 million in restitution.


    We'll appeal the sentence. I think we have a good basis for appeal, but I don't fault the judge for anything he did today.


    Skilling was the last of Enron's top executives to be sentenced. Company founder and chairman Kenneth Lay was convicted with Skilling of conspiracy and securities fraud.


    Certainly, we're surprised…


    Lay died of a heart attack two months later. As a result, last week a federal judge wiped out his conviction.

    Ousted chief financial officer Andrew Fastow is already behind bars, serving a six-year sentence that he worked out in a plea deal with prosecutors.

    And it's not just Enron executives who've been hit with major prison time. Last year, ex-WorldCom chief Bernie Ebbers was given an even longer sentence, 25 years, for his role in an $11 billion accounting fraud. Also last year, Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison for siphoning millions of dollars from what was then the nation's sixth-largest cable company. And former Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski has been in prison since August 2005, when he was sentenced to eight to 25 years for looting his company.

    In addition to aggressive federal prosecutions, the series of scandals prompted Congress to pass the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which put new accounting requirements on companies and held executives responsible for their accuracy. President Bush signed it into law in July 2002.

    In the meantime, even as the recent wave of trials comes to a close, new accusations of corporate malfeasance are coming to light, as the Securities and Exchange Commission investigates more than 100 companies for allegedly manipulating the price of stock options.