Background of the legal issues before the Court.
Jeffrey Skilling had worked for Enron Energy Company for quite some time before being promoted to the position of a CEO. This is a position Skilling held from February 2001until August the same year before resigning. Enron energy crashed into bankruptcy barely four months after Skilling’s resignation. Investigations that were fast tracked revealed that the company did not suffer bankruptcy accidentally or in devoid of criminality. Rather, the investigations uncovered a conspiracy by Enron’s staff to overstate the firm’s financial outlook. Subsequently, Skilling along with other former Enron executives were apprehended for fraud related charges.
Upon his arrest, Skilling’s was to be charged with conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud. Even though the argument arose as to whether this charge was appropriate, the court proceeded with the trial. In addition to this charge, Skilling faced multiple charges related to wire fraud, insider trading, securities fraud charges and making false presentations to the firm’s auditors. Other executives including the company’s auditors among others were prosecuted and received varied sentences 9gh). While some pled guilty and received lesser sentences, others such as Kenneth Lay denied the charges before conviction.
Request to have Trial venue moved.
At the court was a petition filed by the former Enron executive, Jeffrey Skilling. Having been arrested for various fraud roles, the petitioner had severally filed a request to have the trial venue moved. The petitioner argued that pretrial publicity would hinder the opportunity to receive a fair trial. In the argument the petitioner contested that the potential jurors would have been poisoned by the publicity the case had attracted (gh). In all these requests, the courts denied the request arguing that the publicity the case attracted did not indicate Skilling would not get a fair hearing. However, as the case generated more publicity, the court carried out a process to ensure that all the prospective jurors would not be biased against the petitioner.
Also before the court was a question of whether ‘honest-service’ fraud had been committed. In his argument, Skilling vehemently argued that he had been charged under an invalid legal theory. Skilling claimed that since most of the Enron’s top management were privy to the practice, the prosecution was, therefore, unjustified. However, the court held that Skilling’s claims were not valid. Instead, it noted that ‘Honest-Service’ fraud had been committed by Skilling and the rest of the employees. On the argument that the senior management including Kenneth Lay and the board of directors knew and approved the practice, the court argued that this argument was immaterial (ghh). The court noted that Skilling was guilty of withholding and presenting financial information that was bent on misleading the investors. As such, this action amounted to ‘Honest-service’ fraud.
Essentially, this case, often seen as one of the most scandalous in the US history had three main legal issues. First, the petitioner sought to have the case moved arguing on the fairness issues because the media had mentioned on it. Secondly, the petitioner argued that it would be impossible to get a fair hearing because of this publicity. Lastly, Skilling argued that the ‘Honest-Services’ fraud ws invalid. In all these issues, the court held as explained above.
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