We Once Jailed CEOs for Their Crimes. Remember?

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Jeffrey Skilling, the ex-CEO of the now-bankrupt energy giant Enron, has got to be steaming. Skilling helped Enron soar high up in the Fortune 500, then sank into infamy when his company went bankrupt in 2001 amid revelations of widespread fraud. Five years later, a federal judge sentenced Skilling to 24 years in prison. Last week, federal authorities released the 64-year-old to a halfway house, the first step to outright release. Enron’s collapse cost shareholders billions and employees their life savings. Skilling personally has had to pay $45 million in fines and over $75 million in legal fees — and his 20-year-old son died while he was serving his time. But Skilling has yet another reason to fume. None of the top CEOs responsible for the fraud that ushered in the 2008 financial crash — and wreaked much more havoc on America than Enron — has yet faced a day behind bars and, notes federal judge Jed Rakoff, likely never will.

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

Posted In: Union Matters

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