The U.S. Supreme Court is the next stop for former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling after a circuit court in New Orleans rejected his appeal. Skilling is serving a 24-year prison term after he was convicted in 2006 on 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and insider trading. Although a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered Skilling's sentence to be reviewed, the panel denied the appeal in January (see NGI, Jan. 26). Skilling's defense team then requested an en banc hearing, in which the appeal would be heard by the entire circuit court. The full circuit court rejected the request without comment. Daniel Petrocelli, who is in charge of Skilling's defense team, said he now will ask the Supreme Court to consider the appeal. "There is an irreconcilable conflict among the circuits on the primary theory of criminality used in Jeff's case, and now against many others," Petrocelli said. Petrocelli specifically wants the high court to consider whether Skilling robbed Enron of his "honest services" by using fraudulent methods to achieve corporate goals. The prosecution argued that point successfully in Skilling's case. However, several other Enron-related convictions that had used that theory have been successfully appealed. In the successful appeals, the courts have ruled that the "honest services" argument did not apply to lower-level Enron executives or third parties because they had not stolen, taken bribes or taken property from Enron. In Skilling's case, the circuit court in New Orleans said the prosecution could argue that Skilling had robbed Enron of "honest services." As CEO, said the court, Skilling set a "fraudulent agenda" for staff, which in turn carried out his agenda at his request.
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