Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, 53, has started serving a 24-year prison term at a southern Minnesota low-security federal prison. Skilling is now a number: federal inmate 29296-179. Sam Buell, a former prosecutor for the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force, said that whether a multidecade sentence is needed to achieve deterrence of white-collar crime should be debated. Skilling received by far the harshest punishment of anyone convicted of Enron-related crimes. “For major fraud that did in a huge public company, the answer has to be at least a substantial number of years. Whether decades are really necessary is a question we ought to be discussing as a society,” said Buell, now on the faculty of Washington University law school in St. Louis.
Skilling was convicted in May of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, and lying to auditors. He staunchly maintains his innocence. When he learned his sentence, he said he never considered cutting a deal with prosecutors in hopes of getting less time behind bars.