In the 1980s, junk bond dealer Michael Milken served about two years of a 10-year sentence for securities fraud; Ivan Boesky served two years of a three-year sentence for insider trading. The Houston Chronicle says some experts say the pendulum may have swung too far to the other side last Thursday when a federal judge sentenced Jamie Olis to 24 years in prison. “For what he’s done, no society on Earth punishes a white-collar crime this harshly,” said Houston defense attorney David Berg.
Olis, a former Dynegy vice president, was convicted last November for hiding from investors a $300 million loan to the company. Even with time off for good behavior, Olis will serve 20 years and won’t be eligible for parole, as mandated by sentencing guidelines that went into effect November 2001.
Twenty-four years is the stiffest sentence doled out to a white-collar criminal in recent years. The prison term puts Olis in the same category as murderers and robbers. “Is this the message we want to send? That a white-collar crime is the equivalent of a murderer?” said Erik Luna, a law professor at the University of Utah. “That’s for society to decide. But that’s a dubious judgment on American values, though maybe that’s where American culture is headed.”
“This is overkill,” said Kirby Behre, a former federal prosecutor and co-author of the book Federal Sentencing for Business Crimes. “This is beyond reasonable, it’s so excessive.”