Federal prosecutors scored a white-collar-crime triple play yesterday: the indictment of former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, the conviction of Adelphia Communications chief executive John Rigas for corporate looting, and the denial of a new trial for Martha Stewart. The Washington Post says the cases mark the 21st century’s opening years “as a period of unprecedented peril for once-highflying corporate leaders.” “This was the greatest period of malfeasance since the 1930s, and the only reason we didn’t have indictments in the ’30s was we didn’t have the laws yet,” said Charles Geisst, a business historian at Manhattan College.
A list since Enron filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2001–Convicted: former chief executives at Adelphia, ImClone Systems Inc., Martha Stewart Living Inc., and Rite Aid Corp. Indicted: former chief executives at Enron, WorldCom Inc., HealthSouth Corp., Tyco International Ltd., and Westar Energy Inc. Forced from office: Dick Grasso at the New York Stock Exchange, Jean-Marie Messier at Vivendi Universal SA, Joseph P. Nacchio at Qwest Communications International Inc., Gary Winnick at Global Crossing Ltd., and Charles Conaway at Kmart Corp. The message, says the Post: No chief executive is safe.