More Perilous Than Ever For White-Collar Criminals


The end is near for prosecuting the most blatant corporate indiscretions of the Enron era, says the Christian Science Monitor. This week, separate trials are scheduled for Bernard Ebbers, former head of WorldCom, and Dennis Kozlowski, former CEO of Tyco International. Except for the trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling, most of the marquee names will have had their day in court. Experts say the trials already completed – and the prison sentences under way – have had a big impact on corporate behavior. CEOs are now pressuring underlings to state earnings accurately. Thanks to Martha Stewart, executives are more aware of the dangers of lying to prosecutors. Corporate leaders know that Congress now requires them to vouch for their companies’ earnings statements.

“The government has largely accomplished its goal of changing corporate conduct in a major and significant way,” says Kirby Behre, a former prosecutor now a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Washington. Judges are inclined to take corporate misdeeds more seriously. The general public, which makes up juries, believes that white-collar crime is a serious offense. “The bottom line is that it’s more perilous to be criminal defendants in a white-collar case than ever before,” says Behre.


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