Starting today, defense lawyers for Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling will try to prove that there was no wrongdoing at Enron, save for the actions of a few bad apples. The Christian Science Monitor says the defense has never been used in a corporate corruption trial. The “there was no evil” defense is high-risk, but it may be born of necessity. In other recent white-collar-crime trials the argument that corruption existed but that corporate leaders were ignorant of it often didn’t fly.
The Enron defense essentially argues that he company was basically sound and that it went bankrupt because the market panicked and creditors pulled out. Still the trial’s “biggest surprise is how effective a job the government is doing,” says Gerald Treece, assistant dean at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. The Enron prosecutors did not spend a long time on the company’s Byzantine accounting practices, as prosecutors in the HealthSouth corruption trial did.