The strategies used in the successful prosecution of former Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay highlight the transformation that has occurred in the investigation and prosecution of white-collar crime, says the New York Times. The change has brought “many of the techniques applied to drug cases and mob prosecutions into the once-genteel legal world of corporate wrongdoers.” No longer are defendants allowed to surrender quietly, outside the view of the press. Cases are not resolved with fines or short stays in “country club” prisons; defendants face decades of real jail time, which can preclude them from minimum-security prisons.
Witnesses are squeezed, with threats against family members and stints in solitary confinement. Those who fail to cooperate are indicted, or deemed unindicted co-conspirators. Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now a white-collar criminal defense attorney, said, “there are people that feel that the government has built many of these cases with a sledgehammer.” The Times concludes that the case against Lay and Skilling showed that the laws for corporate conduct are being interpreted strictly, requiring honesty in all actions to avoid prosecution. Failure to be forthright, even in subtle ways, can result in a criminal trial.