The message of the Enron era is still resonating for top executives, says the Christian Science Monitor: If you defraud your company, you could pay a big price. A Chicago jury amplified that warning last Friday, convicting newspaper publisher Conrad Black of looting his media empire and carting away evidence. As stock-market indexes are hitting record highs, it’s a reminder that federal prosecutors aren’t finished with their pursuit of white-collar crime. “It’s still in full swing,” says Charles Elson of the Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. “My guess is that there are a lot of ongoing investigations.”
“Certainly one wants to look very carefully at the hedge fund and private equity world, to see if there are any brewing scandals,” says David Ruder, who served as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the late 1980s. The Black case involved “noncompete” agreements. In return for a fee, Hollinger would promise not to launch new competition against newspapers it was selling. Much of the “noncompete” money went to Black personally, not to Hollinger. Black was convicted on three mail fraud charges, plus obstructing justice. “Corporate CEOs are very intelligent, very rational, and if they see a guy like Conrad Black getting a prison sentence  that has a very important prophylactic effect,” says Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago securities lawyer.