“Honest Services” Ruling Calls Many Fraud Cases Into Question


The Supreme Court’s ruling limiting use of the 1988 federal “honest services” law to cases involving bribery and kickbacks could have a major impact on white-collar crime and political fraud cases, says the Wall Street Journal. Prosecutors have used the statute to pursue loosely defined activity that they portrayed as an example of an executive or politician putting his own interests ahead of shareholders or constituents.

Besides Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling and former media mogul Conrad Black, the law was used in convicting former HealthSouth Chief Executive Richard Scrushy, ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, and former New York Senate leader Joseph Bruno. Yesterday’s rulings call into question many convictions previously won under the honest-services law. “I do not think anyone walks immediately, but there will be lots of complicated lower-court litigation” over whether convictions can stand, said criminal law specialist Douglas Berman of Ohio State University.

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