As I anticipated, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this morning ordered the release of former Merrill Lynch executives Daniel Bayly and Robert Furst pending disposition of the appeal of their controversial convictions in the Enron-related Nigerian Barge case.
Another former Merrill executive convicted in the case — William Fuhs — was previously ordered released from prison by the Fifth Circuit on March 30.
The fourth Merrill executive convicted in the barge case — James Brown — had his renewed motion for release pending appeal curiously denied summarily by the Fifth Circuit.
Daniel Boyle, Enron’s former vice president of global finance, was also convicted in the case and is serving a 46 month sentence, which he is not appealing.
Former Enron in-house accountant, Sheila Kahanek, was the only defendant acquitted in the trial of the case.
As noted in many previous posts on this blog, the plight of Bayly and Furst in the Nigerian Barge case is a prime example of the appalling cost of the government’s criminalization of business in the post-Enron era.
In the Nigerian Barge case, the Enron Task Force took a relatively small transaction under which Merrill Lynch bought a stream of dividend payments from an Enron affiliate and criminalized it through a brazen web of distortion, suppression of key testimony, inadmissible hearsay, opposition to the defense’s jury instruction on the key issue in the case and prosecutorial misconduct.
The Task Force effectively prosecuted the Merrill Four for doing their jobs in connection with Enron’s sale of an asset for which Enron may have improperly accounted, although even that issue was never proven at trial.
In reality, the Merrill Four were convicted for having the misfortune of being involved in a legitimate transaction with the social pariah Enron. Kudos to the Fifth Circuit for beginning to correct this monstrous wrong.
Bayly is represented on his appeal by a team of lawyers, including his lead trial counsel, Tom Hagemann and Marla Thompson Poirot of Gardere Wynne and Sewell in Houston, appellate specialists Lawrence S. Robbins, Gregory L. Poe and Alice W. Yao of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck & Untereiner LLP in Washington, D.C., and Richard J. Schaeffer, Peter J. Venaglia, and Brian Rafferty of Dornbush Schaeffer Strongin & Weinstein, LLP in New York City. Furst is represented on appeal by John W. Nields, Jr. William L. Webber, Kyle S. Cohen and Sowmia Nair of Howrey, LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.