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March 2, 2011

What’s the difference?

Lottery Ticket and dicesThe NY Times Joe Nocera notes that Countrywide Financial's Angelo Mozilo is the latest winner of the criminalization of business lottery.

Meanwhile, Charles Gasparino explains why those who made faulty business decisions that led to a major U.S. banking crisis really shouldn't be prosecuted for crimes.

Yet, the reality is that there is no discernible difference between what Mozilo did at Countrywide or what Dick Fuld did at Lehman Brothers with what Jeff Skilling did at Enron.

Yet, Skilling continues to serve a 24-year prison sentence and endure the immense collateral damage of his fate.

On the other hand, Mozilo and Fuld deal with civil litigation and move on with life.

Neither Mozilo nor Fuld should be prosecuted for trying to save their companies. Any responsibility that they have for the demise of their companies can be allocated in the civil justice system among all the responsible parties.

But that Jeff Skilling remains in prison - particularly given the despicable way in which he was put there - remains a serious blot on the American criminal justice system.

A truly civil society would find a better way.

Posted by Tom at March 2, 2011 12:01 AM |


I know I'm rehashing a point but Skilling was charged and convicted of going over the line that separates legal from illegal activity.

Posted by: steve sturm Author Profile Page at March 2, 2011 7:41 AM

Some people may well believe that Jeff Skilling
should be considered a genius for having the
foresight to jump ship before it sank.

Posted by: Bill McWilliams Author Profile Page at March 2, 2011 7:44 AM

And another thought: Fuld, Morilla etc. had the advantage of having seen what happened to Skilling and thus being better attuned to what was and what wasn't legal.

Posted by: steve sturm Author Profile Page at March 2, 2011 8:30 AM

All they have in common is that Big Government policy allowed them to do what the free market policy woudn't have. It wasn't lack of regulation but interference in the market place that allowed them to do what they did and enrich themselves in the process.

In the case of Enron, they asked Government to be able to drift away from mark to market accounting rules. They marked their profits and future profits up to hypothetical levels, the very same way that the Financial firms have been marking their assets up to bubble values since March 2009. Financial firms also benefited from the market interference as Government guaranteed non-sense mortgages and the Fed manipulated mortgage rates to artificial lows.

Yet for some strange reason people continue to look at Government to solve a problem the free market system would readily address.

Posted by: Wtffinance Author Profile Page at March 2, 2011 4:03 PM

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