U.S. News

Enron's Skilling Heads Back to Supreme Court

Nearly five years after being sent to prison for his role in the most notorious corporate collapse of all time, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling is taking his case back to the Supreme Court.

Jeffrey Skilling

The high court last year ordered a federal appeals court to reconsider his conviction, but the appeals court upheld the conviction in April, and last week denied Skilling's request for another hearing. But on Wednesday the appeals court agreed to stay its ruling to allow Skilling to go back to the Supreme Court.

At issue is the government's contention during Skilling's trial that he deprived Enron's shareholders of their right to his "honest services" as CEO. The Supreme Court ruled that was an overly broad interpretation of the law, and ordered the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for review.

But a three-judge appellate panel ruled the error was "harmless," since it was not clear jurors relied on that theory when they convicted Skilling on 19 criminal counts in 2006.

In court papers filed last week, Skilling's attorneys said they plan to ask the Supreme Court to clarify whether an appeals court can simply dismiss an error as "harmless" when it is possible the defendant might have been acquitted without it. It was not immediately clear how soon the appeal will be filed, or whether the high court will agree to hear the case again.

Skilling, now 57, is serving a 24-year sentence for conspiracy, fraud and insider trading. He was the architect of Enron's business model, rising to CEO in early 2001. He abruptly resigned in August of that year, just months before the company's epic collapse in what was then the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.