Ken Lay conviction vacated; average joes pay penalty

Oh, the Justice Department promises to use civil cases to try to get back from Ken Lay’s estate some of the money he pirated, in order to compensate the little fishes who lost their retirement funds, college funds, houses and more in the Enron collapse.

But Ken Lay is still dead, and it is still true that he stole from the poor to pay the wealthy.  Quite apart from revenge, those who suffered most from Enron’s collapse wish Lay had lived.

Please note that, among many other things the current Republican Do-Nothing Congress left undone, Congress adjourned without passing a change in the law that would have allowed Lay’s victims to get compensation.  Congress’s adjournment let Ken Lay’s crimes go unpunished:

Prosecutors offered no counter-argument in the case, but had asked Lake to hold off on a ruling until next week so Congress could consider legislation from the Justice Department that changes federal law regarding the abatement of criminal convictions. Congress recessed for the elections without considering the proposal.

Arrgh, as Charlie Brown might say.

2 Responses to Ken Lay conviction vacated; average joes pay penalty

  1. edarrell says:

    You’re at least partly right — it would be somewhat unfair in some cases to allow the legislature to over-rule a case still pending. But this is such a bizarre circumstance — how could it be any more unfair than it already is to the thousands of people who lost their pensions? Congress should have discussed it. Heck, were there even hearings?

    Precedents for legislation? Enron pursued, and got, special favors in legislation for pending projects around the world, both federal and state. Our legislators bear some responsibility for what happened. It’s fair to ask them to look at the consequences and consider the damage.

    So, yes it’s a political jab, but a well deserved one. You make good points. I think they should be discussed openly.

    And I’d really like to hear chapter and verse on the problems with Sarbanes-Oxley. I’m no expert by any stretch, and the survey courses I teach deal only with the requirements, not at all with any problems.


  2. elektratig says:

    The abatement doctrine and the possibility of overruling it legislatively raise many interesting issues — and you’ve managed to discuss exactly none of them, opting instead to make a silly political jab.

    The doctine is a common law rule, developed by a variety of courts over many years in an attempt to balance competing values. The balance that the courts have struck may or may not be the correct one, but do we really want legislators to rush in and change such a rule precipitously and in the heat of passion?

    For example: Although there is no constitutional right to appeal, do we really want to reinforce that message? Would overruling abatement not raise due process issues? Would the proposed retroactive change in criminal legislation, clearly aimed at a particular individual, not be an ex post facto law? Even if it isn’t, is that a precedent we want to set? I for one don’t want my legislators rushing to judgment on such issues, particularly when the United States has other, civil remedies available.

    The Enron debacle has already precipitated one disasterous law: Sarbanes-Oxley, which is silently draining tens of millions of dollars from our economy each year. We shouldn’t be encouraging our legislators to rush heedlessly into more misguided legislation.


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