Tuesday, Jun. 09, 2009

Kenneth Lay & Jeffrey Skilling

CEOs: Enron

Convicted: May 25, 2006 of fraud and conspiracy

Enron imploded with breathtaking speed in the early 2000s, going virtually overnight from being the nation's seventh-largest company to a bankrupt shell synonymous with corporate greed and deceit. Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were at the helm as the company collapsed, taking the jobs and savings of thousands along with it. Lay helped create Enron in 1985 as a natural gas provider and presided as it grew into an energy-trading behemoth worth some $68 billion in 2000. Skilling joined in 1990 and, as he rose, pushed an aggressive growth strategy that, in retrospect, relied on shady accounting to reflect chimerical profits. In 2001, Skilling briefly became the company's CEO while Lay moved to chairman; Skilling abruptly resigned months later as the energy giant neared the breaking point, later cashing out nearly $60 million in stock. The company filed for Chapter 11 on December 2, 2001 — at that point the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Skilling and Lay were tried together and convicted in May 2006 on fraud and conspiracy charges. Lay died of heart disease two months later while awaiting a prison sentence that could have lasted 45 years. Skilling was fined $45 million and is currently serving a 24-year sentence in federal prison. He has appealed his conviction.

See 25 people to blame for the financial crisis.