The Bush administration and U.S. lawmakers said on Thursday the guilty verdicts against former Enron Corp. chief executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling sent a strong message on corporate corruption.
“We congratulate the (U.S.) Justice Department on successfully concluding a highly complex legal proceeding that led to the convictions,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
“The administration has been pretty clear there’s no tolerance for corporate corruption and, furthermore, the Justice Department has been going aggressively after those who are involved in corporate corruption,” Snow said.
Lay and Skilling were found guilty in Houston on Thursday of lying about their company’s crumbling finances in one of the biggest U.S. business scandals and could face years in prison.
“Justice has been served today. The jury’s verdicts help to close a notorious chapter in the history of America’s publicly traded companies,” said Rep. Michael Oxley, the Ohio Republican who co-authored the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reforms.
The 2002 reforms were triggered in part by the implosion of Enron, which rocked U.S. investor confidence.
“Sarbanes-Oxley, as well as today’s verdicts, should remind us all of companies’ obligations to shareholders, employees, and retirees,” Oxley said in a statement.
Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee which oversees financial matters, said, “Today’s verdict in the Enron case demonstrates that the type of fraud and criminal behavior engaged in by the executives at the company will not be tolerated in our markets.”