Enron executives found guilty

Former Enron chief executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling have been found guilty of fraud.

Lay, 64, and Skilling, 52, were charged with hiding the weak financial condition of the energy company that collapsed into bankruptcy amid a wave of accounting scandals in December 2001.

Lay was convicted on all six counts, while Skilling was found guilty on 18 fraud-related charges, but not guilty on nine insider-trading charges. They are awaiting sentencing.

Skilling’s lead attorney was O’Melveny & Myers Century City-based partner Daniel Petrocelli, who shot to fame after winning a civil suit against OJ Simpson for the family of Ron Goldman, the man slain along with Simpson’s wife Nicole.

Petrocelli is backed by O’Melveny partners Matthew Kline, Randall Oppenheimer and Mark Holscher, as well as Houston solo practitioner Ron Woods.

O’Melveny was also instructed by Skilling in 2001 to defend civil suits, and this was Petrocelli’s first criminal trial defence.

Lay’s lead defence attorney was Michael Ramsey, 66, a solo practitioner from Houston who’s previous cases include winning acquittal for a New York millionaire charged with murdering his 71-year-old neighbour.

Ramsey was forced to leave the trial mid-way through, after undergoing heart surgery on March 24. He was absent while his client testified.

Houston criminal appellate specialist George Secrest, of Bennett & Secrest, conducted Lay’s direct examination.

Assisting in Lay’s defence were Houston solo practitioner Chip Lewis and Dallas partner Bruce Collins of Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal.

US District Judge Sim Lake is a former litigation partner at Houston firm Fulbright & Jaworksi.

Vinson & Elkins partner Max Hendrick was a witness during the trial, and defended the firm’s cursory probe into concerns raised by whistleblower Sherron Watkins prior to the company’s collapse.

The company’s general counsel, Jim Derrick, himself a former V&E partner, was forced to defend his selection of the probe to do that investigation.

The criminal verdict follows the approval on Wednesday of a $6.6bn civil settlement by three banks accused by Enron shareholders of helping the company hide financial misdeeds that led to its collapse.

The settlements to be paid to former Enron shareholders include $2.4bn (£1.2bn) from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, $2.2bn (£1.1bn) from JP Morgan Chase and $2bn (£1.1bn) from Citigroup.

Including earlier settlements with firms such as Lehman Brothers and Bank of America, shareholders are now due to receive more than $7.2bn (£3.8bn) of the $40bn (£21.4bn) plaintiffs in the cases have claimed they lost in Enron’s collapse.