WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a ruling that upheld the conspiracy conviction of former Enron Corp executive Jeffrey Skilling, and sent the case back for more proceedings.
In the first part of its ruling, the high court rejected Skilling’s argument that his conviction should be overturned completely because his Houston jury had been tainted by prejudice and anger over the energy trader’s collapse.
The court said he received a fair trial.
In the second part of the ruling, the court said one the laws relied upon by Justice Department prosecutors only applied to bribes and kickbacks, and that Skilling’s alleged misconduct did not entail any bribe or kickback.
Skilling as chief executive led Enron’s transformation from a sleepy natural gas pipeline company into a global energy trading powerhouse.
Both Skilling and former Enron Chairman Ken Lay were convicted in 2006. Lay later died of a heart attack, and his convictions were set aside because he died before his appeals had been exhausted.
Their convictions were part of the Justice Department’s crackdown early in the decade targeting top executives for their role in corporate fraud and accounting scandals in such companies as Enron and WorldCom.
Skilling is serving a prison sentence of 24 years at a minimum security facility in Littleton, Colorado.
In the court’s opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that whether the potential reversal of Skilling’s conspiracy count touches any of Skilling’s other convictions is an open question.
Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Robert MacMillan