December 8, 2015 / 9:07 PM / in 3 years

U.S. judge closes SEC's case against ex-Enron chief Skilling

(Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled that former Enron Corp chief executive Jeffrey Skilling violated U.S. securities laws, finally closing the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s 11-year-old case involving the energy giant’s 2001 collapse, the SEC said on Tuesday.

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling (L) and attorney Daniel Petrocelli leave Federal court in Houston for the day in this April 18, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Richard Carson

The final judgment against Skilling by U.S. District Court Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston ends the SEC’s civil proceeding against Skilling, which the court stayed in 2004 until related criminal proceedings and appeals had ended.

Judge Harmon also permanently barred Skilling, who is in prison, from serving as an officer or director of a publicly held company, according to the Nov. 18 order, which the SEC announced on Tuesday.

Skilling, whose lawyer could not be reached for comment, filed a statement with the court saying he did not oppose the SEC’s request to resolve its case, the agency said.

Enron’s 2001 collapse threw thousands out of work, sparked federal probes and prompted Congress to crack down on corporate accounting abuses.

In May 2006, a jury had convicted Skilling of 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors for his role in maintaining a facade of success as Enron’s energy business crumbled.

Enron founder Kenneth Lay also was found guilty of multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud. He died of heart failure six weeks after the trial ended, prompting a federal judge to throw out the conviction.

Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Simeon Lake reduced his term to 14 years, accepting a deal struck between prosecutors and Skilling’s lawyers to end years of appeals.

Nearly 15 years after Enron’s collapse, Skilling continues to symbolize a scandalous era in which several CEOs went to prison. They include former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, who is serving a 25-year term for fraud and conspiracy in Louisiana.

Skilling is serving his time in a minimum security “prison camp” in Montgomery, Alabama, according to a federal database. He is set for release in 2019.

Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by David Gregorio

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