Yesterday former Enron insider Michael Kopper copped a plea. The former assistant to former Enron CFO, Andrew Fastow, jumped the first deal-express leaving the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice had been under growing pressure, even from mainstream sources like CNN Moneyline host, Lou Dobbs, to indict someone from Enron. Dobbs has been running a corporate crime indictment "scorecard" for weeks now. Before yesterday's guilty plea Dobb's scorecard showed 18 arrests involving other corporate failures but zero for Enron.
With Kopper's cooperation in hand, federal prosecutors finally moved to seize some $23 million in cash, real estate and other assets held by Fastow, his family and a handful of close associates. Among the items prosecutors have asked the court to seize is Fastow's unfinished 12,000 square foot Houston mansion.
As part of his plea deal Kopper has agreed to turn over $12 million in gains he made during his time at Enron.
The $35 million the feds hope to recover from Fastow and Kopper will go into a restitution fund for victims. But, the money will make a negligible dent in the billions of dollars lost by shareholders and pension funds. Pension funds alone lost over $1.2 billion when Enron collapsed. And, Enron's own workers lost over $1 billion in retirement savings.
So, far no action has been taken to secure the assets of Enron 's former Chairman, Kenneth Lay or its former CEO, Jeffery Skilling.
"Technically anything purchased with ill-gotten gains belongs to the government and if someone knows about its taint, they can legally never get title to it," Kent Schaffer, a criminal defense attorney who has handled many forfeitures, told reporters yesterday.
If the forfeiture is granted - a rarity in white-collar cases when a person has not yet been charged - the court freezes the property and manages it until there is an indictment and verdict. The court oversees the distribution of the assets to the victims or a victim's recovery fund.
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