Skilling’s money should go to people he hurt at Enron
You have to grant Jeffrey Skilling the right to defend himself. If he believes he did not commit the crimes he's accused of as an executive of Enron Corp., he certainly should be able to hire excellent lawyers and demand their best work. He is a lawyer's dream client: a rich man determined to stay out of jail.
Still, the cost of his defense is astounding. The Washington Post reports that the Los Angeles-based law firm of O'Melveny & Myers has already collected $40 million and, according to one unnamed source, the additional tab could run $25 million.
The lawyers are getting worried about collecting the rest of the money, though. After Mr. Skilling was indicted in 2004, prosecutors put a hold on nearly $60 million worth of his assets. Now that a jury has convicted him on 19 counts, including conspiring to prop up Enron's stock price and enrich himself, the government will be trying to seize those assets.
This could result in some compensation to shareholders and other victims of Enron's demise — people who were never nearly as rich as Mr. Skilling and who have suffered financially much more than he has.
Mr. Skilling, Enron's former CEO, and Kenneth Lay, its former chairman, made money "at our expense," said Rod Jordan, chairman of a group of former Enron employees. He said the assets "should first be used to return money lost by the employees and only then be used for their defense."
Count on Mr. Skilling's lawyers to do some of their best work as they argue that he ought to be able to keep the money so that he can pay them. But the victims speak with greater moral authority.