U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake sentenced Skilling today at a hearing in Houston after listening to testimony of seven victims of the Enron fraud. A jury convicted Skilling, 52, in May on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading after a four-month trial. He faced a range of 24 to 30 years in prison.
“In terms of remorse your honor, I can’t imagine more remorse,” Skilling told Lake before he was sentenced. “That being said your, your honor, I am innocent of these charges. I am innocent of every one of these charges.”
Enron, once the world’s largest energy-trading firm and the U.S.’s seventh-biggest company, had a market value of more than $68 billion before its bankruptcy in December 2001 wiped out more than 5,000 jobs and at least $1 billion in retirement funds. It was the second-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, after WorldCom Inc.’s collapse in July 2002.
Kenneth Lay, Enron’s former chairman, was convicted with Skilling of orchestrating a fraud that used off-the-books partnerships to hide debt and inflate income. Lay died from a heart attack at age 64 in July, before he could be sentenced. Lake voided Lay’s conviction on Oct. 17, following federal law that requires such a dismissal when a defendant is unable to exercise his right to appeal.
Skilling, who received a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business, was allowed to remain free on $5 million bond after his conviction and has said he will appeal. Jurors acquitted him of nine additional counts of insider trading.