Monday, August 14, 2006

Joint and Several Liability & Jeff Skilling

Although Ken Lay's estate may end up escaping liability to the government (see post here), Jeff Skilling may be penalized because of Lay's death.  According to CNN here and Houston Chronicle here, the government is seeking $183 million in restitution from Skilling which represents a portion that would have been paid by Ken Lay, were he alive. 

Individuals charged with a federal conspiracy can also be charged with the individual crimes of co-conspirators if the crimes were in futherance of the conspiracy and forseeable.  Courts often give this instruction, known as a Pinkerton instruction, in federal cases. The question now becomes whether restitution should be jointly liable, implicating Jeff Skilling for the total amount. 

An argument for the government is that one who engages in a conspiracy takes the risk of the acts committed by their co-conspirator and therefore they should be held liable.  A defense response is that Skilling is basically being punished additionally just because Lay did not live.


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Tracked on Sep 17, 2009 9:45:08 AM


Did Lay's death cause this action to collect additional funds from Ken Lay. The legal cause appears to be the common law concept of Joint and Several Liabillity, which doctors and accountants have recently been successful in lobbying legislatures to relieve themselves of. Apparently the CEO lobby is behind on this. Of course in fact if Lay had lived no charges would have been brought for contribution from his codefendant Skilling. But that has little if anything to do with the legal merit of the claim.

Posted by: Ronald X. Groeber, Ball State Univ | Aug 14, 2006 9:33:53 PM

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