Special Report

Top Ten CEOs Sent to Prison

6. Jeffrey Skilling
> Company: Enron
> Current status of the company: Dissolved

Along with Chairman Kenneth Lay, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling was instrumental in the Enron mega-scandal. Skilling encouraged the use of mark-to-market accounting, which appraises holdings based on expected values. In Enron’s case, the lack of concrete pricing data for energy allowed it to act on overly optimistic forecasts. This accounting tactic resulted in Enron grossly overvaluing its holdings and sometimes even reporting gains on contracts that resulted in losses. Adding to his rap sheet, Skilling signed off on Chewco, a subsidiary of Enron that essentially served as a closet in which the company could stuff any debt it was trying to conceal. When Chewco’s accounting practices were discovered, Enron was forced to adjust the company’s books to reflect $405 million in additional losses; it was the beginning of the end. In May, 2006, Skilling was convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud and making false statements to auditors. He was sentenced to 24 years and four months in prison.

7. John Rigas
> Company: Adelphia
> Current status of the company: Paying creditors before dissolving

In 2002, John Rigas was forced out of his position as CEO of cable provider Adelphia after being indicted of securities, bank, and wire fraud. Six other executives were also charged in the incident, including his two sons, Timothy and Michael. It became apparent during the trial that Rigas and his sons had used corporate funds for personal expenses. They had also concealed several billion dollars in owed loans. In 2003, a year after the incident began, Adelphia was still a member of the Fortune 500 companies. By 2006, the scandal had finally caught up with it, and the corporation had spiraled into bankruptcy as a direct result of the scandal. Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, and is scheduled to be released in 2018.

8. Dennis Kozlowski
> Company: Tyco
> Current status of the company: Still active

In 2002, CEO Dennis Kozlowski and chief financial officer Mark H. Swartz, were accused of illegally siphoning off roughly $600 million from Tyco (NYSE: TYC). Kozlowski is mostly famous for his unabashed opulent spending of the monies he stole, shelling out for $6,000 shower curtains, expensive artworks and lavish corporate parties. He also threw private parties at the company’s expense, including a Sardinia bash that included ice sculptures and a performance by Jimmy Buffett. Kozlowski was charged for receiving bonuses he claimed were paid at the direction of Tyco’s board of directors. A judge disagreed and in June, 2005, convicted Kozlowski of theft. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of eight years and four months and a maximum of 25 years.

9. Sanjay Kumar
> Company: Computer Associates
> Current status of the company: Still active, renamed

Sanjay Kumar, former CEO of Computer Associates, led a $2.2 billion fraud at the company almost entirely via cooking the books. He and his fellow execs utilized sometimes comically simple tactics such backdating contracts and adding an extra week to the financial reporting period — “the 35-day month.” Kumar escaped prosecution for more than five years. His fraud started before 2000, but it was not until 2006 that he was finally indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and securities fraud. He was convicted and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.

10. Martha Stewart
> Company: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
> Current status of the company: Still active

Implicated in the ImClone insider trading scandal, former Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) CEO Martha Stewart is the most famous entry on this list. Stewart’s troubles began Christmas Day, 2001. That is when Samuel D. Waksal, CEO of ImClone Systems, found out that the company’s experimental cancer drug Erbitux had been denied Food and Drug Administration approval. Waksal passed the information to friends and family, including his broker, Peter Bacanovic. He, in turn, tipped off Stewart, who dumped her shares before the news became public knowledge. Stewart was charged and ultimately convicted — not of insider trading, but of perjury. She was sentenced in July, 2004, to five months prison time and two years probation.

-Michael B. Sauter, Ashley C. Allen, Adam H. Poltrack