Apr 242007
 
Authors: Sean Reed

I’d like to offer up a big round of applause for U.S. laws – even if it takes four years to enforce them properly.

Yes, that’s right. Finally, after three years of investigation, Joe Nacchio was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading and will likely go to prison after he is sentenced on July 27.

As it stands, he faces a maximum of 190 years in prison, but according to the Denver Post, he is more likely to receive between 10 and 15 years. Currently, his attorney is planning on filing an appeal, but it isn’t likely to make much of a difference.

In addition to earning a free ride to Club Fed, which is considerably less fun than it was in the 80s, old Joe could also be facing up to $19 million in legal fees on top of a $52 million forfeiture order. The same Post report estimates that most of the latter fines will go to pay back shareholders who lost money because of his trades between April and May 2001.

However, this is only what he faces in criminal court. In a civil law suit, former shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission have filed a $216 million lawsuit. Joey boy should feel lucky, though – he could be held liable for three times as much.

My only hope is that he doesn’t have enough cash in the bank to pay the piper. If he can’t pay up, the government will seize and auction off his property piece by piece.

If this happens, Nacchio will get to walk a mile in the shoes of the employees who lost their cars, homes, or even their ability to buy groceries because of his greed.

Rather than jail time, the loss of his wealth is really the proper punishment. Gandhi may have famously quipped, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but then again, if a businessman took away his ability to make bread, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal; it’s not like he ate that much anyway.

Unfortunately, more often than not, they get neither. Usually a mid-level patsy takes the fall for the Thief Executive Officer. Even when the head guys do get taken down, somebody lower takes the bullet first. Tom Hall was one of these fall guys.

This poor man was prosecuted in a stock fraud case for apparently falsifying documents overestimating Quest’s revenue – thereby inflating stock prices. According to yet another Denver Post report, he supposedly did this to line his own pockets, but seeing as he never profited from his stock, instead losing his retirement and savings defending himself, I think it is far more likely Hall was merely doing as he was told by the higher ups.

I do the same thing at work. If a manager tells me to jump, I don’t ask them why. I just do it. Then again, my bosses aren’t dishonest sleaze bags.

Instead of wasting time on these poor suckers, prosecutors should focus on the Joe Nacchios of the world that push them to break the law.

High profile prosecutions like Nacchio’s are a step in the right direction.

These people need to be taught that just because they have money and good lawyers, they are still subject to the law, and if they choose to flout the rules, they will be treated the same as any other lowlife crook.

Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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