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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Government welcomes Enron verdict
Kenneth Lay
Men like Mr Lay prompted Congress to pass new laws
The US government has been quick to welcome the guilty verdicts in the trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.

"The message of today's verdict is simple," deputy attorney general Paul McNulty told reporters on Thursday.

"Our criminal laws will be enforced just as vigorously against corporate executives as against street criminals. No-one... is above the law," he said.

The government had set up a special task force to investigate Enron.

The guilty verdicts handed down on Thursday cap nearly five years of work by that taskforce, which Mr McNulty said had involved the FBI, the country's stockmarket watchdog SEC, and the Internal Revenue Service.

The spectacular collapse of Enron put thousands of people out of work and erased tens of billions of dollars in market value.

Ongoing fight

It was part of a string of corporate scandals that forced Congress to pass a new law, known as Sarbanes-Oxley, designed to hold executives to account for corporate misbehaviour.

This verdict encourages us to continue to combat corruption wherever we find it
Paul McNulty,
Deputy attorney general

Congressman Michael Oxley, a co-sponsor of the law, welcomed the decision reached in Houston.

"The jury's verdicts help to close a notorious chapter in the history of America's publicly traded companies," he said.

"At the same time today, I remember those who have suffered great economic loss. Today's news should encourage them as they continue to rebuild their financial security."

His words echoed those of Mr McNulty at the Justice Department, who said the government had pursued the case against Mr Lay and Mr Skilling "because we care about the victims of corporate fraud", both employees and investors.

"This verdict encourages us to continue to combat corruption wherever we find it," he added.

The government has had a series of high-profile successes in prosecuting corporate executives from Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom to lifestyle maven Martha Stewart.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the message should be unmistakeable: "The administration has been pretty clear there is no tolerance for corporate corruption."


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