I can’t make a pun out of the words “Skilling” and “Black”

I was trying to – it was going to be along the lines of the Pots Calling Kettles Black, but with Skilling (Skillet, see? Eh? Eh?). It wouldn’t work. And I don’t see how making puns out of the name of a man doing 25 years in gaol is particularly kind.

What brings the two together is an article in today’s Guardian, ostensiby about Jeffrey Skilling, but actually about Conrad Black.

I almost posted something about Conrad Black a while ago but, to cut a long story short, Donald Trump didn’t go to Chicago.

Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, has completed his first 6 months in gaol. With 23 years, 10 months left to serve. That isn’t why Andrew Clark drew attention to him (maybe Andrew Clark is a dick, but I’ll assume for the moment that he is not).

Conrad Black, former Peer of the House of Lords, former CEO of then Hollinger International (former many things), is on trial for racketeering, obstruction of justice, money laundering and wire fraud (Patrick Fitzgerald filed the charges, by the by). Americans, by and large, do not know Conrad Black – which always amuses me.

On to the point: As Andrew Clark discusses, there’s an odd comparison/difference in the cases of Conrad Black and Ken Lay/Jeffrey Skilling, although Black is facing similar punishment. Black’s defense council has been demanding to see where the victims of his fraud are – who lost their jobs, their pensions, their health care, etc.? There are none – Black’s behaviour cost Hollinger share-holders a little bit apiece. The company lives on. Skilling and Lay cost their shareholders everything.

However, the crimes of Skilling and Lay could reasonably be supposed to have been undertaken in order to save the company (in an “I can win it back!” sense, sure, but nevertheless). Their fraud was massive, but their motives could have been more benign than we are given to believe. Not so with Conrad Black. He wasn’t covering up over-valued stocks, he was paying his wife and himself a tonne of money, throwing birthday parties for his wife, getting nice apartments, etc.. There was nothing benign about it.

There will probably be no problem with conviction, but this makes sentencing interesting – will Conrad Black get a lighter sentence than Jeffrey Skilling because he didn’t hurt as many people as badly? Should we draw parallels between attempted murder and manslaughter? As Sideshow Bob complained, they don’t give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?


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