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Ebbers and Fastow, two names from the corporate fraud scandals of the late 1990s, are in the news again. Bernard Ebbers drove a Mercedes through the gates of the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, today to being a 25 year sentence for his role in WorldCom's $11 billion accounting fraud.
And Andrew Fastow, the former chief financial officer at Enron, was in court to ask for leniency. Fastow faced up to 10 years following a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. The judge sentenced Fastow to six years.
From Houston, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.
WADE GOODWYN: It was an odd and emotional scene this morning in U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt's courtroom. Three years ago, Andrew Fastow competed with Enron's former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, for the title of the most despised man in Houston. But today, not a single person showed up to oppose Fastow's request for leniency.
Instead, there was a chorus of voices all saying the same thing, that Andrew Fastow had profoundly changed. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Heuston, one of the Enron prosecution team's top lawyers, told Hoyt that the government now believes it could not have won a conviction of Enron's two top executives, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, without Fastow's help.
Mr. Fastow's decision to cooperate allowed us to take the jury inside the company's executive suites, Heuston said. The prosecutor told the judge that in his 13 years as a federal prosecutor, he'd never seen anyone undergo such an extensive transformation. But it was not only grateful federal prosecutors who stepped up to the plate.
Now that the criminal trials are over, Fastow has begun helping the lawyers who represent Enron's investors, who lost billions of dollars. They're suing the banks which allegedly conspired with Enron to make bank loans appear as corporate profits by concocting sham transactions. Chris Patti(ph) represents thousands of employees in the California university system.
Mr. CHRIS PATTY (Attorney, California university system): This was the banks actually working hand in glove with Enron management to accomplish joint ends, which was to make Enron's financial statements look better to the investing public than they should.
GOODWYN: Patti told Judge Hoyt that Fastow was irreplaceable to their case. In the same way that the former CFO took prosecutors inside Enron's executive suites, he was taking investigators inside his meetings with Citigroup, Chase, Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch.
Mr. PATTY: Well, we're not here to say that Andy Fastow shouldn't have gotten any prison time or was blameless, but what we were telling the court is that he is going to be a very valuable piece of the efforts of the victims to get compensation in this case and the court should recognize that. And I believe the court did.
GOODWYN: When if was Fastow's turn, he wept as he apologized to Enron's employees, its investors and his family. I'm ashamed of what I did. I wish I could undo what I did at Enron but I can't. He said he would accept whatever sentence that was imposed without bitterness.
Judge Kenneth Hoyt told Fastow that he'd been drunk on the wine of greed. But he said Fastow had become a scapegoat for Enron's sins and that his family had suffered acutely. After he was sentenced, Fastow was allowed a few seconds to hug his deeply distraught wife and then was lead away by federal marshals.
Wade Goodwin, NPR News, Houston.
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