Is this really the time to give a “get-out-of-jail-free” card to corporate chiefs who can’t resist fraudulently dipping into the honey pot of riches that they have access to? I mean we’re still unraveling (and paying for) the massive frauds perpetrated by the banksters at AIG, Goldman Sachs and their Wall Street cronies and shills in Washington. I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Supreme Court is in on it too, but the timing shows a particularly callous disregard for public sentiment. Report from the Los Angeles Times:
A Supreme Court ruling Thursday dealt a severe blow to legislation meant to fight public corruption and also could affect the recent convictions of former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling and former newspaper magnate Conrad Black.
In ruling on “honest-services fraud,” the justices said Skilling and Black were wrongly convicted on that charge. All nine justices agreed that such fraud was too vague to constitute a crime unless a bribe or kickback was involved. But both men were convicted on other charges, and the Supreme Court sent their cases back to lower courts for further proceedings .
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich currently is being tried on multiple charges of corruption, including depriving the public of honest services.
Over the last two decades, the law against honest-services fraud has been used routinely in cases in which public officials or corporate executives have been accused of secretly scheming to benefit themselves at the expense of the public or their stockholders.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the court, said the law “criminalizes only schemes to defraud that involve bribes or kickbacks.” It does not cover, for example, the case of public official who fails to disclose a possible conflict of interest.
In the cases of Skilling and Black, “we express no opinion on the question of whether the error” in their trials “was ultimately harmless but leave that matter for consideration on remand,” Ginsburg said.
Although the majority of justices agreed to narrow the law to cover only schemes where a public official or corporate executive enriched himself or herself at the expense of the public or the shareholders, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas would have gone further and struck down the law entirely, even when bribes or kickbacks were involved…
[continues in the Los Angeles Times]