In the US, Jeffrey Skilling, former Chief Executive of Enron, currently serving a 24 year prison sentence for conspiracy and fraud, has commenced his appeal against his conviction. Skilling maintains that the statute under which he was convicted, the honest services law, is so vague as to be unconstitutional. The law makes it a crime for public offi cials or other individuals to deprive others of the ‘intangible right to honest services’.
Skilling’s lawyers argue that prosecutors are using the law to criminalise a business failure. Adam Hoffi nger, of Washington law fi rm Morrison & Foerster, is reported to have said that the law was ‘the most brazen and obvious attempt to criminalise behaviour that may be bad, but that would not otherwise be considered criminal’. A decision is expected next month. Should Skilling’s appeal be successful, it would pave the way for others convicted under the law, including Lord Black, former owner of the Daily Telegraph, to mount appeals.