Honest Services

The estimable Tom Kirkendall, of the blog “Houston’s Clear Thinkers,” performs a useful chore today: Reminding us how large a part the press played in the “Great Houston Rich-Hunt” that brought down Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, and many others. (Kirkendall’s own Enron client, the company’s post-Fastow CFO, Jeffrey McMahon, was never criminally charged.)
Kirkendall mentions, in particular, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, although it has, over the years, been the single least culpable voice in the media when it comes to business prosecutions—and in many cases it has done splendid work in opposing them. Thus, its apology the other day to Conrad Black was both the most expected and the least truly needed:
The Black and Skilling cases are precisely the kind involving high-profile, unsympathetic defendants in which willful prosecutors like Mr. Fitzgerald are inclined to abuse the honest services law. They know the media won't write about the legal complexities, and they know juries are often inclined to find a rich CEO guilty of something. We regret that in the case of Mr. Black, that failure of media oversight included us.
I mentioned the other day that Timothy Sandefur of Pacific Research Institute and Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute filed an amicus brief in the Skilling case, but I failed to provide a link. Here is it .
The Gulf Spill
Lawrence Solomon of Canada’s Financial Post has a must-read article on the BP spill, called “The Avertible Catastrophe.” In it, he compares the American response to the Gulf spill with the Dutch response to oil spills--and what they could have done to mitigate the Gulf spill had their offers of assistance been accepted.
Here is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal on measuring the size of oil spills . Anyone listening to the chattering classes knows that many accuse BP of having systematically underestimated the extent of the Gulf spill, while others offer precise comparisons between the Deepwater Horizon spill and those of Ixtoc 1 and the ExxonValdez. As the Journal article points out, the figures calculated for those earlier spills are highly inexact, even long after the fact.


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