Scott Yeager, one of the finest human beings to ever walk the planet, was set free on October 20, 2009. The Fifth Circuit basically told the Government to go fuck themselves by clearing all the counts against Yeager. So basically after eight years, how many millions of dollars in lawyer fees, and the cost of passing up eight years of other business opportunities, the man can finally breathe.
It is interesting how the real milestones of life have a tendency to avoid the pomp and circumstance allotted to relatively unimportant things. Graduation from various generally indistinguishable steps of a fairly continuous educational process are celebrated with the fervor that only worthless things seem to provide, but the real changes sit in the corner, and are often only realized after the fact. I honestly believe that Yeager’s victory is one of those deeply profound events whose full impact may not be realized for years. His victory is not just about him – a fact evidenced by his victory at the Supreme Court, which law students will study and absorb and hopefully propagate as working attorneys, to preserve the sanctity of collateral estoppel. It’s not even about Enron. Yeager vs. USA is the turning point when businessmen finally stopped being victimized by the government. In the future, we will recognize Yeager as the first American businessman to successfully fight back against prosecutorial abuse that has become shamefully casual in this country.
It is my hope (and belief) that the Nigerian Barge case, and the Skilling case, will benefit, if only tangentially, from Yeager’s victory. The Nigerian Barge case, on the facts, actually has a lot in common with Skilling as they both involve “honest services”. But the larger implication is that in all three cases – Nigerian Barges, Skilling and Yeager – the government believed that because it was the government, it had the right to trample people, ruin people’s lives, bankrupt them, humiliate them, pressure them, and break them, in order to create a public perception that they were making progress.
And the public is not innocent in this. When Enron collapsed, the public was outraged. They wanted scalps, and did not care to hear any explanations, much less any defendant exert their innocence. The public wanted somebody – Daddy Government – to come in and spank the bad guys. Shame on the masses. Shame on them for making cretins like John Kroger and Andy Weismann necessary. Shame on them for being reactive instead of thoughtful.
The public, even now, wails with outrage (is it faux outrage? I honestly don’t know) when any white collar defendant is accused of a crime. The first cure for that outrage is simply examining the facts. Look at the record. Look at what Scott Yeager actually did, not what the government said he did. One example of this that amused me at the same time it infuriated me was a stupid little nothing event in which the government put on the stand some asshole to testify about Yeager’s calendar. Yeager did not know the guy, did not share his daily agenda with him, or anything like that. But this guy testified that Yeager had called for some meeting or something. When Yeager actually testified, he explained that the document in question, showing that he had “called the meeting” was written in his Lotus Notes calendar, and when you write in an event, the program automatically made you “Chair” of the event. Scott didn’t call the meeting. It’s a silly, stupid example, but the entire case was built on crap like this. Scott Yeager didn’t fucking call the meeting! The record shows that. And the record also shows he didn’t trade on inside information. It shows that Joe Hirko (bless him) was acting ethically when he signed off on that Warpspeed press release. It shows that Rex Shelby was correct when he said that the BOS was working – but that no software is complete “until it’s obsolete.”
The men were telling the truth. The record proves it.
Jeff Skilling was telling the truth, too. You know, there’s a weird little theory the government had that Scott Yeager was actually the puppetmaster, controlling Jeff Skilling. It’s preposterous, but I swear, that’s the government theory. Well, it’s sort of ironic that Yeager the “puppetmaster” has cleared the way at the Supreme Court for Jeff Skilling. There’s a certain poetry in that.
Scott Yeager is not an ordinary man. He would probably say he is, but he’s not. He’s an extraordinary individual, a man of such strength that we should all try to be more like him.
I’m so happy that he’s free now. It is good for him, good for the other Enron cases, and it is good for America.