The guilty plea of Michael Kopper to wire-fraud conspiracy and money-laundering charges is an important victory for prosecutors and for justice. The cooperation of the former Enron finance executive will assist the prosecution of other wrongdoers at Enron and shows Americans that justice, if not swift, at least will not be unduly delayed or denied.
Kopper has agreed to surrender to the government $12 million in ill-gotten gains and could receive stiff fines and a stretch in prison. The money taken from Kopper cannot make Enron’s investors, creditors and innocent employees whole, but its surrender tells others tempted to commit corporate fraud that crime doesn’t pay as well as they might suppose.
Kopper is not a small fry in this case. He was at the heart of the phony partnerships that started the collapse that bankrupted one of the world’s largest companies. In a federal court in Houston Wednesday, Kopper implicated his former boss, Andrew Fastow, Enron’s chief financial officer.
Michael Ramsey, an attorney representing Ken Lay, Enron’s fallen chairman, said his client was very interested in Kopper’s plea, as well he might be. However, even if federal prosecutors do a creditable job of bringing justice to all the Enron crooks, the lingering scandal might turn out to be how much corporate looting by executives and company directors was found to be legal.