No, he won't be going to jail. But Healthsouth's former CEO Richard Scrushy won't be getting off scot free either for accounting fraud. He's getting justice of a sort.
He was "acquitted" of CRIMINAL liability in this matter by a jury of his peers. That is to say, he was not found "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
But he was convicted of CIVIL liability. That requires a much lower standard of proof, a preponderance of evidence, or what we call the 51% standard. People seem to believe that he probably committed fraud, but possbly not.
The judge found damages to be $2.9 billion, and imposed that fine on Scushy. That's probably more than he can pay. More to the point, the judge ordered Scrushy's PENSION to be forfeited. He will live out his days as a poor man.
Some would say that Richard Scrushy, like Bernie Ebbers,belongs behind bars. That would be the ulimate sentence.
But that's missing the point. People like Ebbers and Scrushy lived to live large. Forcing them to live out their days in "poverty" is heavy punishment for such people. Getting them behind bars (as in the case of Ebbers) is just icing on the cake.
Here's a cause for the plaintiff's bar. Now that the Scrushy case has provided a template, they should go back and sue all the lying CEOs that cost their shareholders money. Because there were too many people that stood just inside the letter of the law, and outside its spirit. Take them before a jury of their peers as "the conscience of the community" and claw back all their ill-gotten gains."
It's nice to put someone like Bernie Ebbers away. But it's far better to convict 1,000 CEOs of civil fraud than one of criminal fraud. That would be real punishment.