24/7 Wall Street: Earlier this week, Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of the now-defunct British tabloid News of the World, was arrested on conspiracy to pervert the court of justice. The case against Brooks and the phone hacking scandal is an exception to the usual story of CEOs that end up in prison. Most of their corporate wrongdoings generally involve corruption, insider trading and fraud. Given the difference, 24/7 Wall St. identified the top 10 CEOs that went to prison.
The kinds of crimes these executives commit generally fall into one of two categories. In the first case, CEOs mean to profit directly from their actions, including offenses such as insider trading and embezzlement. Examples of this include Tyco’s CEO Dennis Kozlowski and Adelphia’s CEO Jonathan Rigas, who each stole millions of dollars from their companies.
In most other cases of executive white-collar crime, however, CEOs are not stealing directly from their companies. Instead, they are trying to ensure the safety of their jobs by promoting the appearance of success of their companies through fraud, false accounting and bribery, among others. In seven of the 10 cases, executives inflated company profits or failed to represent gains or liabilities. In nearly every case, the CEO was in league with other executives, many of whom also charged and convicted.
The irony is that while these corporate leaders were trying to make their companies look better, they usually succeeded only in putting them through a period of severe financial hardship, as was the case with Rite Aid. In several cases, such as Adelphia and Enron, the financial revelations were so severe, causing total bankruptcy. In a few cases, Tyco for example, the company continued to perform well, despite the crimes.