AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Paying piper for public pillaging
By Al Lewis, Columnist
Denver Post
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dennis Kozlowski, former CEO of Tyco International, says a fury sent him to prison for being rich.

"I am a guy sitting in a courtroom making $100 million a year," the 60-year-old felon said on "60 Minutes" on Sunday evening.  "And I think a juror sitting there just would have to say, 'All that money?  He must have done something wrong.' I think ... it's as simple as that."

Here in Denver, there's another guy on trial for making $100 million a year.

Each morning, former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio faces a jury not of his peers but of 18 people who will collectively make considerably less in their entire lives.

One thing Nacchio has going for himself as he battles 42 counts of illegal insider trading is that he's not the symbol of excess that Kozlowski became.

"Oink, oink," screamed a 2002 New York Post headline when prosecutors accused Kozlowski and an associate of using their company "as a personal piggy bank" and looting about $600 million.

Kozlowski showed up for court each day with his second wife, Karen, who was a waitress on Ron's Beach House when Kozlowski met her in the 1990s.

Nacchio comes to court not with a trophy blond but with his wife, Anne, who looks like a sensible and concerned mother from New Jersey.

Nacchio's money is equally unobtrusive.  Unlike Kozlowski, Nacchio is not known for buying $10 million worth of Renoirs and Monets and evading the sales taxes.  Sure, Nacchio has mansions in New Jersey and Florida.  But these properties have not garnered nearly the attention of Tyco's $19 million Manhattan apartment with its $6,000 shower curtain.

(Note:  The next 13 short paragraphs are reviewing the Kozlowski case.  If you want to read it, use the URL key at the end of this piece.  PK)

At least Nacchio's attorneys don't have to explain $6,000 shower curtains.  Unlike Kozlowski's money, Nacchio's money remains an abstraction in the courtroom, just numbers on a chart.

In the end, though, I don't think it matters.  Juries are not out to felonize the rich.  It's not about how indicted executives spent their money.  It's about how they make it.

Al Lewis' column appears Sunday, Tuesdays and Fridays.  Respond to him at denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-954-1967 or alewis@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/allewis