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The Supreme Court says whistleblower protections in a federal law passed in response to the Enron financial scandal apply broadly to employees of publicly traded companies and contractors hired by the companies.

The justices ruled 6-3 Tuesday in favor of two former employees of companies that administer the Fidelity family of mutual funds. The workers claimed they faced retaliation after they reported allegations of fraud affecting Fidelity funds.

The case involved the reach of a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in 2002 in response to the Enron scandal, that protects whistleblower activity. The measure was intended to protect people who expose the kind of corporate misdeeds that arose at Enron.



The Supreme Court looked back Tuesday at the collapse of energy giant Enron to determine who is protected from retaliation after blowing the whistle on a company's misdeeds.

The justices heard arguments in an appeal brought by two former employees of companies that run the Fidelity family of mutual funds. The workers claimed they faced retaliation after they reported allegations of fraud affecting Fidelity funds.

They argue that a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in 2002 in response to the Enron scandal, protects their whistle-blower activity.

But the court spent most of an hour Tuesday discussing Enron's bankruptcy in 2001 amid startling revelations that its top executives manipulated the company's earnings and stock price by lying to employees and investors about Enron's financial health.

The scandal also took down the Arthur Andersen accounting firm that failed to uncover efforts by Enron to hide its debts among spinoffs it created with "Star Wars"-inspired names like Chewco and Jedi.

Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents relating to its audit of Enron, though the Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2005.

In 2002, Congress responded to scandals at Enron and other companies by passing the Sarbanes-Oxley law.



A federal appeals court has tossed out the conviction of a former Republican leader of the New York Senate.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the conviction of Joseph Bruno.

He was convicted in 2009 of denying taxpayers honest services by concealing a deal with a business associate who paid him as a consultant.

It was expected that the 2nd Circuit would reverse the conviction after the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled in the case of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. The Supreme Court found that federal statutes used to fight white-collar and public official fraud only criminalize schemes with proof of bribes or kickbacks.

The 2nd Circuit agreed to return the case to the lower court in Albany, where prosecutors can seek a superseding indictment.


The husband of a former fugitive who spent more than two years in Mexico following her conviction in Ohio in a $1.9 billion corporate fraud has agreed to plead guilty to lying to investigators about her whereabouts, according to documents made public Friday.

U.S. marshals say their search for Rebecca Parrett was hurt by false information they received from Gary Green in 2008 and 2009.

Green is expected to receive a five-month prison sentence followed by five months of house arrest, federal public defender Steve Nolder said Friday.

"Obviously the statements he made were false and had direct impact on the government's case," Nolder said. "In that regard, there's no getting around the charge."

But Nolder said Green, now living with his daughter in Los Angeles, eventually cooperated with investigators after he was charged and gave them information that allowed them to seize assets of Parrett.

The tentative sentence is on par with the six-month sentence that Parrett's sister, Linda Case, received in July 2010 for lying to federal investigators searching for Parrett.

Parrett was arrested in Mexico last year, more than two years after she fled the country rather than appear for her sentencing in a corporate fraud case investigators likened to the Enron or WorldCom scandals.

Parrett had disappeared in March 2008 after she was convicted of securities fraud, wire fraud and other charges in a scheme at health care financing company National Century Financial Enterprises.


President Barack Obama's top lawyer at the White House is resigning to return to private practice and represent Obama as his personal attorney and as general counsel to Obama's re-election campaign.

Bob Bauer will be replaced by his top deputy, Kathy Ruemmler, a former assistant U.S. attorney best known as lead prosecutor in the Enron fraud case.

The move means that Bauer, 59, will still play a central but outside role in advising a president who is seeking re-election in a time of divided government.

Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Ruemmler will take over the job as Obama's top in-house counsel and manager of a White House law office charged with juggling the domestic, national security and congressional oversight challenges confronting the president.

In a statement, Obama praised Bauer as a friend with exceptional judgment who will remain a close advisor. As to his new White House-based counsel, Obama said: "Kathy is an outstanding lawyer with impeccable judgment. Together, Bob and Kathy have led the White House Counsel's office, and Kathy will assure that it continues to successfully manage its wide variety of responsibilities."

Bauer has been part of Obama's circle since Obama was a freshmen senator in Washington, and now returns to the campaign counsel role he had when Obama ran in 2008. He has long been a go-to lawyer for Democrats on matters of political law and is married to Anita Dunn, a Democratic communications operative who formerly worked in Obama's White House.

Bauer will leave his White House post at the end of June. In a style typifying the low-key nature of transitions in the counsel's office, the news came in the form of a press release.


Andrew Fastow, the mastermind behind financial schemes that doomed Enron Corp., returned to Houston this week to serve the remainder of his six-year sentence at a halfway house, a federal prison official said Wednesday.

Fastow, 49, joined another former Enron executive who is also serving part of his sentence at the halfway house. A third ex-Enron executive who had also been at the halfway house left a day after Fastow arrived, said Chris Burke, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

On Monday, Fastow left a federal prison in Pollock, La., where he had served most of his prison sentence, and later that day he reported to the halfway house.

Burke said he could not name the halfway house but added there is only one such facility in Houston, located only a few blocks away from Minute Maid Park, the downtown ballpark of the Houston Astros that was originally named Enron Field.

Attorneys for Fastow did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

Fastow's wife, Lea Weingarten, and the couple's two sons still live in Houston. Weingarten, who served a year in prison for helping her husband hide ill-gotten income from his Enron schemes, now works as an art adviser and curator. She did not immediately return a telephone call or email seeking comment.

Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest company, crumbled into bankruptcy in December 2001 after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable. The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.



A federal appeals court has ordered two executives convicted in a $1.9 billion corporate fraud case to be resentenced.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Wednesday the government hadn't proved Donald Ayers and Roger Faulkenberry were guilty of money laundering. Their convictions of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud remain in place.

Faulkenberry is serving 10 years in prison, and Ayers is serving 15 years. They were convicted in 2008 with four other top executives from National Century Financial Enterprises, a Columbus health care financing company. Federal prosecutors likened the case to the Enron scandal.

The court said the government didn't prove that advances Faulkenberry and Ayers made to medical companies were designed to conceal the money's source.


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