It's now official. The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a lawsuit against Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest Communications International alleging fraud and other securities violations.
The SEC alleges that under the leadership of Nacchio, Qwest engaged in a complex scheme to improperly record more than $3 billion in revenue and exclude some $17.3 million in expenses in its quarterly reports from 1999 to 2002. The agency wants Nacchio and the other top executives named in the suit to return any fraudulently obtained profits, with interest.
I think this sounds like a terrific idea. In fact, I think it's a much better idea than sending these executives to some federal prison, where they spend their days strolling around the lush green grounds, befriending fellow inmates, who crochet ponchos for them.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Joseph Nacchio scrubbing toilets, alongside buddies Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, who was recently convicted of fraud, and Ken Lay Enron's ex-CEO, who is still awaiting his criminal trial. But just look at Martha Stewart; she's turned her prison experience into a photo opportunity to re-brand her image. Is that what prison is supposed to be about?
I think it's far more punishing for white collar criminals like Nacchio, Ebbers, and Lay to sell their fancy houses and overpriced cars to repay the thousands of investors who lost millions of dollars as a result of their greed. And if they're still short a few hundred million dollars, they should be forced to work for minimum wage as cashiers at a local Wal-Mart to pay off the rest of their debt. This is exactly what thousands of their former employees were forced to do when they needed cash to pay their bills after their savings were wiped out and their unemployment benefits ran out.
Now that would be justice.