[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday reversed the convictions [opinion text, PDF] of four former Merrill Lynch [corporate website] executives found guilty in connection with an Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] Nigerian barge scam. The Fifth Circuit overturned conspiracy and wire fraud convictions [JURIST report] for James Brown, William Fuhs, Daniel Bayly and Robert Furst [JURIST reports] "on the legal ground that the government's theory of fraud relating to the deprivation of honest services — one of three theories of fraud charged in the Indictment — is flawed." The four defendants appealed their convictions, arguing that there were problems with the jury instructions and the government's theory of criminal liability, as well as a deprivation of honest services. The court, however, ruled only on the deprivation of Enron's intangible right to honest services of employees argument, finding that the four executives had acted for the benefit of Enron and not to benefit themselves personally.
The court did, however, uphold a perjury and obstruction of justice conviction against Brown. A fifth executive convicted in the scandal, Daniel Boyle, did not appeal his conviction. AP has more. The Houston Chronicle has additional coverage.