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At 4:49 p.m., the jury in the Joseph Nacchio trial rendered its verdict — guilty on 19 of 42 counts on insider trading.
The guilty verdicts cover sales of 1.33 million shares in April and May 2001 with gross proceeds of $52 million. Nacchio was acquitted on the other 23 counts of the 42-count indictment. Nacchio faces a fine of up to $1 million on each count and up to 10 years in prison.
The counts Nacchio was acquitted on cover the periods January through March, 2001. Over the Government’s objection, Nacchio was released on bond pending sentencing, set for July 27. The Government had wanted him on an ankle bracelet but Judge Nottingham said he wasn’t a flight risk. U.S. Attorney Troy Eid had this to say after the verdict:
“To anyone who’s ever made a call from Qwest service territory…the term ‘convicted felon Joe Nacchio’ has a very nice ring to it,” U.S. attorney Troy Eid said in a press conference outside the courtroom. “The jury has spoken. Make no mistake, my friend. This is an overwhelming determination of guilt. Nineteen counts. Each count carries up to 10 years in federal prison.”
Update: The Monday morning quarterbacking begins. Now that I’ve had a chance to digest the news and see what counts he was convicted of, I don’t agree with those who say Nacchio taking the stand would have made a difference.
It’s clear from Herb Stern’s comments that Judge Nottingham wasn’t going to allow Nacchio to testify about secret government contracts. That’s the area where he could have most effectively disputed the government’s allegations. The defense only put on a few witnesses because after the Judge’s rulings, they were limited in what they could bring out. The jury, in rejecting the Government’s charges before April, 2001, didn’t buy several of the Government’s arguments, particularly the one that he backdated a document. Clearly, April, 2001 was a turning point for them. That’s when the Government’s witnesses, such as Greg Casey, testified Qwest had “drained the pond” of one time transactions, a point prosecutor Colleen Conry made over and over in closing. Witnesses testified that if Qwest didn’t make its numbers by April, it probably wouldn’t be able to recover by the end of the year. And there was testimony that Nacchio didn’t think this should be shared with analysts. If you look at the dates and quantities of stock Nacchio sold in the Indictment, there was a clear jump in April, 2001. Whereas in February and March, his stock sales were of 11,500 shares, in April they jumped to 350,000 and 300,000 shares. The verdict signifies that the jury could believe Nacchio was optimistic about the company in the first quarter of 2001, but not after that. Beginning in April, they found, his sales were based in significant part on material non-public information — information that Qwest wasn’t going to meet its targets — and that he acted with an intent to defraud. The most critical issue for Nacchio now is how to convince Judge Nottingham to grant him bond pending appeal. That’s going to be a tough sell.