Archive for Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Ex-Tyco executives face retrial

Former leaders accused of bilking $600 million from company

January 18, 2005


— Two top Tyco International executives accused of looting $600 million of company money to finance lavish lifestyles go on trial today for a second time.

The executives' first trial, which lasted six months, was aborted last year after a menacing letter and telephone call to a juror. Prosecutors plan to present a leaner, shorter case this time around.

In the retrial, prosecutors are expected to focus less on items like former Tyco head L. Dennis Kozlowski's $6,000 gold-threaded shower curtain, and more on how he and co-defendant Mark Swartz allegedly looted the company.

The defendants each face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

In the first trial, prosecutors gave jurors a videotaped look at the $2 million birthday party that Kozlowski, Tyco's former chairman and chief executive officer, threw for his wife on a Mediterranean island, and a video tour through his $18 million Fifth Avenue apartment.

Jurors were told Kozlowski spent some $11 million of Tyco's money to furnish the apartment. The furnishings included a $2,900 set of hangers, a $4,995 custom-made blue-and-gold bedskirt, and a $2,665 blue velvet pillow.

And those were the little things.

The jurors also saw a Persian rug, 20 feet by 16 feet, that cost $191,250, a walnut clock that set Tyco back $113,750, and a pair of French antique stools, bought for $125,000.

The prosecutors' videotapes, which included scenes shot aboard Kozlowski's yacht, Endeavour, sometimes made the proceedings seem more like an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" than a larceny trial.

Prosecutors said at the time that the extravagances demonstrated the defendants' greed and showed where some of the money they allegedly stole ended up.

While the prosecutors have refused to say how they might pare the evidence at the retrial, which they expect to last about four months, legal experts say they should avoid paying too much attention to the defendants' spending.

John Coffee, a Columbia University Law School professor who specializes in white-collar crime, said after the first trial that prosecutors "could maybe put their case on an extreme diet and, 'Keep it simple, stupid.'"

Kozlowski, 58, and Swartz, 44, the company's former finance chief, are charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records, conspiracy and business law violations.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.