The dealings of former Westar executive David Wittig bring to mind the adage "pride goeth before the fall."
The arrogance that Wittig and his co-defendant Douglas Lake displayed as they looted Westar Energy sickens many Kansans. The two were convicted in September of defrauding Westar, falsifying records, circumventing internal controls and money laundering. In sentencing Wittig and Lake this week, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson declared their crimes were worse than those committed at Enron.
The sentences Wittig and Lake received - 18 years and 15 years, respectively - may seem too lenient to some, but they are far harsher than sentences in many white-collar crimes. Although Judge Robinson didn't hand down the life prison sentences recommended by the U.S. Probation Office, she decried the pair's "unbridled" greed and declared them "flawed individuals" who "need a significant time in prison."
The two have made special requests for where they want to serve their terms, but the judge said those requests are unlikely to be granted. That's fine; these two don't deserve any special favors.
What is, perhaps, more to the point for many observers is to make Wittig and Lake feel some real financial pain for their actions. Even after his conviction, Wittig ignored the terms of his freedom by continuing to make financial transactions without the court's approval, apparently in an attempt to shield his assets from a restitution order.
Wittig has been ordered to pay $14.5 million in restitution and Lake $2.8 million. Both men also face $5 million fines. It's unfortunate that the families of these two men also will suffer, but it seems only right that Wittig and Lake face the same kind of financial ruin they conspired to visit on Westar. Having them suffer financially for a significant period of time seems the best kind of punishment for these men.
It's sad in a way that Wittig chose to use his considerable charm and intellect in such a dishonest and shameful way, but his refusal - or inability - to show any remorse for his behavior makes it difficult to muster up much sympathy.