Break the Law, Earn $200K

Sometimes you find story ideas in the weirdest places. That's what happened to me this weekend, when during a family outing to the mall I came across a deck of cards called "Shareholders Most Wanted." Intrigued, I bought a pack and inspected it, looking for the usual suspects.

Not long after, I spied a story from Sunday's The New York Times that uncovered how former corporate crooks are sought after on the lecture circuit, with one, Walter Pavlo, poised to make nearly $200,000 for telling others about his malfeasance.

Pavlo, formerly senior manager of collections for MCI (Nasdaq: MCIA  ) , was convicted of wire fraud and money laundering and spent a year and a half in jail. Can you imagine what former MCI WorldCom head, Bernard Ebbers, the ace of diamonds in the "Shareholders Most Wanted" deck, might earn? If the case against former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan, the king of spades, is any indication, the conspiracy case against Ebbers could land him in a luxury vacation resort for at least 25 years, surrounded by stewards with stun guns.

Think about that for a second. If Ebbers gets 25 years, and Pavlo, who doesn't even make the deck yet expects $5,000 per speaking engagement, gets one and a half years, then does Ebbers collect upward of $83,000 per talk if he gets convicted? How about Jeffrey Skilling, aka the jack of clubs, who could be put away for 325 years if convicted for a role in Enron's scam to defraud the average Jane and Joe. Would he get more than $1.5 million each time he told his story? Here are some other estimates based on potential time in prison:

Name and title Card Potential jail time Projected speaking fees
Dennis Kozlowski, CEO, Tyco (NYSE: TYC  ) Ace of clubs At least 25 years $83,000 per engagement
Andrew Fastow, CFO, Enron King of diamonds 10 years $33,000 per engagement
John Rigas, CEO, Adelphia Communications Queen of diamonds At least 15 years $50,000 per engagement
Martha Stewart, CEO, Martha Stewart Living (NYSE: MSO  ) Five of diamonds As much as 20 years $67,000 per engagement


What does it all add up to? Perhaps watching felons yammer away nowadays satisfies our car-wreck-like fascination with business and the stock market. But whatever the reason, this ongoing carnival of freaks will be interesting to watch.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers thinks that the "Shareholders Most Wanted" deck is funny, but that it might have been better to have Martha as the queen of diamonds. Tim owns no stake in any of the companies mentioned, and you can view his Fool profile here.


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