James A. Brown didn't act like a guilty man eight years ago when federal authorities contacted the Merrill Lynch executive during the early days of their Enron Corp. investigation.
Unlike some colleagues at the securities firm who didn't talk, Mr. Brown spent hours answering questions. "I figured that as long as I told the truth I couldn't get into trouble," he says.
Still, he was convicted in 2004 of perjury, obstruction of justice, fraud and conspiracy. Mr. Brown went from minor-hero status for objecting inside Merrill to a suspicious Enron deal involving barges off the coast of Nigeria, to facing three decades in prison. His career was destroyed, and he spent 12 months in prison before an appeals court reversed part of the conviction.
The 58-year-old Mr. Brown has always maintained his innocence. In September, the Justice Department dropped the fraud and conspiracy charges only days before a scheduled retrial. Mr. Brown, still fighting his perjury and obstruction convictions, recently gave The Wall Street Journal his first interview about the legal ordeal.
Mr. Brown's retelling of his part in the corporate scandal comes as federal investigators sift through the rubble of the financial crisis for possible crimes. Much of the nitty-gritty of such investigative work involves little-known figures of the corporate world like Mr. Brown, who often are snared by prosecutors hoping to nab higher-ranking executives.Read Full Story