Dennis Kozlowski, the ex-chief of Tyco International Ltd. (TYC) , jailed in an upstate New York prison on a conviction of defrauding Tyco of $600 million through illegal compensation and the sale of artificially inflated stock, tells Fortune’s David Kaplan that while he admits of being a “piggy” and exercising bad judgment on how he used the company he built from a backwater manufacturer with a market cap of $1.5 billion into an industrial conglomerate worth more than $100 billion, he doesn’t deserve to be where he is.
Kozlowski is most famous for the way he spent $6,000 on a gilded shower curtain for his Fifth Avenue apartment, and for throwing a $2.1 million Sardinian birthday party for his ex wife — complete with roman gladiators , an ice sculpture of Michaelangelo’s David peeing Stolichnaya and a birthday cake shaped like a naked woman with sparklers lit from her breasts.
“I was piggy,” Kozlowski says. “I had bad judgment. But I don’t deserve to be here.”
“He has a point. If avarice alone were grounds for incarceration, much of Wall Street would be doing time. Those who destroyed AIG (AIG) or Lehman or Bear Stearns would now be sharing cellblock apples and pears with Kozlowski, a point not lost on the most infamous miscreant in the New York state pokey. “It’s galling,” he says.
“He is the embodiment of an earlier epoch of corporate greed and personal profligacy, circa a decade ago. Yet along with WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers and Jeffrey Skilling — serving their own long sentences — Kozlowski now looks like small fry in the sea of financial shenanigans. The question is whether that makes him a template for prosecutors today or a scapegoat deserving retrospective leniency. I would suggest the latter.” [emphasis added]
Kozlowski was sent to prison for 8 to 25 years for his sins. He was fined $70 million and ordered to pay tens of millions more in restitution. He has already served four years and has a new appeal pending, this time before a federal judge in Manhattan; the government’s papers are due Nov. 30.
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In days gone by America was seen by the rest of the world as a shining light; a land of compassion, caring, forgiveness and second chances – a land admirably able to use the talents and ingenuity of its gifted citizens to uplift and improve the lives of less able fellow Americans. How did this once great nation become so bent on revenge that it now has the highest prison population in the world? Even China, with four times America’s population and often criticised for its human rights record, has fewer prisoners. Resourceful, innovative American leaders of the past would have insisted that a man like Dennis Kozlowski utilise his God given intellect in work amongst underprivileged Americans to help change and improve lives, rather than perpetuating the current lose-lose situation which keeps him unproductive in prison – at great cost to the economically ailing State of New York!