Remember Dennis Kozlowski?
He’s the former Tyco CEO now in prison for looting hundreds of millions of dollars from the company he built up.
Kozlowski is most famous for the way he spent: a $31 million Fifth Avenue apartment; $6,000 shower curtains; and a Tyco-funded Roman-orgy birthday party in Sardinia for his wife that cost $2 million (the extravaganza featured an ice sculpture of David peeing Stolichnaya).
That greedy lifestyle was prominent in his conviction; Kozlowski is now serving eight to 25 years for it.
“I was piggy,” Kozlowski tells Fortune’s David Kaplan for a new profile from prison. “I had bad judgment. But I don’t deserve to be here.”
Kaplan agrees, making this contrarian argument:
He has a point. If avarice alone were grounds for incarceration, much of Wall Street would be doing time. Those who destroyed 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.
Here’s Kozlowski on today’s white-collar crime scandals:
CNNMoney.com VideoHere’s Kozlowski on prison life: