News > Companies
Waksal gets 7-plus years
Former ImClone chief becomes first ex-CEO sentenced to jail in recent wave of corporate scandals.
June 10, 2003: 5:37 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Ex-ImClone Systems CEO Samuel Waksal, who once dreamed of developing a blockbuster cancer drug, was sentenced to just over seven years in prison and ordered to pay $4.3 million Tuesday for his role in an insider trading scandal.

Waksal, right, arrives at federal court Tuesday.

The 55-year-old scientist and businessman -- who became well known on the social circuits in New York and Washington as his wealth grew -- became the first chief executive sentenced as a result of the scandals that have rocked corporate America over the last two years.

In imposing the 87-month sentence, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley said Waksal's crimes were "emblematic of a pattern of lawlessness and arrogance."

"You abused your position of trust as the chief executive officer of a major corporation and undermined the public's confidence in the integrity of the capital markets, then you tried to lie your way out of it," the judge said.

Waksal could have gotten 75 years if sentenced to the maximum penalty for all counts consecutively. The concurrent sentence was in line with federal sentencing guidelines. He won't be eligible for parole.

Waksal made no comment as he hurriedly left the courthouse.

graphic graphic graphic
Samuel Waksal, former ImClone Systems CEO, was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison and ordered to pay a fine and restitution. CNNfn's Chris Huntington reports.

Play video
(Real or Windows Media)

Waksal pleaded guilty last October to insider trading charges in a scandal that ensnared his friend Martha Stewart, who was indicted by a federal grand jury just last week. Waksal asked the court for leniency at a hearing Tuesday morning, while federal prosecutors had sought an even stiffer punishment.

In addition to a $3 million fine, he was ordered to pay about $1.3 million to the New York State Tax Commission for improperly avoiding sales tax on art work he purchased. He will also be subject to supervision for three years after his release from prison.

"We are satisfied with the sentence, which shows that corporate crooks will serve real jail time," U.S. Attorney Jim Comey said a statement. "But there are no winners in a case like this. Sam Waksal ruined his own life and the financial lives of many innocent investors."

Waksal is under house arrest until he reports to jail on July 2 and will wear an electronic bracelet until then. Waksal's lawyer asked he be sent to Eglin Federal Prison Camp, a minimum security prison in the Florida panhandle where former shoe executive Steve Madden is serving time for money laundering and stock manipulation. But the corrections department will determine where Waksal serves out his sentence.

'Great remorse'

Waksal tried to sell ImClone (IMCLE: up $0.84 to $36.30, Research, Estimates) stock and tipped members of his family to sell their shares before it was announced that the Food and Drug Administration had rejected an application for Erbitux, a new cancer drug the company was developing.

Stewart, who sold almost 4,000 shares of ImClone before the news became public and has denied any wrongdoing, shared the same broker as Waksal. She was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on obstruction of justice charges and faces civil insider trading charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission as well.

How do you feel about the jail time former ImClone CEO Sam Waksal received for insider trading?
  Too much
  Too little

   View results

"I feel great remorse, but I do not feel bitter," Waksal said in court before being sentenced. Audibly choked up, pausing frequently to clear his throat and sighing, he apologized to the judge at one point for the pauses, according to a CNNfn eyewitness. He also apologized to his parents, both Holocaust survivors.

Waksal's attorney, Mark Pomerantz, urged the judge to be lenient, saying the insider trading was a "crime committed essentially as a matter of impulse."

Waksal's plea in October was seen as an effort to shield his family members from legal problems. He also settled related civil charges with the SEC in March by agreeing to pay $800,000 in fines and accepting a ban on being an officer of a public company. (For more on the civil charges, click here.)

Click here for more on the Martha case

The court received numerous letters describing Waksal's good deeds, but they remained under seal Tuesday morning.

Fall from society's heights

From a state dinner at the White House to tennis games with financier Carl Icahn and lavish parties with guests including rock star Mick Jagger, Waksal became a society fixture as he built ImClone into a hot biotech company.

Waksal, who holds a doctorate in immunology, founded ImClone with his brother Harlan in 1984 in an old shoe factory in lower Manhattan. He hoped to develop what he once called "one of the biggest drugs in the history of oncology." Instead, the scandal forced him to resign as chairman and CEO of ImClone in May 2002. (For a timeline, click here).

Ironically, just last week ImClone said it would resubmit its application for Erbitux in the second half of this year after clinical trials showed promising results. Its stock is now trading well above its lows near levels unseen since shortly after the scandal broke in December 2001.  Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to this report.

  More on NEWS
JPMorgan dramatically slashes Tesla's stock price forecast
Greece is finally done with its epic bailout binge
Europe is preparing another crackdown on Big Tech
7 things to know before the bell
SoftBank and Toyota want driverless cars to change the world
Aston Martin falls 5% in its London IPO

graphic graphic