Stuart Wolff, the founder and former CEO of online real-estate listings company Homestore Inc., was found guilty Thursday of insider trading, lying to company accountants and federal regulators, and conspiracy in a scheme to defraud investors by inflating revenues.
The information-technology industry attracted a lot of disreputable characters during the delirious, hype-fueled 90s, and we’re still paying the price — one way or another — for the amorality, excesses, greed, and hubris that characterized the worst of that period.
It appears that Mr. Wolff will pay a price, one that might entail as many as 35 years in prison, for his sins. He is appealing the verdict, but his chances of avoiding the slammer are not good.
I have no sympathy for people who defraud shareholders, including their own employees, or who deceive and lie in a bid to boost their already spectacular personal fortunes at the expense of others.
I also wonder about the board members and VC investors in Homestore. What was their fiduciary responsibility, ethically and legally, and did they do all in their power to check and prevent abuses perpetrated by the company’s executives?
Let’s hope some lessons were learned.