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Unshakeable Scoundrels

5:55 PM -- "What I did was reprehensible, and it is not easy to look at yourself and to recognize that about yourself and to admit it. And it took me a long time to do that, and some days -- some days it's still hard to do that. I've destroyed my life. All I can do is try to take what's left, ask forgiveness, and be the best person I can be."

That was not Dick Cheney speaking but Andrew Fastow, during his four-day testimony in the trial of his former bosses at Enron, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Fastow's mea culpa is quoted today in a feature by Fortune's Bethany McLean, who broke the Enron-as-house-of-cards story, and Peter Elkind.

Like obnoxious dinner guests who refuse to go home, Fastow and another character from the bubble days, former Credit Suisse First Banker investment banker Frank Quattrone, were both in the news today. Fastow, having completed his part in the Lay-Skilling trial, seemed "shrunken, gray, and much older than his 44 years," write McLean and Elkind, and he now gets banished to the gulag for several years and airbrushed like a Stalin-era commissar from the pages of history.

Quattrone, meanwhile, may have gotten off scot-free. His conviction on charges of obstruction of justice and witness tampering was tossed out by a federal appeals court. Since one trial has already resulted in a mistrial and the second in a verdict rejected on appeal, the government may just say to hell with it.

Quattrone's alleged crimes were nowhere near those of Fastow's, much less those Lay and Skilling are charged with. He was one of the Wall Street types who led the cheering section for vaporous Internet companies, but all the prosecutors could tag him with was one line in an email telling colleagues it was "time to clean up those files."

If he was a third-rate crook, though, Quattrone, with his boastful manner and his bespoke suits, always seemed like a first-rate jerk. Today's decision may give him the leeway to bestride the technology stage again. Here's hoping he agrees to a plea deal that allows him to avoid jail time while pledging never, ever to appear on CNN, CNBC, or Fox again.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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