When Helen Sharkey was hired as an accountant in 1996 by Dynegy—an up-and-coming energy trading company in Houston—she had no idea the job would ultimately lead to 28 days in a maximum-security federal prison. But that’s exactly what happened.
At the age of 28, Helen was the lowest-level employee on a $300 million structured finance transaction team called Project Alpha. Little did she know, Dynegy was following in the footsteps of Enron. Soon, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation of Project Alpha, followed by criminal charges brought by the Justice Department against three employees, including Helen.
In August 2003, Helen pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Today, Helen speaks about her experiences with brutal honesty and not a trace of self-pity. She talks about her excitement when she landed her “dream job” at Dynegy, only to be followed by dismay when she began to doubt the ethics of what they were doing and, ultimately, her complete loss of faith in the company. She details her gut-wrenching fear when she realized that the Justice Department was targeting her, her struggle with the decision to plead guilty, the shame of being branded a felon and her time behind bars. She talks about her mistakes frankly, yet also delivers a message of hope: even when things are at their darkest, never lose sight of the light at the end. Follow it and believe.