NEW YORK – Jurors began deliberations Thursday on whether two former top executives at Tyco International Ltd. (TYC) "systemically looted" $150 million from the company's coffers over four years.
Former Chief Executive Dennis Kozlowski (search), 58, and Mark Swartz (search), 44, the conglomerate's former finance chief, are on trial for the second time in New York State Supreme Court on charges including grand larceny, securities fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy.
The first trial ended in a mistrial last year. The case is one of a series of recent government prosecutions aimed at convicting former corporate chieftains of alleged boardroom wrongdoings.
The two defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top count of grand larceny.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors contend that Kozlowski, who was known as "Deal-a-Day-Dennis (search)" for his aggressive acquisition strategy at Tyco, and Swartz misused company funds, hid unauthorized bonuses and abused company loan programs to buy yachts, jewelry and real estate.
After receiving lengthy instructions from Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus, the jury of six men and six women began deliberations on the 31-count indictment. The judge told the jury that "you've not been asked to make an assessment about corporate America, or to make a judgment about anyone's lifestyle or send a message."
The judge also told jurors the verdict was not to be based on whether they thought it would be popular or not and it was not up to them to make any decisions about punishment.
"That is not your concern and is fixed by the court of law," he said.
Prosecutors contend there is no evidence that millions of dollars in payments to Kozlowski and Swartz were authorized by the company. Kozlowski said his former mentor, Phil Hampton, who died of cancer in 2001, was the only director who knew of the payments.
"That story is not worthy of your belief," prosecutor Owen Heimer told jurors last week. "The story is ludicrous."
Defense lawyers had argued during closing remarks that Tyco's other former board directors had "selective" memories when they testified about events at Tyco to protect themselves from pending lawsuits by stockholders.
The first trial ended in a mistrial in April 2004 when a juror received a threatening letter and phone call after her name was printed by some news organizations during deliberations. According to some courtroom observers, she also gave an "OK" signal to the defense.
That juror, Ruth Jordan, sat in the audience Thursday near members of Kozlowski's family. During the judge's instructions, she took notes on a yellow pad.
During the trial, which began Jan. 18, the jury listened to 27 witnesses -- 25 called by prosecutors and two defense witnesses, Kozlowski and Swartz, who testified on their own behalf.
Before reaching a verdict, jurors can ask to have more than 16,000 pages of trial transcript read back to them and can pour over 860 exhibits.