Orin E. Atkins, the former chairman of Ashland Oil Inc., was sentenced Friday to probation and community service for trying to sell confidential company documents to Iran.
U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight of Manhattan said that although he felt Atkins had committed a serious crime, he decided prison time was not warranted because Atkins cooperated with prosecutors and agreed to pay restitution to Ashland.
The restitution settlement, announced in court by Ashland attorney John C. Elam, calls for Atkins to forgo more than $2 million in consulting fees and pension benefits and repay $250,000.
Haight sentenced Atkins to two years’ probation and 600 hours of community service. The judge imposed no additional fine, citing Atkins’ diminished finances.
Atkins, 66, of North Palm Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty in September, 1989, to conspiracy and wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with the government.
He had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Atkins admitted that after he resigned as chairman in 1981 but remained as a paid Ashland consultant, he obtained confidential documents involving the company’s decision not to pay the National Iranian Oil Co. for $283 million in crude oil purchased in 1979.
The company said it withheld payment because of a trade ban on Iran that the United States imposed following the taking of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November, 1979.
Atkins and others involved in the scheme offered to sell the documents to the Iranian company for use in a possible lawsuit against Ashland over its non-payment.
The documents were offered at various times for $20 million or a 25% contingency fee.
While the Iranians never bought the documents, they later sued Ashland and last year obtained a $325-million settlement, which with interest was worth more than $500 million.
In a statement to the court before sentencing, Atkins described the embarrassment and anguish his acts caused his family and friends.
“I have no excuses for my actions other than I think anger or some resentment obviously short-circuited my brain,” Atkins said.