Helen Sharkey

Helen Sharkey is an accountant who was hired in 1996 by Dynegy – an up-and-coming energy trading company in Houston. At the age of 28, Helen was the lowest-level employee on a $300 million 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. These charges resulted in Helen serving 28 days in a maximum-security federal prison.

In August 2003, Helen pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. She speaks about her experience, from her excitement when she landed her “dream job” at Dynegy, to the dismay she felt as she began to doubt the ethics of what they were doing, and, ultimately, her complete loss of faith in the company. She vividly communicates to audiences her gut-wrenching fear when she realized that she was being targeted by the Justice Department and her struggle to plead guilty, coupled with the shame of being branded a felon and serving time behind bars.

Helen speaks with brutal honesty about her mistakes while delivering a message of hope: even when things are at their darkest, never lose sight of the light at the end. Audience members call her presentation “both very inspiring and chilling” and “very powerful”.

Low Man on The Totem Pole: How I Became a White Collar Criminal

Your story was riveting. You delivered it perfectly. Looking forward to hearing it again!


It was a powerful experience listening to your story. Thanks for sharing and for all that it took for you to reach the point where you could stand before an audience and speak.

Professor Stephen Arbogast | University of Houston

Outstanding speaker. Real-world experience and consequences -- brave lady.


Compelling, amazing story, eye-opening and a little scary.


Very powerful presentation. I felt privileged to hear her story. Thanks for giving us this opportunity.


Very inspiring and chilling…appreciate the heads up on how careful we need to be.


Truly enjoyed this presentation, extremely interesting and moving. I have never been to any discussion, much less one at lunch, where no one spoke, stirred or left. Truly excellent.


Wonderful to hear Helen’s story, this was one of the most inspiring stories I have heard at a CPE event. Thank you for that.

Audience members | Houston TSCPA CFO/Controller’s Conference