Samuel Insull (1859-1938), an English-born American public utilities financier who became a symbol of corporate greed and corruption during the Great Depression. Insull arrived in the United States in 1881 and was employed as a secretary by Thomas Alva Edison. By 1889, he had risen to Vice-President of General Electric, but resigned a few years later to become President of the Chicago Edison Company. By 1912, Insull had formed a mammoth interlocking directorate that operated over 300 steam plants, almost 200 hydroelectric-generating plants, and numerous other power plants throughout the United States. He is credited with discovering that by combining electric companies, he could take advantage of economies of scale and reduce costs, and helped form the basis for electric utility regulation by states. Insull is blamed by some for deepening the Depression when his holding company structure collapsed. He was charged with mail fraud, embezzlement, and violation of the Bankruptcy Act, spurring him to flee to Greece, which did not have an extradition treaty with the United States. However, he eventually returned to the United States where he was exonerated on all charges.
Innovators: Samuel Insull (PBS Online)