Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Persecution of Ken Lay

Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron, goes on trial next month for fraud and conspiracy relating to the collapse of the one-time energy giant. Yesterday, he previewed his defense strategy in front of a crowd of 500 of Houston's business leaders. The Houston Chronicle reports that his defense strategy is to excoriate the prosecutors, blame Andy Fastow and rally the dispossessed to his side:
Just a month before his Jan. 17 federal trial on seven conspiracy and fraud charges, the former Enron chairman drew polite applause with his address titled "Guilty, Until Proven Innocent," in part a call to arms to Enron employees to defend the honor of the company and Lay himself.
That's right. Ken Lay is calling on his former employees to rally to his side. Lay's speech prompted a sarcastic review from Houston Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy:
"It will only take a few brave individuals who are willing to stand up and say it's time for the truth to come out. Either we proclaim the truth about Enron and its employees in this trial, or our friends, neighbors, potential employers and others will continue to believe that Enron was a criminal enterprise. ... If we don't speak out, don't testify to the truth, don't let the light shine in, we will live the rest of our lives under this cloud — a cloud that covers all the good works and deeds that each of us accomplished."
Cue the patriotic music.
"Either we stand up now and prove that Enron was a real company, a substantial company, an honest company ... or we will leave this horrific legacy shaped by others for someone else to sort out."
Actually Kenny Boy, you were in charge. Your legacy includes the $60 billion in market value that evaporated in sixteen months, the 5,000 employees put out on the street and the $800 million in pensions that they lost.
But in case those former employees don't heed his call to rise up against the U.S. Justice Department, the
Washington Post reports that Lay and his fellow defendants have one more argument straight out of the former energy exec excuse file: 9/11 changed everything:
Lay, Skilling and Causey are preparing to argue that the Houston energy company was a fundamentally sound business. The firm, they say, was felled by a crisis of liquidity after trading partners lost confidence after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the bursting of the technology bubble.
(Photo: AP)


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