November 11, 2002
The states get into the act

In addition to all of the federal indictment-chasing, the West Coast states are also pursuing legal action against Enron and its evildoers. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is especially gung-ho:

The effort by the office of state Attorney General Bill Lockyer is probably the largest. The Energy Task Force has filed at least 70 legal actions before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state and federal courts in an attempt to recover billions of dollars it alleges was bilked from California ratepayers by energy companies.

The largest action asks the FERC to refund $8.9 billion to California ratepayers.

Lockyer made it clear long before evidence turned up implicating Enron that he wanted to prosecute Ken Lay, then the company chairman.

"I would love to personally escort Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, `Hi, my name is Spike, honey,' " Lockyer told the Wall Street Journal.

Okay, much as I want to see Kenny Boy doing the perp walk, even I think that's tasteless. Besides, we all know that he'd be doing time in a Club Fed anyway.

Oregon and Washington are also in the act. The various state actions are somewhat of a headache for FERC:

The investigations are complicated by a strain between the FERC and the California agencies, who have accused the federal agency of being slow to act.

"We have to give everybody due process," FERC spokesman Bryan Lee said in response.

Spokesmen for the energy industry praise the FERC, but call the state investigations useless and a damper on the state's business climate.

"I would say 99 percent of it right now is driven by politicians," said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of the Independent Energy Producers.

Actually, I just quoted that bit because I think "Smutny-Jones" is an excellent name.

Speaking of Kenny Boy, he provided a bit of unintentional comedy at a lunch honoring businessman Jack Blanton (scroll down). At each of the tables was a booklet on corporate governance. One of the chapters in the booklet was entitled "What should a CEO expect from the board of directors?", and its author was none other than Ken Lay:

"The responsibility of our board -- a responsibility which I expect them to fulfill -- is to ensure legal and ethical conduct by the company and by everyone in the company," Lay wrote. "That requirement does not exist by happenstance. It is the most important thing we expect from board members."

The 80-page booklet was given to all at the lunch where Blanton received the "Ethical Leadership in Action" award from the University of St. Thomas' Center for Business Ethics.

Those might have seemed like reasonable words coming from Lay when he wrote them -- in 1999 -- but now?

"I look at it as kind of providing a historic document," said event organizer H. Ken DeDominicis, a St. Thomas vice president. The booklet contained lectures from a business ethics conference at the school.

So, was Lay practicing what he preached as chairman of the board? In hindsight, it appears not.

Indeed. I'll bet those booklets become quite the collector's item, too. If any of them turn up on e-Bay, please let me know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 11, 2002 to Enronarama | TrackBack