The prosecution put on its star witness in the Enron Nigerian Barge case yesterday as Michael Kopper testified.
Kopper, 39, calmly and thoughtfully explained that in 1997 he and ex-Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow started to divert funds to themselves, family and friends by breaking laws, breaking internal rules, lying, manipulating and standing in the middle of deals.
Though 14 people have pleaded guilty to crimes in connection with Enron's demise, this is the first time any one of them has publicly discussed the rampant greed and multimillion-dollar plundering in their own words.
Kopper was called to the stand by Enron Task Force prosecutors in the second week of the trial of six former Enron and Merrill Lynch executives charged with conspiracy and fraud in an alleged sham sale of three electricity-generating barges off the coast of Nigeria.
Larry Zweifach, attorney for Merrill Lynch defendant James Brown, asked Kopper if he and Fastow shared the value that they "would always put (their) interests above the interests of Enron and its shareholders?"
Kopper replied, "I'm not sure that that would be my value, but those were my actions, yes."
One thing to note about Kopper:
The former executive has clearly done well financially even while a cooperating witness. He forfeited $8 million to the government as well as his disputed rights to another $4 million. His domestic partner William Dodson did not have to forfeit any of the $9 million pre-tax that he benefited from the frauds.
Kopper said he now has a job at a health clinic, is living in a house worth up to $2 million owned by his partner Dodson, just bought a new home worth $380,000, has a 401(k) worth about $300,000, $100,000 in other assets and could possibly get back some of the $500,000 he has on account with his lawyers.