January 23, 2006
Enron employee ambivalence

From the Sunday Chron: Mixed feelings from former Enron employees regarding the upcoming trials of Jeff Skilling and Kenny Boy Lay.

Some former employees harbor more sympathy for Lay, who was widely regarded as a fatherly figure in Enron's halcyon days, than for Skilling, the whip-smart and hard-charging Harvard MBA.

Tracey Michel spent six years in Enron's information-technology department and has always seen Lay as undeserving of the charges the federal government brought against him, though she adds that "might be naive."

"But if they do find them guilty, I hope they serve time," she said of both men.

Michel, though, keeps in touch with a number of former colleagues and said many remain bitter.

"The majority feeling is they're guilty and they're going to get them, especially with Rick Causey now folding," she said of Enron's former accounting chief who recently reached a plea deal. "Plus, just the plea bargain with (former chief financial officer) Andy Fastow, they must have some information — definitely something for Skilling, if not Ken Lay."

Skilling still does have fans, although some don't feel they can be public about it.

One former Enron employee questions what standard is being used to call Skilling "one of the bad guys."

"Where's the $6,000 shower curtain? Where's the $15,000 umbrella stand? This wasn't Tyco. These guys didn't enrich themselves in that way," the ex-worker said of Lay and Skilling.

Fastow, he said, was enriching himself on the side, "but he gets a deal."

Rod Jordan, who founded the Severed Enron Employee Coalition to support employees and retirees in efforts to recover money they lost, said he talks to former workers often. Their feelings on the upcoming trial vary.

"There's a few that I've talked to before that are still very interested, and there's some that don't want to hear about it," Jordan said. "They're more interested in, 'Are we going to get any money out of the class actions?' "

Meanwhile Tom highlights what the Skilling/Lay defense will look like.

Four years of investigations and intense news coverage have made Enron a synonym for fraud and sleaze. But when the trial of former top executives Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay begins Jan. 30, defense lawyers will make a bold argument: Everything their company did was legal.

That ought to at least keep things interesting, unlike the techno-snoozefest that was the Broadband trial. We'll see how it plays out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2006 to Enronarama | TrackBack

Everything their company did was legal.

If that argument held up, it might be a good thing for Lay and Skilling. How would it play out for society? Depends. Does the public just yawn or is there some sort of backlash against it being legal for a company to manipulate prices on energy the way Enron did in California? Do we get new, tougher laws to make it harder to cook books and mislead investors? Is there a difference between how Lay and Skilling treated the investment community and how George and Dick treated the US over the case for war?

Or, it can just all get ignored. I'm not holding my breath waiting for people to see what connects to what.

Posted by: Michael on January 23, 2006 10:10 AM

Has anyone seen the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room? I heard it completely captures the scandal and shows the outrageousness of what Enron was trying to pull off.

Posted by: K on January 23, 2006 11:59 AM