May 26, 2006
After the verdict
So it's been a day now since Jeff Skilling and Kenny Boy Lay were convicted on multiple felony counts related to Enron's collapse and death. As you might expect, the Chron has wall-to-wall coverage of the verdict and reaction to it. I'll leave that to you to read; there's not much I can reasonably add to all that, but I will note that it's all pretty much favorable to the prosecution, as you might expect after they nearly ran the table. For an opposing view, I recommend Tom Kirkendall. I can't say I generally agree with Tom here, but he's been the best at presenting an alternative perspective on the matter. Read what he says and come to your own conclusion.
There is one thing I do want to address, and that's this.
If you want a date to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush Era in American life, you may as well make it this one: May 25, 2006. The Enron jury in Houston didn’t just put the wood to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The jurors took a chain saw to the moral claims of the Texas-based corporate culture that had helped fuel the rise to power of President George W. Bush.
Hogwash. Enron ceased being about Bush in any non-meaningless sense in 2002. That's when this was supposed to have been a political liability for him. Lord knows I certainly fell for the idea
that it would be. (Consider that another item in the Why I Should Never Make Predictions file.) I seem to recall another issue coming to the forefront in 2002 that pushed Enron off the stage and will much more clearly define the "Bush Era" for years to come. Right or wrong, most people decided a long time ago that Enron and Bush were at best tangentially related.
This trial and this verdict were about the misdeeds of two CEOs. I may not have been following the testimony obsessively, but I read enough to know that their politics and former connections weren't even a subtext. It was about what they did and what they should have done. A nice parallel to the Bush Administration, sure, but that's about it. TAPPED is right - this is gratuitous piling on to Bush by a previously deferential media now that he's down and isn't about to get back up. Not that I object to that per se, but let's just say that some of this attitude might have been nice a little earlier than now.
Anyway. Houstonist has even more reading, if all those Chron links weren't enough. And of course, we can't begin to move on from this until we know what the cats think about the verdicts.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 26, 2006 to Enronarama
A reporter saw ATC and then asked me what I thought.
I replied with something like "Apparently, the press cares what any asshole with three cats and a domain name thinks."
Oh, and the Chronicle lost a space in Erica's name while losing a year.
It was very odd trial.
Generally, I think juries do a pretty good job sorting things out, even if they do it for the wrong reasons. They hear all the testimony so it is hard to lob grenades from the sidelines when you didn't sit through it all.
That being said, here are some things that bothered me a little about the trial:
1. I am not sure that the jury wasn't swayed to be biased against the ginormous wealth of the defendants. Sure seemed like the prosecution did a lot of gratutitous class warfare in the evidence they put in. And a lot of that came out of the jury comments.
2. I would have been interested to hear the testimony of the Enron employees who would have testified for the defense if they had immunity. No sane person would testify without that protection. If most of the witnesses that were "in the loop" are ones cooperating with the guv at threat of more PMITA prison time, well then, you know what sort of testimony you are gonna hear.
3. I am not sure I understood the jurors reasoning from what was stated in the paper. Of course, that is fairly limited.
4. This case is an illustration of why most defendants should not testify unless it is absolutely necessary. A talented prosecutor make even the most intelligent person look bad--I'm thinking of the stuff in the paper about how the prosecutor prided himself in finding tangential stuff that Lay wouldn't have prepared to answer in order to fluster him.
I am guessing the worst part of this trial is what it means to corporate America. There are already lots of hoops to jump through, and corporate America tends to overreact to these sorts of cases.
I am guessing communications to employees and shareholders from CEOs is going to be extremely scripted and limited. As it was, the Lay stuff was scripted and he still got pounded for saying it because he did sales on the side that were legal not to reveal. Yikes. Nothing like relying on your attorneys and accountants and your speech writers and then going to the pokey for the rest of your life.
I don't know. It is just interesting to think of where CEOs are now supposed to draw the line between public and private information. How candid do they need to be about stuff? Do they have to disclose beyond what is required by SEC documents and federal laws?