Join Date: Dec 2005
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Ken Lay & Enron: Trials begin (1.31.2006)
The most important part of the Enron Trials is about to begin. The Enron debacle is probably the worst example of financial crime in history, which makes this trial a very important one.
Financial and other corporate crimes are generally not like street crime. They're not committed by the most impoverished, disadvantaged or weakest people in society. They are crimes committed by the wealthy and powerful, who do it because they are greedy and because traditionally they have always been able to get away with it. It's nice to see that the US is doing something about this (unlike here in Canada), although if there is nothing altruistic about it. If it weren't for the wide coverage this attracted, the public outrage and the decline in investor confidence it's unlikely that anything would have been done...especially since prior to the discovery of the crimes, Bush was a friend of Lay (the Chairman) and campaigned aboard an Enron corporate jet in 2000.
An Enron Jury Free of Grudges? Easy, Judge Says
By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO
and SIMON ROMERO
Published: January 30, 2006
HOUSTON, Jan. 29 — Chances are that in this city's pool of 2.3 million registered voters, there are at least 16 people who are not angry about the implosion of Enron, the largest business collapse in history. But finding them in a single day could be a challenge.
Judge Lake said in court on Thursday that he expected to choose a panel of 12 jurors and 4 alternates from 100 prospective members in one day. After examining responses to the jury questionnaires, Judge Lake indicated that he felt they did not show evidence of prejudice against the defendants. "I've been impressed by the apparent lack of bias or influence from media exposure," he said.
The lawyers defending Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling have contended for months that finding impartial jurors in Houston would be difficult, if not impossible. But the judge has rejected two requests to move the trial outside of Houston, where Enron was based, and has repeatedly denied pleas by the defense lawyers to allow them to question individual jurors during the final selection process, called voir dire.
The defense lawyers say they are deeply troubled by responses to jury questionnaires, which came back with mostly negative comments about Enron and the defendants. Many Houstonians hold a grudge against Enron's leadership for the company's collapse, which directly wiped out more than 4,000 jobs and retirement accounts and sent shock waves through the city's economy.
Edward J. Bronson, a jury consultant from California who was hired by the defense to study the potential juror responses, noted that among 280 questionnaires, "greed" appeared 272 times and "crook" appeared 55 times.
"Someone has to be held accountable for what happened to Enron," Leslie Pierce, a special education teacher, said here on Saturday. "How could these men not have known what was going on? People here will be in an uproar if they are not blamed."
The notion that a judge overseeing something as far-reaching and complex as the Enron trial could pick a jury in a day was assailed by several outside legal experts and jury consultants, who argued that rushing the process could only hurt the chances that Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling would get a fair hearing in Houston.
"To get this done in one day would be a travesty of justice," said Howard Varinsky, an independent jury consultant who worked for the prosecution in the Martha Stewart and Scott Peterson trials.
"About a week would be more appropriate," said Mr. Varinsky, who nevertheless believes Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, is varied and big enough to produce objective jurors for the trial.
Of course, the one-day idea could simply be an effort by Judge Lake, who is known for his efficiency, to establish his authority and inject some urgency into the process. But if he proves to be serious, the defense could well begin a trial that is expected to last up to six months facing an uphill fight to disabuse jurors of any prejudices about Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay. The government has charged Mr. Skilling with 31 counts of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading in connection with Enron's spectacular collapse in December 2001. Mr. Lay is charged with seven counts of fraud and conspiracy.
Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling are reportedly spending more than $20 million on their joint defense. Their lawyers have dedicated considerable resources to the jury issue, hiring pollsters, political scientists, sociologists and jury consultants to study the prospective pool, which began with 400 people. "This is a monumental problem," said Michael Ramsey, Mr. Lay's lead lawyer. "It overshadows all the other problems we have."
Trying in a defendant's hometown a case that involves allegations of corporate corruption is not always a disadvantage. In last year's trial of Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of the HealthSouth Corporation, Mr. Scrushy, who is white, used the hometown venue to his advantage by working to appeal on an emotional level to the predominantly black jury.
Mr. Scrushy joined a black church in Birmingham and was accompanied to the courtroom by groups of black supporters, including pastors from local churches. One of those pastors recently said Mr. Scrushy had paid him and an employee to make public displays of their support.
Even with local hostility, "the courtroom is where you create the level playing field," said Donald V. Watkins, Mr. Scrushy's lead defense lawyer. "It is the forum where you can demonize the government's witnesses and humanize your client." Mr. Watkins said that before the trial, polling in Birmingham showed that more than 90 percent of residents there thought Mr. Scrushy was guilty. In the end, he was acquitted of all charges.
Still, it might be challenging for Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay to turn Houston into an advantage. In the late 1990's Enron was the highest-profile company here, and even Houston's beloved downtown baseball stadium was first named after it. The effects of its collapse were deeply felt.
Moira Barela, a retired high school teacher, said of Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling, "They should throw the book at them." Her negative views about the men were shaped, she said, by watching the documentary "The Smartest Guys in the Room," which was showing at one Houston theater not far from Enron's former headquarters for more than six months. Still, she said, "There are still a lot of very conservative people in Houston who wouldn't think a big corporation could do any wrong."
The level of emotion in Houston was palpable in the pool of prospective jurors, which started out numbering 400 and was culled to 100, mostly through responses to a 76-question form. (If a jury cannot be chosen from the 100 on Monday, a few dozen prospective jurors remain in reserve.)
"In my experience I have never seen the type of vituperative responses and opinions expressed by 80 percent of the large jury panel as are present in this case," said Dick DeGuerin, a Houston defense lawyer, in a filing on behalf of Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling's second request to move the trial.
Mr. Bronson, the defense's jury consultant, said that only 18 jurors among the 280 whose questionnaires he analyzed said they did not harbor negative views about Enron — "hardly a cross section of the Houston community," he said.
Sean M. Berkowitz, the director of the Enron Task Force at the Justice Department, said in a recent filing with the court that the detailed questionnaire provided "safeguards for determining the impartiality of jurors" that "exceed those sought by" Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling. Samantha Martin, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment further.
Mr. Bronson said Judge Lake should allow the lawyers ample time to question the jurors in court on Monday, a recommendation echoed by other outside legal experts. Federal judges like Judge Lake generally question jurors themselves in an effort to explore in greater depth the answers that the jurors have given to written questions, while in state courts lawyers are more involved in the process.
Abraham Abramovsky, a professor of criminal law at Fordham University, said the Enron trial was "a unique case and should be handled as such." He added: "If you want jurors to concentrate and really believe in the presumption of innocence, you have to show them that you really are concerned with prejudices and adverse publicity."
Without the chance to do additional questioning, Mr. Ramsey and Daniel Petrocelli, Mr. Skilling's lead lawyer, may have few options except to try to influence the jurors during the trial.
The defense could opt to hire a "shadow jury" composed of people who closely match the racial and economic profile of the jurors chosen by the court. The shadow jury would monitor the trial from the spectator benches in the courtroom and then be quizzed by consultants on their impressions, without ever knowing if they were working for the defense or for the prosecution. But Mr. Ramsey said he was not in favor of this approach, having been unsatisfied with a shadow jury he used in a high-profile murder case three years ago. "It is a total luxury item that can be misleading," he said.
Some in Houston say that in the end their city will not prove to be a liability for the defense. "This is probably the best place they could have gotten a trial," said Cameo Wachinsky, a film producer, as she walked out of a bookstore here on Saturday. "People are crooked here. This is Texas. They definitely will listen to both sides."
10 Enron Players: Where They Landed After the Fall
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: January 29, 2006
KENNETH L. LAY and his second in command, Jeffrey K. Skilling, were the public faces of Enron, painting a rosy picture of strong profits and healthy businesses. But as the facts began to tumble out, in the fall of 2001, the company swiftly collapsed, taking with it the fortunes and retirement savings of thousands of employees.
While they are probably the best known of the Enron characters, there were many others who played supporting roles. Some have admitted to helping artificially increase profits and hide losses and debts. Others tried to blow the whistle on the deceptions.
Some have moved on to other jobs and new chapters in their lives, while others continue to spend their days mired in their legal fights.
Here are 10 of the major figures and where they are now.
Andrew S. Fastow
The Finance Chief Who Turned to Fraud
Andrew S. Fastow, Enron's chief financial officer, avoided the spotlight, leaving that to Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling.
But Mr. Fastow, who was one of Mr. Skilling's first hires at Enron in 1990, proved his importance to the company in another way: he raised the huge amounts of capital that Enron needed as it moved beyond its roots in the natural gas business to blaze trails as an innovative energy powerhouse.
At the same time, as Mr. Fastow acknowledged in his guilty plea two years ago, he also worked with other senior officers to disguise Enron's deteriorating finances. Specifically, he helped to set up complex off-the-books partnerships that Enron used to avoid disclosing losses. He also used the partnerships, he admitted, to defraud Enron of millions of dollars for his own benefit.
His wife, Lea, a former assistant treasurer at Enron, was also ensnared in the fraud. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax offense in 2004 for failing to report some gains earned from Mr. Fastow's accounting fraud.
As part of his plea, Mr. Fastow, who is now 44, faces 10 years in prison and is cooperating with federal prosecutors. He could be the first major witness at the trial of Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling.
Mr. Fastow and his wife still live in Houston with their two sons. The names of two of the partnerships that Mr. Fastow set up — LJM1 and LJM2 — were the initials of his wife and their sons, Jeffrey and Matthew.
Ben F. Glisan Jr.
From the Inner Circle To a Jail Cell
Ben F. Glisan Jr. joined Enron in 1996 after a brief stint at Arthur Andersen, where he worked primarily on the Enron account. He became part of the inner circle and helped conceive and execute several financing schemes that hid company losses.
Mr. Glisan was appointed corporate treasurer in 2000, a move that Sherron S. Watkins, a former Enron vice president, later described to Congress as "effectively letting the foxes in the henhouse."
Mr. Glisan and Mr. Fastow were among four senior Enron executives who secretly invested in a partnership known as Southampton Place. Mr. Glisan invested $5,800, which returned close to $1 million in a matter of weeks. He later forfeited all of it.
Originally indicted on more than 24 charges of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering, Mr. Glisan pleaded guilty in 2003 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud. He is serving a five-year sentence at a federal penitentiary in Beaumont, Tex.
Although Mr. Glisan's plea carried no obligation to cooperate with government investigators, he testified in 2004 for the prosecution in a criminal case against four former investment bankers at Merrill Lynch and two former Enron executives.
They were charged with conspiring to allow Enron to prop up its profits in late 1999 through a fraudulent sale of some Nigerian electricity barges to Merrill. One former Enron employee was convicted along with the four Merrill executives. Mr. Glisan is on the prosecution's list of potential witnesses in the trial of Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay.
Mr. Glisan grew up and still has a home in Clear Lake, Tex., 30 minutes south of Houston. He received a bachelor's degree and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin. He is married and has two school-age children.
Mark E. Koenig
The Conference Call That Raised Eyebrows
It was an infamous conference call, and Mark E. Koenig had allowed it to happen on his watch. On that day in April 2001, Mr. Koenig, then the director of investor relations at Enron, was managing a call between Enron's executives and Wall Street analysts. Mr. Skilling began by laying out Enron's performance in the first quarter. The company was reporting $425 million in earnings, he said, another banner quarter.
But the call turned tense during an exchange between Mr. Skilling and a hedge fund representative. Mr. Skilling ended the verbal joust by describing, on an open line, the hedge fund man in profane language. (Transcripts of the call can still be found on the Internet.) Something must be awry if Enron's chief executive acted so erratically, Wall Street surmised, and Mr. Koenig, a longtime Enron veteran, had not been able to forestall it.
By August 2004, Mr. Koenig pleaded guilty to a count of aiding and abetting securities fraud, a charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He also settled separate civil charges, paying almost $1.5 million in fines and forfeitures. More important, as he awaits sentencing, Mr. Koenig agreed to cooperate in the case against his former bosses.
This month, Mr. Koenig, who still lives in Houston, made a small change to his plea deal, asserting that it was actually Mr. Skilling, not him, who told analysts in July 2001 that a unit was reorganized for efficiency reasons when, in fact, it was done to conceal losses. Still, Mr. Koenig acknowledged that he had conveyed the same misleading information, as well as other deceptions, to analysts during that turbulent year.
Lou Lung Pai
A Big Stock Seller, With a Taste for Glitter
Lou Lung Pai headed several divisions at Enron, including Enron Energy Services, which sold contracts to provide natural gas and electricity to companies for long periods. Born in Nanjing, China, he emigrated with his parents to the United States when he was 2. He earned a master's degree in economics at the University of Maryland and worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission before joining Enron in 1986.
Regarded by colleagues as prickly, Mr. Pai (pronounced "pie") was also known for running up large bills on the company expense account at strip clubs. His affair with an exotic dancer ended his marriage in 1999, and he sold most of his Enron shares to settle the divorce. Mr. Pai's take, more than $271 million, is the largest of any former Enron employee and has made him the target of several shareholder lawsuits.
Mr. Pai, who resigned from the company six months before it filed for bankruptcy protection, has been questioned by federal prosecutors and S.E.C. investigators but has not been charged with wrongdoing. Through his lawyers, he has said he was not involved in promoting Enron stock and denies knowledge of any illegal, off-the-books accounting. His name appears on a list of potential witnesses for the defense in the trial of Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling.
Mr. Pai married the woman with whom he had the affair, and they live with their daughter in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, where they also have a stable for breeding and training dressage horses. Until he sold it last year, Mr. Pai owned a 77,500-acre ranch in southern Colorado, which was the subject of several lawsuits over access and grazing rights.
Kenneth D. Rice
Consummate Salesman From the Broadband Unit
Kenneth D. Rice held several posts during his 20-year career at Enron, including chief executive of its high-speed Internet unit. Raised on a farm in Broken Bow, Neb., Mr. Rice earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska and an M.B.A. from Creighton University in Omaha.
With his boyish good looks and rakish ways, he was known as a consummate salesman. Mr. Rice raced Ferraris and motorcycles and was a favorite of Mr. Skilling, accompanying him on trips to Patagonia, the Australian Outback and Baja, Mexico.
He was indicted in 2003 on more than 40 charges, including fraud and conspiracy. He and other executives in Enron's broadband division were accused of making misleading statements about the capabilities of the technology and the performance of their division, resulting in an artificial inflation in the value of Enron stock. Mr. Rice then sold the stock at those high prices, the indictment said; he sold 1.2 million shares for more than $76 million. Mr. Rice pleaded guilty in 2004 to one count of securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. The other charges were dropped. The length of his jail term will depend on how helpful he is to government investigators.
He testified at a trial last year against co-workers accused of fraud at Enron's broadband unit. The jury was unable to reach a verdict, and the case is to be retried in September.
Mr. Rice is also expected to testify against Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling. Moreover, Mr. Rice is a defendant in several shareholder lawsuits. With his plea, he agreed to forfeit a vacation home in Telluride, Colo., cars, cash and other property totaling $13.7 million.
He lives in Bellaire, a Houston suburb, with his wife, a pediatrician who was his high school sweetheart. They have four school-age children.
Fostering Some Fun On the Trading Floor
Greg Whalley, Enron's former president, once created a hypothetical futures contract for Popsicles.
After cornering the market from his fellow Enron traders, he arranged for a truckload of real Popsicles to be delivered to the trading floor as "payment" for his fellow traders. The truck broke down along the way, but the Popsicles arrived intact.
In August 2001, after Mr. Skilling left the company, Mr. Lay tapped Mr. Whalley to be the company's president. Weeks later, after he realized the depth of Enron's financial woes, Mr. Whalley fired Mr. Fastow without even waiting for formal approval from the company's board.
Mr. Whalley, 43, did not return phone calls or e-mail messages seeking comment.
Since Enron's collapse, Mr. Whalley has been questioned by federal investigators and sued by investors. He has cooperated with investigators, but the legal cloud over him led a Swiss bank, UBS, to let him go shortly after it acquired Enron's trading operation in 2002.
He later landed at Centaurus Energy, the Houston hedge fund founded by John Arnold, who worked under Mr. Whalley at Enron as a natural gas trader. At Centaurus, he is in charge of developing new trading strategies, said one former Enron manager in the trading operation.
An Andersen Lawyer And Troubling Memos
Nancy Temple must have been an almost irresistible hire to Arthur Andersen. At the time she joined the firm in 2000, it was still dealing with a federal investigation of its audit work for Waste Management. And Ms. Temple, a Harvard Law School graduate and a law partner in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, was a litigator who specialized in issues like accounting liability.
The Waste Management investigation led to a $7 million fine against Andersen in 2001, at the time the biggest penalty ever imposed on an accounting firm.
But it was the accounting firm's relationship with Enron that proved far more costly. Early in 2002, shortly after the energy company collapsed, prosecutors charged Andersen with obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to its audit work for Enron.
The jury hearing the criminal case against Andersen focused on advice that Ms. Temple, 41, gave to David B. Duncan, Andersen's lead partner on the Enron account, in October 2001. The jurors concluded that she had improperly advised that references to Andersen's concerns about Enron's accounting be removed from a memorandum.
Earlier in the case, prosecutors focused on another e-mail message that Ms. Temple sent to Andersen employees that October, this one about the firm's "document retention" policy. Prosecutors contended that the message was a subtle signal to the staff to destroy Enron-related files. Jurors said after the trial that the shredding had not been a major factor in their decision.
Ms. Temple's lawyer, Mark C. Hansen of Kellogg Huber Hansen Todd Evans & Figel in Washington, declined to comment on his client. Ms. Temple, who is married and has an infant son, continues to practice law in Chicago.
JONATHAN D. GLATER
A Global Ambassador, Now Off the Fast Track
Globe-trotting in stiletto heels and a miniskirt, Rebecca Mark was Enron's flashy ambassador abroad. A media darling in the late 1990's, she ran various international business development divisions within the company.
Originally from a small town in Missouri, Ms. Mark was twice listed on Fortune's annual index of the 50 most powerful women in business and was widely reported to have been a rival of Mr. Skilling's to be named chief executive. But she later became the subject of scorn because of bad bets, like a $3 billion investment in a power plant in India, which provoked accusations that Enron had negotiated an unfair deal with the local government.
Ms. Mark was forced to resign in August 2000 when she was chief executive of Azurix, a fledgling and financially shaky Enron water subsidiary. She sold her shares in Enron shortly after she left, receiving $82.5 million.
Last year, Ms. Mark agreed to pay $5.2 million, which was her share of a $13 million settlement with Enron shareholders, although a judge earlier found no impropriety in the millions from her Enron stock sales.
She cooperated with a Senate committee that investigated Enron improprieties in international deals and it is generally thought that she will be a witness in the trial of Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling. But she is not on the government's current witness list, and her lawyer says she has not been subpoenaed.
Now known as Rebecca Mark-Jusbasche, she divides her time between homes in Houston and Telluride, Colo., as well as a ranch near Taos, N.M. She is married to Michael Jusbasche, a businessman who was born in Bolivia.
Sherron S. Watkins
The Whistle-Blower From the Neighborhood
Sherron S. Watkins is remembered for the letter she wrote as a company vice president in August 2001 to Mr. Lay, describing improper accounting practices at Enron. Months later, Enron collapsed. Ms. Watkins's prescient letter, made public in the Congressional investigation into the company's collapse, brought her fame as a corporate whistle-blower.
She has since written a book with Mimi Swartz, a Houston journalist, about Enron's fall, and formed a consulting practice, Sherron Watkins & Company, which advises companies on governance issues. Ms. Watkins also delivers lectures around the country, including one recent talk at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in which she called for an overhaul of corporate ethics rules and enforcement in the United States.
Such recognition might have seemed unlikely for someone who grew up modestly in Tomball, a rural town now on the margins of Houston's sprawl, before attending the University of Texas, Austin, and working as an accountant at Arthur Andersen. In responding to a request for an interview, Ms. Watkins, who is on the witness list for the trial of Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay, said her lawyer had advised her not to speak with reporters at this time.
Vincent J. Kaminski
Sounding the Alarm
But Unable to Prevail
For months before Enron's demise, Vincent J. Kaminski warned superiors that the off-the-books partnerships and side deals engineered by Mr. Fastow were unethical and could bring down the company. As Enron's managing director for research, Mr. Kaminski was responsible for quantitative modeling to assist the energy traders and other parts of the business.
Mr. Kaminski's disgust with Mr. Fastow's deals eventually exploded into an internal war with Enron's global finance department in the fall of 2001. As his anger mounted, he refused to sign off on documents related to the partnerships known as the Raptors that Mr. Fastow had created, and he instructed his team of internal Enron consultants to refuse to do any work for the finance department.
His efforts fell on deaf ears. Earlier, in March 2001, he went to Mr. Glisan, the company's treasurer, and presented a report from a midlevel analyst saying that Mr. Fastow's deals had created a threat to Enron's survival, in part because of stock price "triggers" that would require bank loans to be repaid if Enron's credit rating was downgraded and the stock price fell.
Mr. Kaminski, who was born in Poland, trained as an economist and has a business degree, stayed at Enron until early 2002. Afterward, he found many companies eager to hire him. He remained in the energy industry, working first at the Citadel Investment Group, a hedge fund based in Chicago, and later at Sempra Energy and Reliant Energy.
Last March, Mr. Kaminski, 57, landed at Citigroup, where he conducts quantitative modeling for the bank's trading operation based in Houston. He also teaches at the business school of Rice University and has been a contributing writer and editor of books on energy risk management and energy trading.
Mr. Kaminski is well known in the energy industry for his loyalty to the brainy minds he often recruited from top universities worldwide. As Enron was collapsing, Mr. Kaminski helped all 50 of his former research staff members find jobs elsewhere.