I’m very excited that my friend, referred to here as Whatshisname or Anonymous, has agreed to answer some questions about his experience at Enron for the public record. However, because he is still in a somewhat compromised position, he can not yet reveal his name. Other identifying details, including his business unit, have been obscured. Without that information, any discussion of the allegations at Enron are useless. However, I still believe this question and answer exchange can be valuable for background information.
CARA ELLISON: Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions. I’d like to start with some background. I’ll focus on the so-called conspiracy period between 1999 and 2001. What was the general financial condition of the company in 1999?
ANONYMOUS: Enron was strong in 1999.
CE: Was there a time when the financial condition began to decline?
A: That’s a very broad question. Enron was strong and growing through part of 2000. In 2000, Enron began to encounter some financial issues.
CE: Did Enron engage in fraud in order to cover up those financial issues?
A: In 2000?
A: I believe that some fraud was committed inside the company.
CE: In mid-2000, there is an allegation that certain people dipped into the company reserves and accounted it as earnings. Is that the first fraud allegation that you became aware of? I’m not asking if you participated in that activity, if it happened. I’m only asking if you heard of that event at the time.
A: That’s a very specific question. I’d rather stay away from those kinds of specific issues.
CE: Okay, let me rephrase. What was the first rumor or allegation of fraud that you heard?
A: Fraud was never rumored at Enron. Even the most aggressive deals were never called fraud.
CE: So you were not told anything was illegal until after the company collapsed?
A: I think that’s accurate.
CE: Okay. Did you commit any kind of fraud?
A: I admitted that I did in a court of law.
CE: What about in the privacy of your own conscience? Did you commit fraud?
A: That’s a difficult question to answer. I met with the FBI and SEC numerous times. During those interviews, they read the definition of various crimes that they were accusing myself and others of committing and they asked if those definitions sounded like something I might have done. There were some things that did sound familiar to me.
CE: Did anyone you know commit fraud?
CE: Are you going to name names?
A: Not today.
CE: Was there a conspiracy at Enron?
A: There was no organized conspiracy that I was aware of. People who committed crimes at Enron were acting in small groups or alone.
CE: There was no directive issued by Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling or the Board of Directors.
A: No, nothing that overt.
CE: You say you and others committed fraud. How is it that Enron came to hire so many people with latent criminal tendencies?
A: I think when you’re at that level, it’s natural to keep striving for more. That lifestyle is intoxicating. Enron treated its employees very well with bonuses and compensation, and when you get a taste of it, you want more.
CE: So the criminals at Enron are made, not born.
A: If you want to put it that way.
CE: With all due respect, there is one person I know who has been prosecuted and he cares absolutely nothing about money or status. It simply does not interest him. Why would a person like this commit a crime?
A: I can’t speak to that.
CE: Okay, moving on. Scott Yeager just won at the Supreme Court. How do you feel about that? Was it the right outcome?
A: Yes, I think it was.
CE: Do you care to extrapolate on that?
A: The Supreme Court only considers questions of procedure. It was clear to me that double jeopardy applied in his case.
CE: And you knew this was coming. Jeff Skilling has recently petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the issue of Honest Services. Do you have an opinion of whether he should win or not?
A: I have absolutely no ill will toward Jeff, or Scott Yeager for that matter, or anyone else. I hope he wins.
CE: Do you believe 24 years was a fair sentence?
CE: Do you believe he deserves a shorter sentence?
CE: Do you believe Jeff Skilling committed crimes at Enron?
A: You’re getting a little too specific.
CE: If Jeff committed crimes at Enron, what sentence do you think he deserves?
A: That’s not for me to say.
CE: Did you respect Jeff while at Enron?
A: Very much.
CE: I want to ask about a very difficult subject. What was this whole experience like for you?
A: Horrible. The worst experience of my life.
CE: Did you have a survival strategy?
A: I thought I did when I entered the system but you realize quickly that you have to be flexible. You have to be ready for anything.
CE: Okay, I want to back up a little bit and ask you about the Nigerian Barges deal. I won’t get too specific here, but I’m curious if you witnessed any other deals that were as small as that one.
A: Enron was involved in many deals of all sizes. If you believe it was a legitimate deal, focus on the “secret side deal” aspect and not the fact that it was a small deal.
CE: Was there a secret side deal?
A: Not to my knowledge.
CE: This is a good place to segue to Andy Fastow and my next couple of questions. What was Andy Fastow like?
A: I think it’s impossible to quantify someone in a sound byte.
CE: Okay. How about Fastow’s sentence? Fair?
A: It’s not for me to say.
CE: Are you still in touch with anyone at Enron?
CE: This is a question like the Nigerian Barge question. It’s specific but broad, if that makes sense. Was Broadband a fraud?
A: There were three components of Broadband. One was intermediation, which was creating a market around broadband, called EnronOnline. One was a fiber optic network. The third was content services, which was video on demand. All three of those business units had problems.
CE: But was it fraud? Did all three of those units exist?
A: Yes, they all existed to some degree.
CE: Okay, back to the culture of Enron. What was the best thing about working at Enron?
A: The freedom and resources to innovate.
CE: What was the worst thing about working at Enron?
A: It was an all-consuming entity. Your whole life revolved around the company.
CE: Did you ever have sex on your desk?
A: Next question.
CE: Did you ever have sex on the board room conference table?
A: Next question.
CE: You said that Enron was an all-consuming company. Do you feel that you will ever give that kind of energy and devotion to any other company? Or are you a nine-to-five kind of guy now?
A: I’m still intense.
CE: You claim that you committed crimes at Enron. Do you think you would now be able to recognize a dangerous potential criminal situation if one arises? And if so, would you resist being a criminal?
A: I would probably recognize a potential situation. I stay far away from the edge. I would resist.
CE: Are business people latent criminals?
A: Not at all. Most people want to do well and they try to get as close to that line as they can. They can go over that line without meaning to.
CE: Would more regulation, say Sarbanes-Oxley, have prevented Enron’s collapse?
A: I don’t think so.
CE: In fifty years, what do you want people to think of Enron?
A: In fifty years, Enron will have no more relevance than Standard Oil does today. That being said, I would want people to know that it wasn’t all bad. Enron had many significant successes.
CE: Thank you for your mini-interview. I appreciate it.