Friday, October 26, 2001.
The stock opened at $16 and would close at $15.40 – a loss of only 5.81% of its value. Nothing to cheer about, certainly, but when compared to the losses every day of the week, it was one of the better days.
The morning was surreal. Overnight there had been a terror threat on the Enron building so when workers got to 1400 Smith Street, they found the surrounding avenues blocked off and police everywhere. Of course, it was a false alarm but it certainly was an external representation of how everyone was feeling inside. Like things were about to go boom.
Ben Glisan was at his desk early, researching Chewco. After the WSJ published a lurid exposé the previous day, it was essential to get a handle on the deal.
From 10 to 11, Ken Lay was on the phone with Deloitte and Touche. At noon he attended an Enron board meeting, in which Glisan gave a presentation on everything he knew about Chewco.
One of the executives present at the meeting, Rodney Faldyn, didn’t like the sound of Chewco. He went to see Rick Causey and told him he felt like there might be a problem with it.
A few hours later, Faldyn and Ryan Siurek called Tom Bauer at Arthur Andersen and asked for clarification about the three percent rule. Bauer explained that three percent of an off the books partnership had to come from an independent investor in order for the partnership to be valid and comply with accounting rules.
Faldyn believed then that Chewco did not meet that standard.
Chewco had been used to buy Calper’s interest in JEDI. JEDI spun off a lot of cash – there had never been any question about the JEDI deals. But if Chewco wasn’t independent, that meant that JEDI wasn’t either, and all the income reported on every income statement, every balance sheet, every bit of information that had exited the Enron building would have been wrong, all the way back to 1997.
Ben Glisan, Rick Causey, and Rodney Faldyn met to discuss Chewco. And thus Enron was confronted with the strangest question ever to face any company anywhere: How do federal accounting laws view homosexuality?
(I need to interrupt myself to say I feel really weird talking about about Kopper’s sexuality. You don’t hear me talking about anyone else’s lover – just Kopper’s – and it’s because he’s gay. It shouldn’t be any big deal. So though I’m talking about Kopper’s love life [a place I have no business being] please know I’m really only trying to explain what was happening. I’m not singling him out or anything like that. I’m not going to discuss the sex lives on any other Enron execs. You can take that to the bank.)
If Kopper’s lover had been his lawfully wedded spouse, the whole deal would have violated accounting rules because the capital would not have come from an independent party. But Kopper wasn’t married. In the eyes of the state of Texas and the US Government, he was a single man, and his “friend” could invest whatever the heck he wanted. But he was Kopper’s live in lover. So was his investment independent or not?
Ken Lay must have felt a lead weight in his chest when he picked up the phone to call the Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan. High-flying Enron needed help, and Ken Lay probably never thought he’d see the day. He told Greenspan that Enron was having problems with its trading partners and cash was drying up. He did not ask for a bailout. He would have no doubt taken one, but he didn’t ask for one. Greenspan said he would monitor the situation. Ken Lay then put in a few other calls to his well-placed Washington friends.
After the call, he had a meeting with James Derrick (general counsel) and Rick Causey. Rick told him that they were still looking at Chewco, they hadn’t drawn any conclusions, but it looked like there might be a very serious problem with it.
That night the Enron 401(k) plan was locked down. After months of friendly reminders, Enron employees could not touch their accounts until November.