Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey filed a joint motion to change the venue of the trial to Denver, Phoenix or Atlanta, all places they felt they might get a trial where the jurors weren’t wishing them dead. The motion was joined by Ken Lay. Judge Sim Lake denied the motion.
Tag Archives: Ken Lay
On August 30, 2001, Ken Lay sent an email with the subject line “Lay It On The Line” to all Enron employees:
At the all-employee meeting two weeks ago, I talked about the major challenges that I believe Enron is currently facing and what we are doing to address these issues. I also reviewed with you our vision for Enron to become “The World’s Leading Company,” and what that means to me.
Your management team and I remain committed to this goal and are confident that by working together, we can achieve this vision. After the all-employee meeting, a number of you came forward to voice your concerns about what you saw as additional challenges for Enron, and for that, I thank you. We have already begun working on many of the concerns you expressed. Now, I would like to hear from more of you about what you see as the most critical issues facing Enron in the next twelve months. In other words, “Lay It on the Line” for me by completing the attached survey.
I assure you that your individual answers to this survey will remain confidential. The new Management Committee will use this information to help us identify immediate action steps to address your key concerns. We will communicate the results to you, both positive and negative, and what we plan to do about them, as soon as we can. Thank you in advance for taking the time to help us move Enron toward its new vision of becoming “The World’s Leading Company.”
We need your answers no later than Tuesday, September 4, 2001.
To access the survey, click on or copy the following URL onto the Enron intranet site: ;. If this link does not work, go to home.enron.com under “New & Notable” and click on “Lay It On the Line.” If you have problems with the survey, contact the HRGIM Help Desk at 713-853-5666.
I think the most interesting part is the question titled, “From [these] issues facing Enron, please identify the top five that you think need to be identified in the next 12 months.” The first was “Stock price”. This is actually quite telling; it implies that it was not just the greedy, voracious executives who were trying to keep the stock high, but the employees too – which raises the question: who exactly were the victims of Enron’s supposed efforts to keep the price high? Second is “internal employee morale.” Third is “PRC”, fourth is “external reputation and image”.
The first two actual projects to appear are California and Dahbol, sixth and seventh, respectively. Altogether it is an interesting document. I hope you think so too.
When Sherron Watkins wrote a memo to Ken Lay bringing up her concerns over the Raptors, Dr. Lay launched into action. He initiated an investigation inside the company and asked Vinson & Elkins to investigate as well. He genuinely wanted to know if there was something going on in his company that was unsavory and actually paid people to try to find some indication of fraud.
The result was less than breathtaking. V&E found nothing awry. This is the report V&E submitted to Enron after their investigation.
Loren Steffy is at it again.
The Doofus Defense is under attack. As longtime readers know, I coined that term leading up to the trial of Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, who, facing criminal charges, suddenly claimed to be woefully ignorant of their company’s actions.
Hey, that’s awesome Loren! You coined a term – that’s so cool. Do you have any other tricks? How about a modicum of journalistic integrity?
Besides that, Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay never claimed to be woefully ignorant of their company’s actions – a fact that Loren Steffy knows quite well. But when there are lies to perpetuate, and a chance to use your own term – Doofus Defense… wow, how would anyone have ever gotten along without that? – then what does the actual, reality-based truth matter?
Lay and Skilling didn’t invent the Doofus Defense, of course, and in the decade since Enron’s collapse, it has become a popular ploy among executives who were happy to accept accolades for rising stock prices during the boom but loath to accept responsibility for their companies’ fall.
More blather. The rest of the article – or rather, opinion piece – goes on and on about how unfair it is that executives are compensated handsomely while, when the companies go bust, they claim to know nothin’ about birthin’ no companies.
In the first place, I’ve never heard an executive claim that he knew nothing about his company. The truth is more more comprehensible than that. Executives normally don’t know what is going on in every cube of a multi-billion dollar international corporation. If that is Steffy’s real accusation I happily concede – it is true that Jeff Skilling didn’t know everything going on in every office, every cube, and every casual gossipy conversation that took place in the dressing room of Enron’s sweet, sweet tricked-out gym in the basement.
But I would challenge Steffy to tell me what is happening just one floor above his at the Chron. Come on, Steff, you know how its done, show us some leadership. Tell us everything happening in the building. Tick tock tick tock.
A few days ago, I mentioned the journalist who wrote a book about “willful blindness”. She is on a media tour now, hawking her book, and CNN plays the straightman to her insanity. To whit:
CNN: Where did the idea of “willful blindness” start for you?
Margaret Heffernan: I read the transcript of the trial of Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay and in the instructions to the jury, the judge cited the legal concept of willful blindness — that if there is information that you could have known, and should have known, but somehow managed not to know, the law treats you as though you did know it.
Reading the transcripts is a good start to learning about the Enron case. But I find both the question and the answer bizarre. Who gets all excited about the notion of willful blindness? It’s like getting excited about irony — excited enough to write a book about it.
I thought of all the other areas in which willful blindness has a role, both in history and in the present day. Most major accidents, disasters and crimes play out in full public view — the question is not what’s hidden and secret, but how can this happen in public and nobody do anything? To relate it back to Enron, I kept thinking — how could Ken Lay not know how dishonest his company was?
Well there are three really good answers to that and none of them have to do with willful blindness. The first is that the “dishonest” bits of the company were hidden from him. He could not be expected to know if something was hidden from him.
Secondly, as a leader of the company, he was responsible for the vision and strategy of the company – not the everyday tasks of everyone inside the company. It would be unreasonable to hold any executive responsible for the crimes of an employee and neither Dr. Lay nor Jeff Skilling had any reason to insist on audits for every one of Enron’s employees.
Lastly, the company was not dishonest. Any fraud that happened at Enron was the result of a very small group of people in Andy Fastow’s group, Global Finance. It wasn’t endemic through the company.
Anyone who read the Skilling/Lay trial transcripts should have been able to see this. Perhaps her failing was simply… willful blindness.
Another day, another idiot. This time, it is one shilling a book called “Willful Blindness” and it’s described thusly:
In “Willful Blindness” journalist and businesswoman Margaret Heffernan asks, “Why, as individuals, companies and countries, do we so regularly look at the mirror and ask how, ‘How could we have been so blind?’ “
When she asked people about the concept of ‘willful blindness,’ they gave examples on their own – abuse, divorce, Ponzi schemes, subprime mortgages. “Almost everyone mentioned the Iraq war and global warming: big public blunders caused or exacerbated by a reluctance to confront uncomfortable facts.”
So this book is basically a giant dumping ground for leftist politics. Got it. Oh and by the way, global warming? Not a man-made thing. Moving on.
She was first introduced to the term when writing a play for the BBC on the failed energy company, Enron.
I just want to savor that thought for a moment. Writing a play for the BBC about Enron. Hm. Has anyone ever seen this play? I can’t imagine why it isn’t a household name… which isn’t even mentioned in the article.
The legal description for the term “willful blindness,” as described by the judge, was: ‘You are responsible if you could have known, and should have known, something that instead you strove not to see.’
What judge? Judge Lake? In the jury instructions, Judge Lake said “willful blindness,” meaning ignorance of a conspiracy, doesn’t count as ignorance if it was intentional. “You may find that a defendant had knowledge of a fact if you find that the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to what would otherwise have been been obvious to him … Knowledge can be inferred if the defendant deliberately blinded himself to the existence of a fact.”
I am not sure that Lake used the explicit term “should have known” and I am almost certain he never said “strove not to see.” But this is just Enron, so I guess it’s okay for journalists to be sloppy with their work.
In the case of Enron, (Chief Executive Jeffrey) Skilling and (Chairman Kenneth) Lay could have known, and had the opportunity to know, just how rotten their company was.”
Really? How about some proof. How about actually giving us an example of “just how rotten their company was”? And for that matter, when was the opportunity to know given to Jeff and Ken Lay? Andy Fastow said that he kept his deceit hidden from Jeff Skilling. What was Jeff supposed to do, audit his own CFO for no reason whatsoever?
She doesn’t bother to give examples or proof. Why bother, it’s just Enron, right? Everybody “knows” that was rotten. No need for facts or anything.
A certain someone and I have been playing a game for almost three years now. Ever so often, we think about who we would cast to play various people in a limitless-budget production of the real Enron story.
Today, I’m coming clean with some of my choices (and his).
Jeff Skilling is a little more difficult to cast, but I think I’ve settled on Sean Penn. Sean Penn doesn’t have Jeff’s build, which bothers me because Jeff actually has a lot of physical presence, but Penn is a magnificent actor and I think he’d capture Jeff’s crystal-bright intelligence, and the hidden sadness. It should be noted that I chose an unconventional picture of Jeff Skilling. I could have found one of him smiling and non-threatening, but I like this one because it’s unguarded. He’s angry and sad as he leaves the court house — exactly as any reasonable person would be.
For Andy Fastow, Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey is edgy, I can’t get comfortable watching Kevin Spacey, he’s strange and unknowable, and I think he could bring that to a portrayal of Andy Fastow. I have never seen Kevin Spacey clown around in a movie and I think it would be vital to show that silly side of Andy. But I think Kevin Spacey can handle it.
Ben Glisan is the easiest one of all the Enron execs to cast. He shall be played by Ben Affleck. I decree it, thus it shall be so! They have more than just a passing resemblance, and I think Ben Affleck could capture Ben perfectly.
Ken Rice has to be played by Gerard Butler. They have the same physique and their faces have a passing resemblance, but more importantly and I think Gerard Butler can capture Ken’s coolness and complexity. We must work on getting rid of that Scottish accent, however.
These graphic things take forever to make so I’ll have to get to part two tomorrow.
Alex Gibney is back. Speaking to Culture Map, Gibney talks about his new obsession: Elliot Spitzer and defends his abortion of a movie, Smartest Guys In The Room. The pertinent quote from the interview:
CM: A final question. You’ve returned to scene of the crime, so to speak, years after directing Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. While you’ve been here for the Cinema Arts Festival, have you run into anyone who thought you were too hard on that nice man Ken Lay?
AG: Actually, there were a number of people I met at a party last night who felt I was too hard on that nice man Jeff Skilling as well as that nice man Ken Lay.
CM: And of course, you responded — politely.
AG: Yes, I did respond politely. I said I didn’t think I was too tough on them. And that a lot of people wished I would have been tougher. I felt I gave them, shall we say, the benefit of the doubt. And they cooked their own geese.
I must say: One thing that struck me about Eliot Spitzer is, he took responsibility for what he did. Which is something that Lay and Skilling never did. In their minds, they were the ones who became victims. Not the people who had lost all their money.
Skilling and Lay never had to accept responsibility because they did nothing wrong. But I’m amused about his confrontation. I have a very good idea who those rabble-rousers were. Way to go. I wish I could have watched him sputter a reply.
“This is Rush Limbaugh. I’d like to give a special shout out to Ken Lay, the former CEO of Enron, who is sailing around the world. Smooth sailing, Kenny Boy.” — Rush Limbaugh on tonight’s Family Guy.
I love Rush, but this is just wrong.
I am pleased that some sanity and intellectual honesty have risen up against Enron stupidity. Last week I posted something that sounds like it could have come from The Onion, an anti-capitalist screed that mentioned Enron employed 100 million people and also slandered Dr. Ken Lay.
Someone, besides me, took exception to that:
Who is responsible?
The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts”. This wisdom would certainly apply to the recent letter from Gabriel Read titled “Who is Responsible?” Space does not permit a full refutation of Mr. Read, but here are a few verifiable facts as opposed to invented allegations.
Read says GW lost 6 million jobs. Well; when he took office 130.5 million were employed, when Obama was elected, 136.3 million had jobs.
Read says the Enron collapse left 100 million unemployed (75 percent of the U.S. labor force). Enron actually had around 20,000 employees. The CEO, Ken Lay, did not get a $1 billion parachute. He was entitled to $60 million, but waived taking it. He did not get off scot free but was facing 20-30 years in jail when he had a fatal heart attack. The Republicans did not create toxic mortgages. Most of the credit goes to Barney Frank who continually worked to have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac expand their lending.
I don’t want to pick on anyone in particular, but look at this recent comment I received:
2010/10/03 at 1:34 am
The guy who wrote this blog is a retard lol he really has no idea what he is talking about. Enron did nothing wrong??? wow you must be a fucking inbred!
This comment is reasonably representative of the anti-Enron comments I get. There are no specifics, no attempt at analysis, nothing but empty ranting. I am confused why people do this in spite of the obvious issues with the various Enron-related prosecutions.
Look people, when the federal government wields its enormous power against private individuals, we should all pay attention. Remember that the “Enron cases” are not about the Feds vs. Enron — they are about the Feds vs. private individuals, like you and me. Yes, many of these people worked at or with Enron for some period of time, but their Enron connections vary greatly. Some, like Ken Lay, worked many years at Enron. Some, like Rex Shelby, worked only a few months at Enron Broadband — thus Enron was little more than a small blip on Shelby’s overall career.
My point is that it is just wrong to paint all Enron-related prosecutions with the same broad brush. As readers of this blog know, I consider most of the Enron-related defendants innocent of the government’s charges. But I also recognize that each defendant is a private individual with a background and story quite unique from each of the others. Amongst the various Enron-related defendants, each of us will find someone whose background and story is not unlike our own.
So, if you want to comment on the Enron prosecutions, please do so — I want to hear from you. But please put a little thought into it — it is an important topic. Enron cases have already made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases have changed the law in ways that benefit each of us. So these people who some blindly rant about have already made the ranters lives safer. Pay attention, people!
Enron & Ezekiel appeared on my radar today and it completely blew my mind. Not because it was so great, but because I could not believe that a woman whose entire blog seems to be about Christianity would spend a whole blog post judging Ken Lay based on a few sound bytes she’d no doubt picked up on some second rate slander-blog.
During my morning quiet time I was reading in Ezekiel 33 and the words made me recall the Enron scandal. If you had no personal stake in energy stocks in the 90’s Enron may cause only a dim flicker of recognition. A quick reminder: “At the end of 2001, it was revealed that (Enron’s) reported financial condition was sustained substantially by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, known as the ‘Enron scandal’. Enron has since become a popular symbol of willful corporate fraud and corruption. The scandal also brought into question the accounting practices and activities of many corporations throughout the United States.”
The particular moment in the Enron scandal that came to my mind was of Ken Lay, CEO, who said as he was being led away, “I have made my peace with God.” It was this quote that came to mind as I read Ezekiel 33:10-17. Verses 12 & 13 specifically: “The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ 13 If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.”
Funny, I don’t remember Ken Lay saying, “I have made my peace with God.” What does it mean to be “led away” anyway? Is she talking about his brief comments to the media when he was arrested? You know, when he said that he had nothing to say but might later on this morning?
Or after trial? When he said that “we love our Lord“?
Either way, she’s got the facts wrong.
And why does she have such a hate-on for Enron? I am no theologian, but she seems to be saying that just because Ken Lay loved God doesn’t mean he wasn’t going straight to hell. In which case, I think about my young years at Sacred Heart and ponder the quotation, “Judge not, lest he be judged.”
She emphasizes this point:
Ken Lay is just a public example of how often we consider ourselves “good people” and yet knowingly and willingly do wrong. We are quick to justify our deeds; it’s a white sin it’s no big deal, it’s an acceptable sin. Justifications alone signal we need to check our actions.
What did Ken Lay do wrong?
I know some devout Christians, and I respect them. I know three devout Enron executives. I asked each of them if they believed Sherron Watkins’ newfound Christianity was real and each of them said – quite firmly and without fail – that he would not dare judge what is in someone else’s heart.
If Enron can refuse to pass judgement on someone who has done it harm, why can’t this woman abstain from judging someone she never met, into whose eyes she has never peered, and whose heart she will never know?
[Crossposted from the Ellisonblog]
I decided to write this for this blog instead of the Enron blog because though it mentions Enron, it is really about writing.
So I found this.
And now I go off on my usual rant about writing, which is that you MUST RESPECT YOUR CRAFT. And this guy, among several other problems, does not.
Ok…we all know that Ken Lay really is dead, but since bashing Bush is an easy way to make a buck, why not write a conspiracy theory book about how Ken Lay was charged with a crime, sentenced, then his death was faked, and he got away.
Wait. Bashing Bush is an easy way to make a buck? Really? Where have you seen any bash-Bush books in the last, oh, four years? They don’t exist. The Bush bashing exists in Washington, but not really as a book idea, per se.
Secondly, do you really believe this is in any way unique? This stupid conspiracy theory has been going around since Dr. Lay died. Why would you pay for a book to read about this if it’s all over the net?
Oh and by the way, Ken Lay’s family would sue you within an inch of your life. Oh but wait, I see you’ve thought about that:
You see, there is this little inconvienent law out there that if you die before all your appeals are used, you do not die a criminal, if your case is currently under appeal.
Okay, see your problem is that you can’t write. That’s the primary problem with this sentence. But to address the substance, that law is not “little” or “inconvenient.” But it seems to me if Ken Lay were alive (and he is not; I fucking despise people who so casually throw out this little bit of conspiracy Americana) it would seem the law would be very CONVENIENT.
Your record is cleared and you die an innocent man. Ken Lay dying an innocent man means noone, not even the government, can touch the money he stole from the shareholders of Enron.
Not even the government? WOW! Who else would take it, if not the government? And of course, I defy anyone to show me one piece of evidence that Ken Lay stole anything.
Good idea for a book?
No. You’re an idiot.
1st, they cannot target the estate because Ken tied most of it to an annuitity, and annuitities are immune from all civil action.
You know nothing about Ken Lay’s estate, or the law. I can discern that based on this sentence right here.
The government cannot even seize an annuitity [sic] unless in contains wealth from a criminal act, and since he died a free man, they cannot touch it.
Dude. The government? WHAT THE HELL? Who do you think does the seizing if not the government? And this is such crap.
I do not even have to change the characters because the [sic] are public figures, and therefore I have a huge buffer from slander.
Uhm, again, your interpretation of the law is extremely frail.
This is just so wrong. And the comments are just as wrong. But what bothers me the absolute most is that he’s clearly some ding-dong who doesn’t know the first thing about writing who says, “I’ll write a book!” I do not have to discourage him. I know for a stone cold fact he will never, ever write even 50 pages of the book.
I have noticed a strange phenomenon. Any writer who announces that he/she will:
A.) Be rich
B.) Write a bestseller
C.) Write a classic that will be taught in classrooms for the next hundred years
D.) Write a book – any book at all –
is not going to succeed. The people who write books write books, they don’t sit around on the internet making up conspiracy theories.
Show some respect, not just for Dr. Lay, but for the craft of writing. It takes actual effort.
Oh, and how does Ken Lay supposedly getting away with “stealing” Enron money bash Bush? I guess that’s one of the pesky details to be worked out later.