A few years ago, I was on an Andy Fastow Is A-OK kick (here and here for just the tip of the iceberg). I never excused what he did at Enron but I often said there was something else going on there, that he was a good husband, that he was complex because he was this super-rich man married to an heiress who stole money … it just made no sense to me and so I really tried to understand what drove him to take such risks.
Then one executive (who I adore and respect very much), set me down and looked into my eyes and said, “Cara, you’re giving him far too much credit. He was just a thief. That’s it. There’s no more ‘there’ there.”
I had to take that seriously because I did respect his judgement and he saw Andy Fastow every day for years. He knew him. Other friends told stories of his callousness, his arrogance, etc. And slowly I came to see Andy with their eyes, and the eyes of most of the people in the world. I don’t hate Andy Fastow (not at all). But I no longer think he’s some mysterious super-genius/ tortured soul who stole money for some unfathomable reason.
However, he is the rare one in the collection of Enron prosecution witnesses and plea-deal takers who I have such one-dimensional views about. I find the other prosecution witnesses much more fascinating because there is some ‘there’ there.
I’ve written a lot about Ken Rice. I think he would admit to you that he wasn’t a choir boy. But he didn’t go to prison for what he pleaded guilty to. He didn’t do the thing he pleaded to. And Rick Causey? Oh my stars. If there is a true victim in this, it is that good, decent God-fearing man, Rick Causey. My heart breaks for him. His sentence was the third longest one handed down (Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow are, of course, in the first two spots) and he literally did nothing wrong. Even at his sentencing, his attorney said repeatedly that Causey believed he was in compliance with GAAP. That’s a remarkable statement to make when you’re pleading guilty to a crime. But perhaps it is too easy to like Rick Causey; he never testified against anyone elese. Indeed, one will search his plea deal in vain for any names at all other than his own. He only says he conspired with “senior management”:
Ken Rice is a good person to dislike (though I certainly do like him). Any dislike I have for the things he said at trial is instantly transferred to blind hatred for the Enron Task Force who made his actions necessary for his own survival.
Another easy one to dislike is Kevin Hannon. He testified that Jeff said, “they’re on to us” at a meeting and thus, Jeff must have been up to something nefarious. I try to dislike Kevin Hannon and I end up giggling because his ridiculous story is so utterly flimsy and without any kind of seriousness that I actually feel bad that is best he could come up with. I want to shake him and say, “Kevin, you’re a smart guy! Work harder here. Maybe claim that Jeff said, ‘Let’s rape our stakeholders’ or something. Something evil and non-ambiguous.”
I like Kevin Hannon just fine; I think he is a perfect example of the weakness of the government’s case against the Enron executives. Lots of people at EBS did not care for him but I think he was of the Enron caste system: ambitious, perhaps brusque, but ultimately just someone who wanted to make a difference in the world. When I go through files and find his emails and whatnot, I always think he reads a lot like Ken Rice. I like them both.
Michael Kopper is considered a bad guy by many people. And yep, I like him too. Michael Kopper is as fascinating as I wish Andy was. There’s a mystery there about what happened when his personality meshed with Fastow’s, and some people I’ve talked with blame everything on Michael Kopper. They claim he was a Svengali and Fastow was a helpless little puppy under his spell. Baloney. I have no doubt that he has a strong, charming personality, but no, he did not lord over Andy Fastow. Also, I have a personal reason for liking him: I suspect he did a favor for me anonymously.
Mark Koenig, I don’t find him mesmerizing the way I find the others, but he did something truly fascinating on the stand. He cried like a four year old girl. He wept and wept and wept. They had to suspend questioning a few times so he could blow his nose and wipe his eyes. I’m at a loss to explain why. My recollection of the testimony on this point is murky, but I think he said he felt guilty because all he wanted to do was make his children proud and he couldn’t do that anymore.
Obviously he is a man with a very strong conscious and a very strong sense of right and wrong. What I think happened, based on nothing but my own beliefs about the DOJ, is that Berkowitz et al did what the Broadband prosecutors did: presented one set of facts to him, got him to believe those “facts”, and then pointed out that since he was complicit, he could make the best deal for himself by testifying against others. I think it’s a lot like the Ken Rice situation in the Broadband trial when Ken testified that he saw the “Shelby 2″ video, when in fact he did not. Ken Rice was not lying. The government presented that in a way that Ken Rice – and even Rex Shelby! – believed it. Others, such as Bill Collins, later complained that he felt the DOJ was going to indict him if he didn’t testify. If I had to guess, I would say that prosecutors convinced Koenig he was guilty, and he actually felt guilty while testifying against Jeff.
There were three types of prosecution witnesses:
1. Outright liars — These are people who lied before Enron and during Enron, so it is no surprise the government manipulated them into lying at trial — examples are Bill Collins and John Bloomer from EBS, Sherron Watkins from Corporate.
2. Bitter idiots — These are people who were ignorant of the subject matter of the trial, but were bitter and frightened enough to be manipulated by the DOJ into lying at trial — examples are Shawna Meyer and David Reece from EBS.
3. Survivalists — These are people who put their own welfare above other innocent people and were willing to lie to protect themselves. Almost all prosecution witnesses fall into this category.
We like to think we are all so very upstanding and would never do anything morally questionable, but when the stakes are your own life, you do what you have to do. That’s why Kevin Hannon, Ken Rice, Michael Kopper and few others are interesting to me. They’re not evil. They’re not even guilty. They just made the difficult choice to survive at any cost.