I admit, it’s a little strange that I’m writing about pizza, particularly such awful pizza, on a blog about Enron. But a new ad by Dominos actually has a legal component which relates to Enron. In the ad, Domino’s “head chef” is standing in front of the John Minor Wisdom Court House in New Orleans — that’s the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals where Jeff Skilling’s appeal and many others from the Enron cases were heard, including Broadband, Nigerian Barges, and NatWest Three. The “head chef” says that they (Domino’s) challenged the Papa John’s slogan in court, and Papa John’s stated that their slogan was “puffery.”
A definition of Puffery is given (“an exaggerated statement based on opinion, not fact.”)
This (finally) connects to Enron because the issue of puffery was brought up in the case of Ken Rice, Joe Hirko, and Jeff Skilling. During Jeff’s appeal at the 5th Circuit, his attorney, Dan Petrocelli argued that some of the “false statements” the prosecution alleges that Skilling made amount to no more than puffery. Puffery is not a crime. Prosecutors also made the allegation against Ken Rice at the 2000 analyst conference on January 20, 2000. Ken Rice made approximately 45 statements during his presentation and four were considered controversial. None of them rose beyond puffery – which might be why the prosecution agreed to let him plead guilty to something unrelated to those statements.
In any case, I thought the ad was a nice, simple way to illustrate puffery. In Enron’s defense, there was not a software company alive in the late 1990s or early 2000s that did not use puffery. They would have had no market if they’d talked down their products, or merely blathered about the technical specifications.