Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Tale Of Two Felons


The jury in Houston returned its verdict today in the “Enron Trial”; basically no surprise, as founder Ken Lay and CEO Jeff Skilling were found guilty on most counts against them. In addition, a judge ruled against Lay in a Bank Fraud case which was tried before his bench, waiting for the jury’s decision before releasing his own.

There is a lot of information on the case, testimony as well as documents, but my gut call on the trial is this; one man was a cold-blooded villain, and the other a well-meaning fool who let his priorities get way out of line. I say this because of the financial fates of the men when Enron collapsed; Skilling sold short, obviously aware of what was happening and trying to save his own fortune, while Lay lost millions by hanging on to Enron stock – yes, he sold some stock right before the crash, but he appears, from what I have seen, to have put that money into the company in a desperate move to avoid the collapse. Skilling didn’t give a fig about anyone but himself, while Lay was trying to save his company.

Don’t think I am saying Lay is not accountable for his actions. Lay is responsible for what happened, in the same way that a drunk driver, though he doesn’t mean to harm anyone, is still responsible for the wreck. And in the matter of this trial, it means that Lay and Skilling are both looking at a lot of time in federal prison.

The lesson, unfortunately, will be missed by most of the people who should get it. In the case of Skilling, it means that sometimes crooks get caught, but we know from history that greedy people are always looking for a way to get around the rules. And in the case of Lay, a lot of people need to learn that good intentions don’t mean you don’t have to pay for your mistakes, especially when they destroy the fortunes and work of so many people.


Michael van der Galien said...

Liberty and Justice TrackBack
Lesson Learned?

I must admit though, that I never really can feel sorry for those who bought a lot of Enron stocks, but when Enron fell, they lost all their money. It is completely ignorant to invest all your money on one single company, to risk your retirement savings, etc. on the stock market.

rpm said...

I have only some, but limited, sympathy for the "employees" that weren't able to sell out in the crash. It would have been more fair they too been able to unload their soon-to-be- worthless stock onto the public? Leave someone else with the wallpaper?

I agree--from what I see Skilling was a crook through and through; Lay thought his job was to wine and dine the politians. OTOH, I have no problem with Lay picking up the same tab--you title is CEO, you get the big bucks and something like this happens you should be held to account unless you can make a solid case that not only didn't you know, it would have been unreasonable for you to have known.

BlackCon said...

I blame Bush.

jpterry said...

I have missed you. You were the most sane voice on Polipundit. I graduated Lamar HS 1962. Probably before your birth, but I won’t hold that against you. I have been many places since that time but I always like to go back to Houston. I am glad to find out how I can listen to your comments again. Where have the other sane voices from Polipundit gone? Do a round up of those others, we would all like to know how to get back together.

John Terry (email attached)

Stephen Johnson said...

Real Clear Politics linked to this post.

Your star is rising. Keep up the good work.

Rick said...

Is it just me or is this Post somewhat self refuting? DJ points out that Lay was trying to save the company. The goverment's main witness, Fastow, was actually embezzling funds. The DOJ seems to have been arguing that Lay, while trying to save the company, should not have claimed it could be saved.

What is frightening abut the verdict and the comments here is that it now seems that if a company fails, we have a criminal case. My take is the government did not prove criminal actions, but rather relied on emotions for a conviction.

I also believe this is no where near over. After the aquittal of Arthur Anderson on appeal (after the destruction of the company) and the retrial of the Merrill Lynch Nigerian Barge trial, the government is a long way from success here. This is further compounded by the naming of over 100 unindicted co-conspirators to prevent them from testifying. The appeals process will be lengthy and emotion will not be a part of it.