Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

With Enron, Justice Delayed Really Was Justice Denied

It doesn't seem fair--all these years before the trial, Lay and Skilling found guilty...and then, because the verdict was under appeal, Lay's record is apparently to be cleared (at least in the legal system) just because he happened to drop dead.

The Houston Chronicle reports that not only will his conviction be vacated, but the government's efforts to recapture $43 million of ill-gotten gains are likely to be stymied.

Cynic that I am I have to wonder if that was really Ken Lay's corpse; it just seems a little too convenient. I hope there's confirmation via DNA testing.

I am not a vengeful person--but I am galled that not only did this criminal continue to live high on the hog but he escaped justice in the end--while thousands harmed by his greed were not so fortunate. Even as late as his trial, according to a widely reported news story,

Lay also defended his extravagant lifestyle, including a $200,000 yacht for wife Linda’s birthday party, despite $100 million in personal debt and saying “it was difficult to turn off that lifestyle like a spigot.”

I do take some comfort in knowing that death will not save his reputation, even if it protects the fortune of his estate (which, according t some rumors, is still a large fortune--while other sources say he was heavily in debt and there isn't anything left).

Meanwhile, GWB's appearance on Larry King Live puts to rest any question about the relationship between the president and Lay--a relationship that the White House tried to minimize earlier in the week:

KING: Because I mean you knew it pretty well from Texas, right? BUSH: Pretty well, pretty well. I've known him -- I got to know him. People don't believe this but he actually supported Ann Richardson in the '94 campaign...Yes, he's a good guy and so what I did -- then did was we had a business council and I kept him on as the chairman of the business council and, you know, got to know him and got to see him in action. One of the things I respected him for was he was such a contributor to Houston's civil society. He was a generous person. I'm disappointed that, you know, that there was -- betrayed the trust of shareholders.

In that same transcript, Lay himself offers this rather telling bit:

We were competing with the very best and biggest companies in the world for the best talent and they loved working at Enron just like I did. But I grieve for all that they've lost and we, I mean even having lost what we've lost, I mean we are so much better off. My family is so much better off than most of them and it just, it pains me each and every day of my life.

The transcript is worth reading. While superficial as TV so often is, it gets in some very interesting quotes from a wide range of sources: Lay family friends (including the former mayor of Houston, who lauded Lay for his charitable work), employees who were cheated out of their retirement, and Skilling's lawyer, who I found incredible unctuous.


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