Tags: Senators | Slam | Silent | Kenneth | Lay

Senators Slam Silent Kenneth Lay

Tuesday, 12 February 2002 12:00 AM

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee launched harsh attacks on Lay's decision to remain silent and his mismanagement of the bankrupt company.

"I have lots of questions that I think are important to ask you," said Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. "Apparently, you do not. You appear to be a confidence man in the tradition of Charles Ponzi. I would call you a carnival barker, but that would not be fair to carnival barkers."

Lay had been subpoenaed to appear before the committee after canceling a voluntary appearance before two congressional committees last week. Investigators from 13 committees are investigating Enron's collapse in October and November, including whether investors were deceived about the condition of the company's finances and whether executives knowingly encouraged employees to continue buying the company's stock for retirement investments despite the impending financial peril.

Public anger has increased over recent revelations that as many as 29 Enron executives were able to sell almost $1 billion worth of Enron stock since 1999, while lower-ranking employees were forced to hold their retirement shares as the stock plummeted last fall.

"Obviously the anger here is palpable," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "People understand that when investing there are risks, but this goes beyond normal market conditions."

"Mr. Lay has a story to tell," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. "We and the American people would like to hear that story. For instance, how 29 Enron executives sold over $1 billion in stock from 1999 to 2001, while at the same time, people at the bottom of the company managed to lose everything."

Lay told the committee that he was "deeply troubled" that he could not testify but had decided to heed his lawyer's advice.

Lay's appearance comes as non-congressional investigators, including the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, open investigations into the collapse. Investigators hope to determine how Enron was able to mask losses from outside partnerships by keeping those losses off the company's balance sheets, even as those losses drove the company into bankruptcy. Also heavily involved in the investigation are Enron's accountants, Arthur Andersen, which approved financial statements that many consider deceptive.

Enron filed for Chapter 11 protection Dec. 2 in the nation's largest bankruptcy, putting more than 4,000 of its employees out on the street. The workers lost thousands of dollars of savings in the company's 401(k) retirement plan.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Members of the Senate Commerce Committee launched harsh attacks on Lay's decision to remain silent and his mismanagement of the bankrupt company. I have lots of questions that I think are important to ask you, said Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. Apparently, you do not....
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2002-00-12
Tuesday, 12 February 2002 12:00 AM
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