Enron Chief Refuses to Testify; Andersen Anthrax Scare
In the latest news of the Enron situation, former Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay, upon advice of his attorney, refused to testify before two Senate panels. Mr. Lay had been scheduled to appear on Monday before the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Financial Services Committee this week.
The decision came as a result of remarks on Sunday television news shows made by members of the Senate committees. According to Mr. Lay's attorney, Earl Silbert, the remarks indicated that committee members had already decided that Mr. Lay and other members of the Enron executive group had behaved illegally in the decisions they made that led to Enron's bankruptcy.
"I have instructed Mr. Lay to withdraw his prior acceptance of your invitation," Mr. Silbert said in letters to the Senate and House panels. "He cannot be expected to participate in a proceeding in which conclusions have been reached before Mr. Lay has been given an opportunity to be heard." Prior to this decision, Mr. Lay had agreed to appear voluntarily before the committees, without the protection of immunity.
Mr. Silbert referred specifically to a comment made by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin in which he predicted that some senior officials of Enron would end up "in the pokey."
Members of the Senate Commerce Committee have agreed to vote today to subpoena Mr. Lay to require his appearance before their panel.
Ken Lay Severs Last "Official" Tie With Enron
Less than two weeks ago, Mr. Lay resigned as chairman and chief executive officer of Enron, but agreed to remain as a member of the company's board of directors. Yesterday, Mr. Lay resigned his position on the board of directors as well. "I want to see Enron survive and successfully emerge from reorganization," Mr. Lay said in a statement. "Due to the multiple inquiries and investigations, some of which are focused on me personally, I believe that my involvement has become a distraction to achieving this goal."
Powers Report finds "pervasive attempt by Enron's management to misrepresent the company's financial condition"
Dean of the University of Texas Law School William Powers, Jr., a member of the Enron Board, testified before a House panel on Monday on the results of a special Board Committee investigation on dealings at Enron. The 218 page report accused executives, auditors, lawyers and other board members of improperly creating partnerships to inflate earnings, hide debt and enrich a handful of insiders.
The report details how Enron managers exaggerated earnings over a 15-month period in 2000 and 2001 by more than $1 billion.
Short of making any determination as to whether any laws were broken, Mr. Powers added, "This is very serious conduct. ... Certainly, it warrants close attention."
Anthrax Scare Closes Andersen's DC Office
Big Five firm Andersen, which performed the controversial audits of Enron, received an envelope containing white powder at its Washington office last Thursday. The envelope also contained a photocopy of a letter that said the author was sitting in a Burger King restaurant and "had another Whopper about Enron."
FBI officials and hazardous materials personnel from the DC Fire Department arrived on the scene and the office was evacuated for about an hour.
It was determined that the white powder was common mail dust.