Did Ken Lay fake
own death in order to stay out of jail and protect
the family assets from forfeiture? He could move to Mexico or some island somewhere,
confident that nobody in the American government would come looking for him.
This kind of massive fraud fits the entire pattern of his life, and it seems
much more likely than the official story that an obviously healthy man –
as we could see from his court appearances a few months ago - suddenly, and
And then there was just Skilling . . .
By Jerry Mazza
If Ken Lay’s sudden death Wednesday from a massive coronary at
64 shocks one, it also raises the queasy questions, was the heart attack really
the culprit? Or was Kenneth Lay a man who knew too much, and was therefore too
dangerous to live?
In fact, in the wake of his passing, comes another bizarre twist, that Lay’s
death can void the guilty verdict against him, even spare his survivors financial
ruin, and challenge the government to seize his remaining real estates and financial
What’s more, the LA Times yesterday reported (Death
Puts Lay Conviction in Doubt), "Beneath the surface, hard feelings
continued to fester, as shown by the reaction of some callers to news radio
KTRH-AM (740) in Houston scant hours after Lay’s death. More than
one caller expressed doubts that Lay really was dead and wondered whether the
reports of his demise weren’t part of an insurance scam.”
Additionally, Lay’s death echoes the equally shocking death of Enron’s
vice chairman Clifford Baxter on January 25, 2002. Baxter was found by police
inside his Mercedes at 2:23 a.m., near his home in the wealthy Sugar Land, Texas,
suburb, dead supposedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head
Yet under Baxter’s EVIDENCE OF INJURY, page 3 of the coroner’s
report notes "The defect is stellate and, when the wound edges are
repositioned, measures 7.2 centimeters in the horizontal direction and 4.5 centimeters
in the vertical direction." As apfn.org reports, “This suggests a
wound inflicted by a starburst of rat shot pellets which were far enough from
the muzzle of the weapon to have separated from one another by as much as 2.83
inches. Who would, or could, shoot themselves in the temple like this?”
This leaves at the very least a reasonable doubt that Baxter committed suicide.
After all Baxter had helped disguise Enron’s losses to keep the stock
price high and had personally sold 577,436 shares of Enron Stock for $35.2 million.
It is likely there was a lot he could have said about a lot of things had he
lived to face prosecution.
Lay, facing bankruptcy and sentencing most likely for 20 years, posed the same
threat conceivably to those in high political places involved with the Enron
debacle. In a separate, non-jury bank fraud trail regarding Lay’s personal
banking, US District Judge Sim Lake found the Enron founder guilty of both bank
fraud and false statements to banks. Judge Lake had held back his verdict in
Lay’s bank fraud case until the Lay-Skilling jury presented its verdict.
Also, between these two tales of death, on January 14, 2004, Andrew Fastow,
who designed the off-the-books deals that drowned Enron, in a deal with federal
prosecutors, pleaded guilty to wire and securities fraud and his wife, Lea,
to filing a false joint tax return in 2000. Fastow agreed, too, to help them
build a case against the corner office executives, former chairman Ken Lay (affectionately
called “Kenny Boy” by President Bush, now a mere acquaintance among
many) and CEO Jeffrey Skilling, the heavy left standing.
In fact, 10 years in prison for Fastow might be the safest place to be, although
one never knows.
And as Skilling awaits sentencing, no exoneration is apparent. At 52, he was
also convicted of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud after three
months of testimony from 54 witnesses, and six days of jury deliberation in
the fraud/conspiracy trial. If I were him, I’d keep my back to the wall,
hire a body guard and a wine taster, at least until sentencing.
The Larger Implications
As the Washington Post’s Mike Allen reported on August 26, 2003, in the
GAO cited Corporate Shaping of Energy Plan (read Enron and others). “The
General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in the report
that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham privately discussed the formulation of
Bush's policy ‘with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity,
nuclear, coal, chemical and natural gas companies, among others.’
“An energy task force, led by Vice President Cheney, relied for outside
advice primarily on ‘petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, electricity
industry representatives and lobbyists,’ while seeking limited input from
academic experts, environmentalists and policy groups, the GAO said.
“The task force was one of Bush's highest priorities after his inauguration
and was launched on his 10th day in office. None of the group's meetings was
open to the public, and participants told GAO investigators they ‘could
not recollect whether official rosters or minutes were kept,’ the report
said . . .
“Among the previously disclosed meetings were private sessions for Kenneth
L. Lay, then the chairman of Enron Corp., the Texas energy trading company that
collapsed in the nation's largest accounting scandal. Lay was given a 30-minute
meeting with Cheney and a conference with a top aide for the task force.”
What exactly went on, was promised, and decided remains unknown. “Of
the 77 pages Cheney’s office provided the GAO, two-thirds contained no
cost information and the remaining third included ‘miscellaneous information
of little or no usefulness . . . ’” And the VP’s office said
that was it for information.
Something Bigger Ticking in the Silence?
As Ron Callari
wrote in the Albion Monitor on February 22, 2002, “Could the Big Secret
be that the highest levels of the Bush administration knew during the summer
of 2001 that the largest bankruptcy in history was imminent? Or was it that
Enron and the White House were working closely with the Taliban -- including
Osama bin Laden -- up to weeks before the Sept. 11 attack? Was a deal in Afghanistan
part of a desperate last-ditch 'end run' to bail out Enron? Here's a tip for
congressional investigators and federal prosecutors: Start by looking at the
India deal. Closely.
“Enron had a $3 billion investment in the Dabhol power plant, near Bombay
on India's west coast. The project began in 1992, and the liquefied natural
gas-powered plant was supposed to supply energy-hungry India with about one-fifth
of its energy needs by 1997. It was one of Enron's largest development projects
ever (and the single largest direct foreign investment in India's history).
The company owned 65 percent of Dabhol; the other partners were Bechtel, General
Electric and State Electricity Board.
“The fly in the ointment, however was that the Indian consumers could
not afford the cost of the electricity that was to be produced. The World Bank
had warned at the beginning that the energy produced by the plant would be too
costly, and Enron proved them right. Power from the plant was 700 percent higher
than electricity from other sources.” Sounds like California in 2000-01,
when Enron used various trading schemes to drive up prices while squeezing supplies.
“Enron had promised India that the Dabhol power would be affordable once
the next phase of the project was completed. But to cut expenses, Enron had
to find cheap gas to fuel it. They started burning naphtha, with plans that
they would retrofit the plant to gas once it was available.
“Originally, Enron was planning to get the liquefied natural gas (LNG)
from Qatar, where Enron had a joint venture with the state-owned Qatar Gas and
Pipeline Company. In fact, the Qatar project was one of the reasons why Enron
selected India to set up Dabhol: it had to ensure that its Qatar gas did not
remain unsold. In April 1999, however, the project was cancelled because of
the global oil and gas glut. With Qatar gone, Enron was back to square one in
trying to locate an inexpensive LNG supply source.” And so on and on,
What’s Up, Doc?
And, as the sun sets on Enron’s saga, its shell games, corrupt executives,
its wheels and deals, its on and off book companies, the questions still remain,
including what will happen with Lay gone. And many of the answers still rest
in the White House, recipient of mucho Enron donation dineros, including GHW
Bush as well as Junior. It will be interesting to see who goes down next of
natural or unnatural causes. And what the coroners have to say about it all,
The real sadness, though, is not that several ruthless executives lost their
assets and life-styles, and one his life, but that Enron’s bankruptcy
cost thousands of workers their jobs and confirmed our worst suspicions about
stock market corruption, and finally forced lawmakers to come up with the toughest
regulations for corporate practices in years. Frankly, I see them as drops in
the bucket of corruption, which includes not only that of corporations, but
the government itself, partners in crime with the best of the corporatos, including
the deadly military-industrial complex and their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Somehow all that cumulative blood and guts makes Skilling look like a small
potato, albeit hanging in the wind on a string.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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