Enron

Overview:

  • People who were poorly known outside of business became household names thanks to Enron.
  • Several former executives were sentenced to prison for their roles in the massive financial meltdown. All of them are now free and attempting to rebuild their lives.
  • Their careers would never be the same for the elite team of prosecutors who investigated Enron.

Largest bankruptcy changing things

Thousands of lives were affected when Enron abruptly collapsed, culminating in what was then the largest bankruptcy filing in US history on Dec. 2, 2001. They also shattered investor trust and turned previously unknown businesspeople into household names.

Many were hauled in front of congressional committees and chastised in what seemed like never-ending sessions. As part of national catharsis, some were later indicted, detained, and paraded in handcuffs in front of cameras. The last of the Enron defendants have completed their prison sentences, paid their restitution, and attempted to move on with their lives twenty years later.

Even now, only a few of the dozen or so persons we interviewed for this article were willing to talk about their experience at Enron in public. Several people claimed they saw “no benefit” in re-affiliating with the company and preferred to keep a low profile instead.

Which are the few obscure profiles?

Many of the thousands of Enron employees, as well as all of the former business officials reporters spoke with, warmly remember their time there. These employees may yet be held responsible for the demise of what everyone seems to agree was a unique workplace.

What they said was recalled by Lay’s daughter Elizabeth, an attorney who worked on his defense team, and son Mark, a former Enron vice president who still works in the energy industry. Under their father’s supervision, they achieved numerous firsts at Enron. Renewable energy, environmental stewardship, and assistance for minorities and underprivileged people were among the topics discussed.

“The idea was straightforward,” they stated in a statement to reporters, “hire the smartest individuals you could find, give them funding, and run the back office for them so they could establish new markets.”

Skilling, who declined to comment for this story, was convicted alongside Lay on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and insider trading, and served the longest sentence of any Enron defendant. He had maintained his innocence throughout, but in 2013 he agreed to dismiss his pending appeals as part of a deal with the Justice Department that resulted in his early release from jail.

He was originally sentenced to 24 years in prison, but the sentence was overturned by a federal appeals court, which remanded the matter to the trial judge for resentencing. Skilling and the Department of Justice agreed to recommend a 14-year sentence in 2013. Skilling agreed to drop his remaining appeals in exchange for this. Skilling was released after nearly 12 years of good behavior and good behavior.

Richard Causey, the former chief accounting officer, was supposed to stand trial alongside Skilling and Lay, but he agreed to plead guilty two weeks before the trial started. In 2011, he was released after nearly five years in prison. He’s now back in Houston, where he runs a specialized financial consulting firm. Causey, for his part, remained silent.

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