Lay Didn't Get Off Easy

Judging from the amazingly harsh initial reaction from so many of you, there is clearly the perception out there that Kenneth Lay got off "easy"-- if you can call dying of a massive heart attack "easy." Many of you wrote in earlier suggesting that somehow Lay "got away with something" by not having to spend years in a federal penitentiary for his Enron-related crimes. It is both a symbol of how hated he was, and how unforgiving we are as a people, that these comments would be offered in public even before Lay's body has been put into the ground.

I do not share these sentiments. I believe that Lay suffered greatly in the years between Enron's collapse and his own. I do not believe that he was the worst among the Enron transgressors. I think the company's demise ruined him, financially and otherwise, and eventually killed him. What more punishment does anyone want above that? Instead of dying a slow death in some tax-funded prison world, Lay died a quick death on the eve of his federal sentencing. As sad as any man's death is, Lay's death is not an entirely unfitting one given his personality, his role at Enron, and his place in the history of stcorporate America.

Lay leaves no lasting legal legacy. His trial will forever be remembered now as a preamble to his sudden death and his combativeness in court now will be seen as a sign of the inner turmoil that eventually stopped his heart. The most important appellate issue he had--a broad jury instruction that might have given him a new trial-- still will be addressed and resolved as his co-defendant, Jeffrey Skilling, pushes on (and, for a moment, imagine now what is going on inside the already-scrambled mind of Jeffrey Skilling, who will soon have to bury another Enron buddy).

What happened at Enron--what happened to the tens of thousands of people impacted by it-- was truly awful. But it wasn't just Lay, or Skilling for that matter, who are responsible. The failure at Enron was a system-wide failure of corporate America. It was a failure of lawyers and accountants and public-relations officials and market analysts. It was a failure of judges and lawmakers who watered down securities law. In short, it was the failure of a great many people, whose culpability is both known and unknown, but who, unlike Lay, will be able to spend another day, another week, another month, another year on this Earth. I don't call that a case where Lay "got off easy. I call that yet another tragedy in a story that has been filled with them.

More tonight on some of your reactions to this post.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 5, 2006; 4:49 PM ET
Previous: Kenneth Lay's Legacy: First Thoughts | Next: The Kenneth Lay Effect


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good for dan rorschach, every word is true. Doesn't matter how many others were also criminals, Lay was a criminal and all his holdings should be sold to give some back that he had even a part in stealing from people.

Posted by: ellen | July 5, 2006 05:19 PM

I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the level of venom being spewed by bloggers in reaction to the death of Ken Lay. Ken Lay's worse personal decision was to accept the entreaties of those who begged him to return to Enron after Skilling jumped ship. One lesson for CEO's to learn from the Enron debacle is that it is never a good idea to serve as a titular head of your company while you rely on subordinates to run the place. The moment you decide you don't want to be a "hands-on" CEO, GET OUT! Lay made mistakes, Skilling made more and the auditors, accounting firms and market analysts all showed cowardice in not standing up to Skilling when it might have saved the company.

While the vultures carve up his estate, maybe Ken Lay can finally rest in peace.

Posted by: Robert Dingess | July 5, 2006 05:25 PM

How is this a "tragedy"?

Stop using a word that has nothing to do with what happened to Ken Lay. It wasn't a force of nature that made him break several laws and ruin thousands of lives.

He's not Hamlet; he's not even MacBeth.

Posted by: M | July 5, 2006 05:27 PM

Bottm line: He did the crime and didn't do the time.

Posted by: Michael Gregg | July 5, 2006 05:30 PM

Although Americans love to put a face with a scandal I agree with the author that Kenneth Lay was not solely responsible for the downfall of Enron. That being said, when someone is compensated like Lay to lead a company it is criminal to allow, ignorantly or otherwise, the rampant conduct that was occurring within Enron. If he wasn't responsible to stop it then all is lost in America's sense of "The buck stops here."

Having Lay spend years in prison, however satisfying for American sensibilities, would only be another burden on American taxpayers. Although Kenneth Lay died in Aspen, he also died in shame. A far fall from grace that surely contributed to his death.

Posted by: Glen Cesari | July 5, 2006 05:33 PM

No one in this country would have minded if Ken Lay's heart could have held out long enough for him to take one shower in his maximum-security prison.

Posted by: Ryan Brackus | July 5, 2006 05:34 PM

You've got to be kidding! What did he pay you to write good things about him? Do you honestly believe he had no clue as to what was going on? He screwed a lot of people and seems to still be screwing on his way out of the limelight. I do not believe he died. I believe he's out of the country to live somewhere nice instead of serving his time.

Posted by: Ken Lay Sucks!! | July 5, 2006 05:35 PM

Andrew Cohen opines "I think the company's demise ruined him, financially and otherwise" - how does that square with the reports that he died in his summer home in Aspen? We should all be ruined financially I guess.

Posted by: Sleitch | July 5, 2006 05:35 PM

yeah, bush would've pardoned him.

end sarcasm.

it amazes me how so many people can be so ridiculous. i don't think the effect of this article has anything to do with whether or not he got off easy, it's that to you people, no punishment he received would be good enough. life in prison probably wouldn't be good enough, so you would probably want him dead. well, now he's dead, and somehow it's not good enough. if he stole everyones money, why would you want him taking our tax money sitting in prison? you people don't make any sense...
just saying "it's not good enough" isn't good enough...this isn't high school where you can dance around issues by using buzzwords and trying to sound smarter when in the end you have no idea what in the world you're talking about. what would you have wanted to happen to ken lay? you don't know. so don't waste everyone's time by replying.

Posted by: Brad | July 5, 2006 05:38 PM

How do we know Lay is dead? Dead like Bush And Co knew the exact location of Saddam's Hundres of tons of illegal WMds?

What would prevent Lay from paying off the doctors, the coroner and funeral director to say he was deceade? Lay was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Lay will probably have his estate next to Osama's in Pakistan.

Posted by: Jeremy | July 5, 2006 05:38 PM

I have noticed more than a few comments about the sheer venom being spewed on this message board (including mine)seem to come from our friends overseas, some of which seem to take issue with the viciousness of our scorn for Kenneth Lay.

Having never lived in Europe, I am admittedly quite ignorant of the way most European economies work, and how working folks prepare for their retirement. But I am fairly certain that the anger in our words stems from the unmitigated sense of betrayal that we feel when one our country's most successful champions of the free market system manipulates that system to such an extent that he, along with several others, directly causes the financial ruin of so many thousands of people.

Because no one can realistically survive on Social Security benefits alone in order to even buy food for one's pets, let alone secure one's retirement, it is the sum total of our own individual efforts throughout our working years that make the difference between dignity and abject poverty.

It is this daily reality, I am certain, that fuels a good portion of the hatred that has been posted to this messageboard, mine included.

So, to our friends across the world, please don't judge us too hastily for heaping such scorn onto Kenneth Lay's grave. We just really hate it when scoundrels fund their extravagant lifestyles with our nesteggs.

Posted by: ned in miami | July 5, 2006 05:38 PM

I think I understand the hatred now being heaped upon a dead man who cheated many out of their pensions and has now apparently cheated them out of a measure of vengeance.

However, I have always wondered how those who lost the most could have been so financially unsophisticated as to lump so much of their retirement investment into one company's stock. Perhaps everyone who worked for Enron wasn't "the smartest in the room," but anyone with enough foresight to think about retirement should have known better.

If you weren't, isn't a bit of your enmity misplaced.

Posted by: Dave Nelson | July 5, 2006 05:42 PM

You are right, Andrew Cohen! It was not really Ken Lay's fault, rather it was, as you put it the "system-wide failure of corporate America." In other words, we don't need to bury Ken Lay. We need to bury this disorted vision of unrestrained neoliberal (i.e corporate-driven) capitalism that, if he were alive today, would have shamed Adam Smith into becoming a marxist.

Posted by: Jan Jolan | July 5, 2006 05:47 PM

To answer Brad's question directly...

My conception of the proper punishment for Kenneth Lay's crimes consists of the following:

*Life in prison, at his own expense.

*While in prison, uncompensated labor as a fund-raiser to fight homelessness and hunger in America.

*Complete liquidation of his/his family's remaining assets, equal to the amount he and his co-conspirators stole from his employees, defrauded his investors, and cost the government (in prosecuting the case), minus a VERY modest food/shelter allowance.

I think that if Mr. Lay had had to endure these punishments, he would be able to leave this world with a measure of dignity, and with hard-earned forgiveness, as opposed to the legacy of shame he has instead taken with him into the afterlife.

Posted by: ned in miami | July 5, 2006 05:49 PM

The majority of the scandel occured on Bill Clinton's watch. Ken Lay gave more to Clinton than Bush.

Do not forget the last minute pardons of Clinton--before you go blaming Bush.

As to Lay, he was not the sole reason for the demise of Enron. He was one of many and when did it become a "sin" to be rich or is it only a sin, if it can be spun against Bush.

Posted by: Austin | July 5, 2006 05:51 PM

Dear Mr. Nelson-

Yes sir, you may be correct in that the Enron catastrophe might have been less so if the employees had not had so much of their retirement funds tied to the company stock.

However, this truth in no way mitigates Kenneth Lay's crimes any more than those of a rapist who exploits a victim's state of intoxication.

Posted by: ned in Miami | July 5, 2006 05:55 PM

From a spiritual perspective justice relative and not like civil solution finite.

For example, relative to your personal investment @ age 30, perhaps -0-, it would be easier for to to spiritually write-off the emotional burden than those losing $1MM @ age 55.

Likewise (religion), a Catholic might have an emotional burden of forgiving and forgetting and also face the perspective of the Ten Commandments (thou shall not lie, when in reality you know you will never forgive inside).

Then there are the judges that look at hostility, and that the judge can never relate. To the judge, as best put in my daughter's response when I told her that her room was not cleaned, "I will never be as perfect as you."

Then there is Sharon Watkins et. al, the future for the walking dead victims that had the character to face his fraternity/frateria brothers and sisters in crime. The victim reported them and face the consequence of those actions (backlisting/blackballing). It is easier to die than to face the prospect of finding a job among the transplants of vicious men and women working in the house that they built.

I believe what you read has more to do with Post Traumatice Stress Syndrom than vengence or civility. Those most related to the circumstance (perpetrator, sideliner or victim), more likely will have the same opinions. Quay non conoscitur ex se noscitur ex socio.

Posted by: Dan Rittgers | July 5, 2006 05:56 PM

I thoughts 297K on WCOM stock. Yes, I think "Kenny Boy" got off easy. I hope Bernie Ebbers does not die of a heart attack.

These guys destroyed thousands of lives and they knew what they were doing.

KL should have suffered in prison for decades.

Posted by: kim | July 5, 2006 05:57 PM

Andrew, you're a good soldier in the war against the middle class. One crooked plutocrat dies and you cry him a river. 13,000 loyal employees who loaded their 401K's with Enron stock at his urging wake up one day to find their life savings gone and it's 'oh well'. And of course your fellow wealth worshippers insinuate that those who lost their retirement savings are at fault for not diversifying. It's just never going to dawn on you guys that wealth does not automatically mean virtue.

Posted by: Scott Hanrahan | July 5, 2006 06:03 PM

I agree with you completely with this article. What ever happened to love and forgiveness? Are we not a Christian country? Let's keep it that way. May he rest in peace.

Posted by: elisa mcdowell | July 5, 2006 06:05 PM

To one and all,

After reading this blog, I can now say that we have all sunk to a new low (and I love it). Keep it coming.

I too will not believe Kennyboy is dead until I see his cold body in the open casket.


Posted by: Di Willi | July 5, 2006 06:05 PM

Let this man's life and death serve as a lesson to all of us - live honestly and prudently if you don't want to hear such hateful words from others upon your departure from this world.

Posted by: Lecom | July 5, 2006 06:06 PM

I sold retirement plans for 25 years you have NO CLUE as a reporter to even undersdtand the devisation that occurs when such a man with such and ego TAKES from his fellow man as he did with his henchmen.
There is of course sorrow for any death...but, your response is not the sightest bit orothordox,correct,or insightfull...becuse you write from such a distance...and we as readers are to buy YOUR perspective...NO WAY SIR!

Posted by: Gerry | July 5, 2006 06:09 PM

Maybe he celebrated the 4th of july with family friends said his goodbyes and dealt with his death on his own terms..
Has anyone had these thoughts

Posted by: Josephine | July 5, 2006 06:11 PM

I noticed in an earlier post mentioning his death that he made a comment about a bible verse that was important to him.
If in fact he was a "believer," rest assured that he will face a judgment for whatever part he had in the "Enron" scandle.
And if he was not a "believer" his judgment will be far worse than anything we can conceive of, this side of eternity.
And this is completely independent of whatever anyone believes, or holds important about the afterlife.
While this may not be the venue to make these statements, the bible teaches that each of us will face an ultimate judgment by the true, and living "God." Those who've trusted in the sacrifice made by Jesus on behalf of humanity will be saved from eternal judgment, but receive rewards, or suffer the loss of rewards for deeds done in this life.
Those who do not receive the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of humanity, will endure an eternity separated from the true, and Living God.
So, believe me when I say.... Lay has not "gotten away with" anything. These are the teachings of the bible. Each and every person on earth will "give an account" for the lives we've lived.

Posted by: Steve | July 5, 2006 06:11 PM

Elvis is alive too!

Posted by: banaggie97 | July 5, 2006 06:12 PM

I think you want to be more popular by this disputed article. But guess what you got bad influce on people.

Posted by: Umesh | July 5, 2006 06:13 PM

I can't believe your editorial writer's comments. We lock up low level drug and property offenders for years with poor legal representation and under absolutely terrible conditions in prison. Ken Lay who "smoozed" with the wealthy and powerful while bilking employees and the public out of billions deserves our kindness?? Every dime of his "wealth" should be confiscated. His name should be anathma to all other white collar felons. No amount of disdain for this man and his cronies is too much. God will do the "forgiving" if there is any to be had for this crook. I will discuss his crookedness in my classes!! (and the editorial writers who support him) EVER HEARD OF THE CONCEPT OF A MORAL COMPASS??

Posted by: Bob M. | July 5, 2006 06:14 PM

How does this event help or hurt the chances of repealing the Estate Tax.

Not that I'm rich enough to benefit from a repeal... but I'm guessing I am middle enough class that I'll be asked to fund the shortfall (most likely by the next president, interest on the debt be damned).

We're all heading back to the good old days of robber barons and high walled estates on the hills, folks. Ken's just an icon, and now an easier target.

The real problem is the mere 80 or so families who will reap 90% of the benefits of the regressive Bush tax laws... the rest of us are here to pay their way. Let's not forget that 3 years from now, when people are blaming the next president for raising taxes to pay for the Bush debt (I am predicting 1 or 2 Democratic terms per 3 Republican terms for history, as this bank-favoring debt tug of war continues, until we're fourth place behind France or something)

Posted by: ac | July 5, 2006 06:16 PM


When I have my heart attack it will be at my desk or at my modest home - not at my Colorado resort. If financially ruined he was still doing far better than all of us from whom he stole millions.

Posted by: David Freyer | July 5, 2006 06:17 PM

Dead is dead.

I'll admit that I've never understood why people sent to death row are put on suicide watch. If they're dead, they're dead. What difference does it make if they die early?

Fetishizing the PROCESS of administering the punishment is taking your eye off the ball, I think.

Dead is dead.

Posted by: Fluffy | July 5, 2006 06:19 PM

The author was right on key. All of you who commented such vile venomous crap should have to face the same scrutiny one day.

Your comments are obvious jealous rants from losers stuck in dead end jobs. Stop crying about how people have more than you and do something about it, you bunch of cry babies.

Lay's net worth was estimated to be a negative $250k. What you want to do to him now? Sell his body parts to feed your misguided and ignorant blood lust?

You people are truly sick. I hope you have to face a similar witch hunt in your lives. Something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy's.

Posted by: Sick Of Losers Whining About Rich People | July 5, 2006 06:20 PM

Its incredible how much misinformation exists out there. Lay didn't swindle hundreds of billions, (gross exaggeration) Ken Lay didn't so much as steal from company employees as he did shareholders. True, most employees were shareholders through their 401K plan, but their jobs unfortunately hinged on the deception Ken Lay had authorized. When the company initially traded themselves into hundreds of millions in losses in the oil market, the exposure of this loss would have cost many their jobs. Up to this point, nothing illegal had been done. Furthermore, many employees had foolishly invested 100% of their 401K plan assets into company stock (greed) while they were only required to hold the match. Some may argue that if they had better information they wouldn't have invested so much, but honestly only an idiot or one who wants to speculate much as the company speculated on the oil market should be making such an unwise move.

Posted by: Greg | July 5, 2006 06:21 PM

The venom on this board reflects the truly bizarre paranoia that seems to be a contagious disease. In just a few posts, we have assertions that

* Ken Lay was assassinated by Bush or the Clintons (pick whoever you hate more)

* Ken Lay faked his death

* Ken Lay somehow escaped punishment

You people are so bizarre and lost in your own vile hatred, I am flabbergasted that the neurons in your brains aren't firing so randomly as to cause a spontaneous seizure.

Ken Lay was a criminal, but in the end, he got what he deserved. Government prosecutors methodically hunted him down over the past 5 years, building up a case that would have ended with him dying in a prison cell.

As for the theory that Lay was somehow aided by Bush, wake up idiots. Enron happened in the 1990s and collapsed at the beginning of the Bush presidency. Enron happened under Clinton's watch, and it was Bush prosecutors who brought Lay down.

As for the government not taking what remains of Lay's misbegotten assets, why don't you lay off the acid and look at the facts? From

"The government filed a motion on June 30, asking the court to order both Lay and Skilling to hand over almost $183 million as a result of their conviction."

"According to court papers, that hefty figure includes bonuses received by both Skilling and Lay during their involvement in the conspiracy, proceeds from Enron stock sales and the use of Lay's Enron line of credit, which Lay used to pay off more than $100 million in personal debt."

"Of that amount, the government seeks to retrieve $43 million from Lay. Also at risk for seizure is Lay's posh Houston condominium and $6.3 million he had in an an account at Goldman Sachs."

You guys are truly unhinged, coming up with every paranoid fantasy and pretending you actually make sense. I'm glad I'll never meet you guys in a dark alley, because for all your assertions of moral and intellectual superiority, you are crazy loons. Take a hard look in the mirror, fellows, because no one can get you off the mental acid but yourselves.

Ken Lay faked his death with his billions! What a pathetic joke.

Posted by: Paul | July 5, 2006 06:25 PM

What the negative comments tell is the story of how the American public have come to not trust their government or anyone closely affiliated with government such as todays leaders. Ken Lay, if he were so anquished over the loss to the people who worked at and invested in Enron, as his "Preacher" stated, then why not give back to the people what he continued to enjoy - financial freedom. C'mon Mr. Cohen - he was NOT devasted financially - he was cheating and you know the buck stops at the top of the house. He was the CEO - the Chief Executive Officer. His arrogance was evident during his trial and I believe he knew he blew it. This is a lesson to all corporate scoundrels. The right wing christian conservatives may do well to keep saying this was an act of God. Heck maybe someone will learn a valuable moral lesson here. I am like the masses who say they need proof and evidence that KL is gone. I think he may have been wisked away by the Bush administration cronies off to Saudi Arabia to live out his oil fortune. Who really knows?

Posted by: j burke | July 5, 2006 06:28 PM


I am Andrew's producer at He and I stepped on one another's toes earlier, and inadvertently, over a hundred comments were lost. I am posting them below now.

Michael Corones
Opinions producer

"I call that yet another tragedy" - Which side are you really on? The death of an "evil-doer" is no tragedy..on the plus side, it saves tax payers some money..

Posted by: Jeff | July 5, 2006 12:57 PM

My first reaction when hearing the reports of his death were that he was silenced, to make sure he could never implicate anyone higher up later (by writing a tell-all autobiography from prison, for example.)

But on reflection it seems more likely that he's simply been relocated and given a new identity and the whole heart attack thing is a cover story.

Posted by: WhatIf | July 5, 2006 01:54 PM

My first reaction when hearing the reports of his death were that he was silenced, to make sure he could never implicate anyone higher up later (by writing a tell-all autobiography from prison, for example.)

But on reflection it seems more likely that he's simply been relocated and given a new identity and the whole heart attack thing is a cover story.

Posted by: WhatIf | July 5, 2006 01:55 PM

Your kidding right?? What about the old saying, "The buck stops here"! What about the thousands he screwed out of their life savings????

Sorry, I have no pity for the greedy, he got what he deserved in the end....

Posted by: John | July 5, 2006 01:57 PM

Regardless of the "watered down" laws and regulations, it is still one's responsibility to behave ethically.

Posted by: Tim | July 5, 2006 01:58 PM

Unfortunately, Lay and Skilling have become the focus of all the hate and rage behind Enron's collapse. You are right, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of folks who are just as guilty--and they got off. That is a tragedy. They are living a good life while tens of thousands of the hardworking Enron, Anderson etc. folks are not. How they, the other perpetrators, sleep at night is beyond me. How they can look at themselves in a mirror knowing that they caused the financial ruination of tens of thousands of hard working Americans is beyond me. Yes, Lay and Skilling took the fall, but you are right--there are accountants and lawyers and judges and marketing and economic folks that had a clue as to what was going on and they looked the other way. The lawmakers on the side of big business who took away protections for the "little man" should be on trial too. The lawyers and accountants who saw irregularities, but didn't push to find the reasons, should also be held accountable. Yes, Lay and Skilling are the symbols of the disaster Enron left, but why aren't we as the common man forcing through our collective voices more protection for workers and their retirement plans and their benefits. Congress can vote themselves a raise, but they can't protect us? They can vote measures in place to protect big business, but they cannot vote health care benes and retirement plan protections in place for us, the hardworking people that make corporations run? The people this country is founded on? Puh-leez, give me a break! Those congressmen, lawyers, accountants, judges, PR folks, marketing folks, economic analysts who saw that something was wrong, should have done something before the tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands (when you look at collateral damage) of folks lost retirements, nest eggs, homes, jobs, benefits and more. It makes me and probably millions like me--middle America--sick. Sick and disillusioned in our governing bodies and our corporate leaders.

Posted by: Deborah | July 5, 2006 01:59 PM

I don't know that he got what he deserved in the end -- it seems to me that he deserved to get it in the end. To call his death a tragedy is farcical.

Posted by: John | July 5, 2006 02:00 PM

I believe what he is saying is that it's a tragedy that

'the failure of a great many people, whose culpability is both known and unknown, but who, unlike Lay, will be able to spend another day, another week, another month, another year on this Earth.'

Posted by: steve | July 5, 2006 02:00 PM

Andrew -

Iagree the Enron collapse was a failure of a number of professions and people, however, they would not have been given that route had it not been for Lay and Skilling et al. I do think he got off easy given the number of lives ruined by Enron, now if God or someone could do something about
O.J. it would help the world.

Posted by: DavidN | July 5, 2006 02:01 PM

It's easy to demonize one person, rather than a whole system. You are correct that White House administrations, starting with Reagan, undercut all safeguards and regulations, saying government was the enemy. In the meantime, the foxes got into the henhouse easily, and we let them by being distracted by gay marriage, flag burning, abortion and prayer. But if you read Molly Ivins' columns, Ken Lay sure played the system as hard as he could, even dictating policy to the White House.

The public has spoken and corporate America and the White House need to pay attention, the fall elections are coming.

Posted by: CasaB1939 | July 5, 2006 02:02 PM

Let me be the first to point out that if anyone ever had both the motivation and the resources to fake their own death, Ken Lay is that person.

Posted by: PhantomScreed | July 5, 2006 02:03 PM

The loss of a loved one is always is tragedy that we are all one day faced with, my condolences are extended, but in keeping with perspective what about the thousands who remain jobless because of the actions of a few others who forgot that each person no matter how insignificant is an equal and was not there to be a servant but a part of a whole!

Posted by: Drew | July 5, 2006 02:05 PM

Mr. Cohen, you're a kind and decent man. Thank you for writing this article--I found it on Google news. I'm very sorry that Mr. Lay passed away in such a frightening and painful manner, and I'm truly sorry for his family and loved ones. Justice is not vengeance, and there are a great many
U.S. citizens who, even if they're not vocal about the matter, are extremely forgiving and who I'm confident truly wanted what was good for Mr. Lay. We now must have faith that he'll be forgiven in the life to come and find not vengeance, but the Justice toward which we as a people seem able onto to stumble.

Posted by: Alexander Saint Croix | July 5, 2006 02:05 PM

If all the corporate sleeze bags dropped dead of massive heart attacks we would have all the support staff running things! Oh, sorry, I forgot, those are the ones who do the real work and heavy lifting anyway!

Posted by: Steve G | July 5, 2006 02:05 PM

When a teenager in the ghetto commits a crime, and someone makes the comment that "it isn't just this kid who is responsible, that the failure is a system-wide failure of American society", most of the talk show hosts will be jumping all over such a comment. Cohen's comment is the epitome of how we are so enamored with rich white men; and I expect that most talk show hosts will actually share his sentiment.

Posted by: Steve | July 5, 2006 02:06 PM

Maybe before you write an article like this, you should talk to some of people that are Ken Lay's age, who worked at Enron. I would think that a few thousand stories about families that lost their retirement funds and now have the next 20-30 years of destitution to look forward to in their "golden years" would disabuse you of any notion that Lay did not get off easy. He was in charge - and if he did not commit the fraud, he knew about it and did not stop it. Tell those retirees that they should feel sorry for Ken Lay, and see what reception you get. The fact that you are getting such an "amazingly harsh initial reaction" should be telling you something...

Posted by: David | July 5, 2006 02:07 PM

So, the CEO of a major corporation is not responsible for his company's success or failure? What an interesting concept: CEO's are obsolete! That should bring prices down.

End sarcasm.

Have you lost your mind? Ken Lay as 'victim'? ANYTHING that happens within a corporation is the direct responsibility of the CEO. Ignorance is just as deplorable in a position of power as evil intent. Bottom line: Does not matter if he knew or not- it was ALL HIS FAULT.

Today, America is a little better off. One less thief for Bush to pardon.

And you KNOW he would have.

Posted by: Brian Foster | July 5, 2006 02:08 PM

Why was Ken Lay at home and not in jail waiting sentencing? Aren't guilty criminals suppose to be in jail?

Posted by: MD | July 5, 2006 02:09 PM

Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

Posted by: | July 5, 2006 02:09 PM

Nicely written. I couldn't agree more.

Posted by: Kristin from NH | July 5, 2006 02:09 PM

Karma at its best. Look where greed got him, if he's dead at all. He had huge ties to big government officials. Does anyone think that he's in the carribean sipping margaritas with his millions of stolen dollars, laughing at todays headlines? It wouldn't surprise me!

Posted by: greg | July 5, 2006 02:09 PM

It does us little good to speak ill of the dead. Nor are we apt to learn from Mr. Lay's demise by laying the blame for the ruin of thousands at the feet of the "system."

Instead, we should reflect on the ironic appropriateness of Mr. Lay's post-conviction comments. He believed that the courts had failed him, but that events remained in God's hands. He noticed the large gap between justice and the law, however misconceived his persepctice. Had he lived, Mr. Lay would have been subject to the fullest penalties under law. As it is, justice is meted out by a higher authority.

Posted by: Houston Native | July 5, 2006 02:10 PM

Give the average 64-year old man the choice between dying now of a heart attack, or spending the rest of his life in prison and THEN dying from a heart attack (if he's lucky). The answer from a majority of men will probably ba a resounding "give me the heart attack now". I could be wrong, but I think that it's a fair thing to postulate, and I therefore think it's honest and reasonable to say that Ken Lay did indeed get off easy.

The thing I want from my government now, is that they continue to pursue Ken's wife and children to recover their ill-gotten wealth. I sincerely hope that Ken's death doesn't let the rest of his family off the hook.

Posted by: Ken | July 5, 2006 02:10 PM

How can you not read that article and laugh?

Posted by: Chris | July 5, 2006 02:14 PM

Are you so far removed from the troubles and turmoil of working class people that you can't see this as an easy out for Lay? Have you never seen a loved one slowly die, eaten alive by cancer or another debilitating disease? Ken Lay died of a massive heart attack. He was luckier than many of us will be in death. Perhaps corporate America is to blame for Enron cooking the books. Maybe it is part of corporate culture, but I hardly see how this negates Lay's responsibility. Are you arguing that since other people are also to blame, Lay should be sympathized with? Give me a break. White collar criminals give to churches and charities. So do drug lords. Giving here and there doesn't negate your sins or negligence. Sir, you have no idea what harsh is. Harsh is being out of a job close to retirement with nothing to get you through, no medical insurance, nada. The impoverished people who worked their lives for Enron will have to spend another day, another week, another month on this earth dying a slow death in a hell of poverty and diminishing faculties with no way to pay for it.

Posted by: Cristian | July 5, 2006 02:14 PM

"I think the company's demise ruined him, financially and otherwise, and eventually killed him"

Oh, please. For someone financially ruined, he was seemed to be doing pretty well. _I_ couldn't own a first home in Aspen, much less afford a "summer home" and vacation there - can you?

Posted by: TL, Delray Beach | July 5, 2006 02:15 PM

I believe that Mr. Lay isn't dead at all. I know he's got some TEXAS connections with our amazing president and he's off living the good life on some remote beach. What are the chances that just before he goes to prison he has a heart attack. Not just that... I never heard of him having a heart condition earlier. Until I see his dead corpse and test the DNA.. he's in Fiji.

Posted by: Mattaroo | July 5, 2006 02:16 PM

Thank you for your article as it mirrors my thoughts exactly.

Posted by: epi | July 5, 2006 02:16 PM

I notice a couple of people have thought of the possibility that Lay's death was faked.It was one of my first thoughts too. Quoting PhantomScreed, "Let me be the first to point out that if anyone ever had both the motivation and the resources to fake their own death, Ken Lay is that person."

I hope that Justice officials carefully verify the identity of that corpse.

Posted by: Linda Cope | July 5, 2006 02:18 PM

Dear Mr. Cohen-

To say that Kenneth Lay was but one in a sea of guilty people who took advantage of a "system-wide failure of corporate America" is to relieve him of his individual responsibilities to his employees and his investors. This line of reason, really, is no different from saying that a drunk driver who kills a family of four driving back from a weekend vacation just took advantage of lax drunk driving laws.

In both cases, real people's lives are ruined at the hands of individuals who make a conscious decision to put their vices (booze or money) above every other living thing around them.

So, yes, I absolutely think Kenneth Lay got off lightly, because, for the sake of the myriad other corporate snakes in America, it would have been infinitely just to have seen the video footage of Lay being carted off to prison in cuffs, like the common theif that he was.

Posted by: ned in miami | July 5, 2006 02:19 PM

I would like to point out that "your" indicates possession. I believe what John meant to write was "you're," which, while very similar in sound, does not mean the same as your.

Posted by: Grammar | July 5, 2006 02:20 PM

I don't agree that the immediate post-death critical comments are a symbol of "how unforgiving we are as a people". They are, perhaps, an indication of how intensely he and his ilk are disliked, but forgiveness usually requires a bit of time, and Americans have often shown that they are a very forgiving bunch.

There are many things he could've been doing with his time these days; the image (correct or not) of him vacationing in Aspen just adds to the dislikeableness of the man.

Posted by: D. Smith | July 5, 2006 02:21 PM

Ken Lay died in his "vacation home" in Aspen Colorodo. Doesn't sound like he was ruined financially to me. I've never been to Aspen. Can't afford it.

Posted by: June | July 5, 2006 02:24 PM

I agree with you wholeheartdly. He was one of many hundreds responsible for the fall of Enron. Mistakes in judgment and business can sometimes trigger a domino effect when trying to correct those mistakes; especially when there are SEVERAL greedy people in the mix. I don't get how America can feel comfortable with placing all of the punishment on such a small percentage of those trutly to blame. It makes no sense.

Posted by: EAS | July 5, 2006 02:24 PM

He did get off easy. I would have wanted him to suffer inside himself as he sat there rotting in prison while Leroy in the cell next door taunted him by calling him "Kenny Boy." Yes, there were many guilty people who escaped prosecution and who are still out there. Too bad this administration doesn't do anything about hunting them down because the guilt goes all the way to the top at the White House.

Posted by: AbouZouz | July 5, 2006 02:25 PM

What are the chances that a man going to jail suddenly dies right before prison time. Not only that... He's a rich, white, CEO, (not to mention) friend of the President. Can you not see some "higher officials" faking the death and shipping him to a nameless country. I agree with the others on this one.

-Until I see his corpse and DNA- He's in Fiji.
Kenneth Lay is the ultimate coward.

Posted by: | July 5, 2006 02:26 PM

I was taught never to speak ill of the dead. Kenneth Lay is gone, apparently of a heart attack. Further details will be released.

Although death is an inevitable part of the circle of life, it is often feared or idealized.

Religions have grappled with this seemingly finite loss to find adequate explanation to resonate with the faithful.

Sometimes it makes sense. Elderly people, having enjoyed a full life, pass on. Of course people are missed. The community around the newly deceased has to accommodate for the missing person. Friends and family grieve, remember, expand to include others and at some point, move on with their lives.

Parents know that their ultimate job is to prepare their child to function independently. There will come a time when the scions are left to keep the family together. That is the best possible scenario. To bury one's offspring is the cruelest of fates.

In Buddhism, death is akin to sleep, restoring the energy until it is rested and sent to another body. Or form. No guarantees people are coming back as humans.

In this philosophy, every cause triggers an effect. Often referred to as the Law of Cause and Effect. It is bad for one's karmic storehouse to not make good causes to offset bad actions. Of course the need for atonement and reparation is very common, especially with those facing death.

Kenneth Lay never made it right. Of course, "it" was far too large to ever repair. He never admitted any wrong doing. As his employees suffered through the loss of their income and savings, he once complained he was down to his last $20 million. Luckily, he reassured us, he had money set aside for his lawyers. Whew. That was a relief.

Lay, Skilling and the Enron gang were robbers and muggers writ large. Of course they were infinitely more dangerous.

Lay cheated the government and the taxpayers. Enron went through billions of federal dollars. He and his cohorts destroyed too many lives to count. Of course many people bear responsibility for the failure of Enron and other corporate lootings.

But Lay was the symbol of his company and enjoyed the spoils.

Now Lay is being cheated. Of the chance to pay for his sins.

Posted by: | July 5, 2006 02:26 PM

Given the crimes Ken Lay committed, it is difficult to have any sympathy for him dying at his "vacation" home in Colorado while awaiting sentencing. As many others have pointed out, the people who were truly hurt by Lay's actions and Enron's collapse will likely never see any restitution and Lay's wife will likely continue her life of luxury.

Lay's estate should be confiscated and distributed to the people who deserve it most... the former employees and shareholders of Enron. Unfortunately, I doubt if there is enough of it left to really make a difference in those people's lives.

Posted by: James Outlaw | July 5, 2006 02:27 PM

You write that he suffered greatly. Do you calll living in a 10,000 sq ft mansion in Aspen suffering? Maybe I missed something, but financial ruin should mean living in the streets shouldn't it? Your article is part of the tradgedy.

Posted by: Dennis Sein | July 5, 2006 02:27 PM

I agree with Ned in Miami. Mr. Cohen can issue moralistic accusations to the millions of us who will never be rich, who struggle paycheck to paycheck, who are aghast at the crushing energy prices, who are forced to trust our pensions and retirement money and any sense of security to the free market and the crooks who run it. Look at the oil industry bosses making record profits, while the rest of us can't afford gas, yet they face no windfall tax or anything!! It's outrageous. Lay never, ever acknowledged doing anything wrong. There was no remorse. The only way for a day of reckoning to come would have been for him to serve time. For once it would have been great to see some fat cat pay for his crimes. Hopefully, the Skilling sentencing will have to make up for it.

Posted by: leah jones | July 5, 2006 02:28 PM

Another one disappears in Pitkin County. Didn't they lose Ted Bundy up there too? Let's sell their summer home (and the rest of the estate) and give the proceeds to the retirees with no health insurance, no pension, no job.

Posted by: Terri in Denver | July 5, 2006 02:29 PM

A life savings is nothing in relationship to the value of a human life. In the end Ken Lay DID get what was coming to him - what is coming to us all - death. It is a sad commentary on our society that one who does an evil act is suddenly value-less and seen merely as an "evil-doer". We are all "evil-doers" - we all deserve to be respected as human beings, regardless of our actions. What kind of vengeful animals have we become?

Posted by: Michael the Looplander | July 5, 2006 02:29 PM

Welcome to the "Good Ole Boys" Club. You are obviously wanting membership, Mr. Cohen. It is quite apparent that no one in YOUR family was touched by Mr. Lay's actions. However, my family was devestated by it. My father was given NO CHOICE but to reinvest his retirement into the company. And it is ALL GONE. Every penny that he worked so hard for for the last 30 years of his life. GONE. He has nothing now. Perhaps Mrs. Lay would like to sell off some of her "homes" to help our family and the others out?

He got off easy, INDEED.

Posted by: Karen | July 5, 2006 02:33 PM

Are you serious Cohen?

I can tell that the Enron scandal never touched you in anyway. Had you felt the impact that we (children of parents who lost retirements) as families have felt maybe you would be taking a better look at the corruptness of this individual.

Can you imagine working you life with a company and then finding out that you don't have any money the next day. Seriously--Think about Mr. Cohen. Seriously think about it for a moment--then write.

And to say that he suffered financially is a bunch of crap. C'mon.. his house in Aspen? Are you joking. Anybody that feels sorry for this guy is far too removed from the scandal to be talking.

Posted by: Goodbye & GoodRiddance | July 5, 2006 02:39 PM

You know my initial reaction about Ken Lay's death was to feel sorry about it but I then realized that there might well be thousands of other people who suffered financial devastation and heart attacks because of the stress created by his actions. They just suffer in silence because they were neither rich nor famous/notorious. Whether or not one considers his death a tragedy, Lay was ultimately a victim of his own choices and actions. That said, I can't bring myself to voice any more criticisms about him today.

Posted by: Lexi | July 5, 2006 02:40 PM

Lay deserved to suffer greatly. While the system is to blame for not preventing his greed, he alone is to blame for ruining thousands of lives. It wasn't enough for him to be just rich, he had to be filthy rich. If he is dead, that's certainly better than living in poverty because of a greedy man got away with financial murder.

Posted by: Darcy Wertz | July 5, 2006 02:44 PM

I can't wait to hear the comments by the religious yahoos like Falwell and Robertson about how 'the lord stuck down Ken Lay 'cause he was evil'. You'll never hear such comments from these guys about people like Lay and his cronies. Big religion is big money and the same sort of fleecing Ken Lay did to the folks who placed faith in him is done daily by these creepy demagogues to their followers. We should be so lucky as to also be rid of them.

Posted by: KATO | July 5, 2006 02:45 PM

Astrologer: Ken Lay is not dead. He is already in a foreign country.

Faking a death would be easy if you have friends in high places.

Posted by: lala | July 5, 2006 02:45 PM

Save your sympathy for the folks who had heart attacks when they found out their retirement money was gone.

As for being financially ruined...I wish I was financially ruined enough to take a vacation in Aspen. Give me a break!

Posted by: MEP | July 5, 2006 02:45 PM

when are rumsfeld and cheney goona have the big one?

Posted by: Sammy | July 5, 2006 02:47 PM

Of course Lay "got off easy." He died in the bed of his luxury vacation home with months to go before his sentencing. If he had robbed a convenience store he'd have caused only a tiny fraction of the suffering and he'd have been sent straight to prison. During his trial did he ever express one word of remorse for the thousands of people he harmed through his malfeasance? I feel none for him. A few decades in prison would have been a good object lesson for his successors - and a much worse fate.

Posted by: andhow | July 5, 2006 02:48 PM

It was a blessing for Mr. Lay in disguise. I am in the minority who believe that he was railroaded and made a scapegoat.

Better for him to die with a little dignity left than to lose it all and waste away in prison.

The US DOJ killed him. If a non governmental lawyer offers money to a witness, its bribery. If the the US Attorney threatens a witness with prosecution and jail for life unless they testify in a certain way, its called a plea bargain.

Posted by: DB | July 5, 2006 02:51 PM

Think about it...
If you were a rich white guy that stole a lot of people's money and ready to be put in jail and your good friend just happened to be the President. What would you do?
The same thing Lay did. You'd fake a heart attack and be in Mexico.

I NEED A CORPSE AND DNA to believe he's dead!!

Posted by: Die Hard: Your Layness | July 5, 2006 02:53 PM

Well... If you were seeking to provoke commentary, you succeeded.

Posted by: MDM | July 5, 2006 02:54 PM

I have no sympathy for this "poor" rich man. It was nice to see the system finally work for once. It's too bad the system was cheated by an old rich white man again.

The Enron scandal is just more proof of how big buisiness works to fleece this nation. The fact that we aren't catching more of these people shows me that the system is broke or the law protects white collar criminals and and those wealthiest 10 % of the country. To hell with the rest of us.

When gay Americans, like myself, are treated as second class citizens and oppressed by the self-proclaimed "moral majority" don't you dare ask for forgiveness and humanity for the likes of Ken Lay. You have no right.

Posted by: Dicupe | July 5, 2006 02:54 PM

How can you continue to feel sorry for this guy? He luxuriated in riches far beyond what any of us can imagine. He laughed at how Californians were taken for an energy ride. He shielded every possible penny from Enron's victims. And, because he looks like everyone's granddad and a teddy bear to boot, we should feel sorry for him? The best thing that could happen to his family now is to bury him, lose his ill-gotten gains and learn how to work for a living like the rest of us. Good riddance to bad rubbish...

Posted by: me again | July 5, 2006 02:54 PM

Ken Lay tombstone.

Money can not happiness

Nor a clean concinious

Posted by: Dennis | July 5, 2006 02:56 PM

Ken Lay tombstone.

Money can not buy happiness

Nor a clean concinious

Posted by: Dennis | July 5, 2006 02:56 PM

I wasn't going to comment, but feel I have to, if only to add another voice to the general sense of outrage. Kenneth Lay DID get off easy. Your attempt to spread the blame for Enron's collapse beyond him and Skilling -- if effect absolving them -- reminds me of the Monty Python skit where a nabbed killer declares: "It's a fair cop, but society is to blame." To which the police officer replies: "Right, we shall be arresting them too!"

Posted by: PJM | July 5, 2006 02:57 PM

To all you sick people and conspiracy idiots out there, please remember that Ken Lay gave millions to charity during his lifetime. Many people would love to believe that Ken was the "man behind the curtain" and was some sort of Bond-villian set on world domination. (Faking his death?! C'mon!!)

Having know him for several years (I am an ex-Enron employee), I can tell you the truth is he was not an evil person nor do I believe he is a bad person. His only crime was that he was asleep at the wheel during the last part of his tenure and has certainly paid the price for those actions. I suffered great financial losses due to Enron's collapse, but I blame Fastow and Skilling for this, not Ken.

I, for one, take comfort in knowing he lived happily for the vast, vast majority of his life. And that's something you sick people will have to live with...

Posted by: Houston, TX | July 5, 2006 02:57 PM

I've never seen hatred healed with more hatred. It's never worked for me and I have never seen it work for indivduals, teams, organizations or countries.

Have you?

If being righteous about a wrong doer's death could prevent wrong doing from happening again, great. Unfortunately, what I see in myself and others is that when we get "righteous" in this way we begin to become blind to our own transgressions.

Yeah, we don't run a big company, but from whom did we steal a good day or a good deed? When did our thoughtlessness hurt someone? When did our own lack of diligence (on our finances even!) put ourselves, our families or others are risk? How about choosing to be more diligent about our own legacies? What might be possible with that?

It becomes more clear to me every day: living in resentment hurts me more than it hurts the other guy. And I'm tired of holding that hurt. As a friend quotes from someone else, "When we spend our time in resentment and blame, it's really like we are taking poison and waiting for some other guy to die."

Posted by: Bev | July 5, 2006 02:57 PM

Lay was a thief, plain and simple. No better than the punk who breaks the window of your car to steal your stereo. He wanted something to which he was not entitled, and instead of accepting (as most of us do) that he can't just take things that aren't his - he took what he wanted. Illegally. That's the bottom line. He's a thief, the lowest form of criminal. He stole the life savings of his employees - and for what? Did he need the money to treat a sick child? A sick spouse? No. He was just plain greedy. That's it. Just like the punk who breaks the window of your car. I'm disgusted that he's portrayed for even a minute as a victim, that he still has a vacation house in Aspen, was breathing free air prior to his heart attack and that his family doesn't worry about their next meal like thousands of his former employees.

There's nothing white collar about stealing, and a thief is a thief. The victim is always violated by someone who thinks he's entitled to the fruits of another's labor. Oh yeah, most thieves are cowards too and Lay was no exception.

The whole case disgusted me. At least those he left behind have the means to give him a decent funeral. Can the same be said for his employees?

Posted by: steve | July 5, 2006 02:59 PM

In the aptly named Conspiracy of Fools Eichenwald described Enron executives as being smart enough to get around the rules but not smart enough to understand why the rules were there. Lay's major sin was to trust those under him when there was more than enough evidence that he should not and, by violating the trust placed in him by stockholders, was guily as charged.

Posted by: mag | July 5, 2006 03:01 PM

I'll bet $100 that Skilling happens to die in the next week or so too.

Posted by: Wannabet | July 5, 2006 03:01 PM

How could anyone say he got off easy? The man died, and not pleasantly.

Also, I've always found it interesting that people that claim to "respect the 'sanctity' of life" can easily dismiss or rejoice over a person's death. Ken Lay may have done many, many people wrong, but I'll never say that I'm happy over his death.

Posted by: Annoyed | July 5, 2006 03:03 PM

Hey annoyed,

I am not happy that he died.

However..I am a little bitter that he couldn't sit one day in prison.

Posted by: Little Bitter | July 5, 2006 03:05 PM

The irony is that because he passed away before his appeals were final it is as if he was never convicted.

Posted by: | July 5, 2006 03:05 PM

You couldn't have put it any better, Andrew. Thank you for your tasteful and timely opinion in this matter.

Mr. Lay's life is a sad one with a sad ending. I can't imagine how painful it must be for his children, who now have a father who passed away, and now leaves a legacy of shame.

It's just sad all around. So, I'm glad to see that you treat him with respect in his death.

No human is allowed gloating over another in such a situation. We are not God, and we don't control life and all of its circumstances.

It is easy to see in situations such as this that we all literally "reap what we sow".

This tells me that I should live a good life, one that is robust with kindness and honesty. Then and only then will my life truly count.

Posted by: Cam | July 5, 2006 03:10 PM


Posted by: JOHN Q. | July 5, 2006 03:12 PM

Mr. Cohen's article makes some excellent points.

I don't defend Mr. Lay. The law says he's responsible for what his company did, whether he knew of it or not. But being CEO of a large corporation is not unlike being the parent of teenagers--albeit magnified a thousand-fold in complexity. You're legally responsible for whatever your kids have done, yet you know you're being kept in the dark much of the time, the recipient of watered-down executive summaries.

Whatever final judgment and justice was meant for Mr. Lay, I trust he received it earlier today. Why not just leave it at that? Those who criticize Mr. Lay now--as his corpse is still cooling off--strike me as both mean spirited and more than a little ghoulish.

Posted by: J. Lindelien | July 5, 2006 03:12 PM

Mr.Lay's legacy will undoubtedly be that of a thief -- and perhaps rightly so. However, we would do well to also be mindful of the many contributions he made. Seldom is there all "white" or all "black". Rather, it is our recognition of the varying shades of grey that tempers our anger, make us wise and better prepares us for the future.

Posted by: Joe Reisinger | July 5, 2006 03:12 PM

The below is an excerpt of your column
and is ridiculous. Why blame everyone
for someone's greed. I think that he
got off EASY. Stop the bleeding heart
waltz, please.

You wrote: The failure at Enron was a system-wide failure of corporate America. It was a failure of lawyers and accountants and public-relations officials and market analysts. It was a failure of judges and lawmakers who watered down securities law. In short, it was the failure of a great many people, whose culpability is both known and unknown, but who, unlike Lay, will be able to spend another day, another week, another month, another year on this Earth.

Posted by: bev | July 5, 2006 03:13 PM

Andrew, are you writing about the same Ken Lay who was dumping his own Enron stock while encouraging his employees to buy more?

Posted by: A reader | July 5, 2006 03:14 PM

YES Ken Lay got off easy. For a person under federal indictment he seemd to continue to live the good life. How many middle class americans can frequently vacation in Aspen. How many of the former Enron employees that Lay helped to bankrupcy court can vacation in Aspen. Ken Lay should have lived the rest of his miserable life in a 5X5 jail cell looking at cinder block walls and iron bars and reflecting on the suffering he caused so many people. MAYBE "he" was better alive because now he is rotting in.....

Posted by: Michael | July 5, 2006 03:17 PM

Has anyone stopped to think that maybe Enron got into such a mess trying to SAVE peoples jobs? I mean... think of the employees that worked there. If Enron had folded sooner, they wouldnt have had the pay earned before the bankruptcy to break their phenominal fall.

A mess? Yes. A tragedy? Even more so. However, the fact remains that they did try to keep people employed as long as possible even as everything was falling apart.

Posted by: Steven Biars | July 5, 2006 03:17 PM

to J. Lindelien:

The difference between Mr. Lay and your teenagers that you are responsible for is: you are not going out and buying yachts and vacation houses, and socking away tens of millions of dollars because of what your teenagers are doing. I find it very hard to believe that this person was able to bankroll that kind of fortune with a clear conscience.

Posted by: me again | July 5, 2006 03:19 PM

"Ding Dong The Witch is dead.
Which old Witch?

The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up -you sleepy head,
rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead.
She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below.
let's open up and sing

and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh,
sing it high,
sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!"

Posted by: Los Angeles, Ca. | July 5, 2006 03:20 PM

I certainly can understand the bitterness of the readers, BUT less us not forget that this was a man who did much good in his life as well. Though I was happy to see him convicted, I never held him with the same deep contempt that I did Skilling and Fastow.

Ken Lay was a deeply religious man and on some level the prospect of a quick death was probably just fine for him.

Posted by: Formerly of Houston | July 5, 2006 03:20 PM

I am troubled by the many comments on hear that almost seem to revel in Mr. Lay's death. Certainly any Christian should not take such a position, nor would I imagine that other religions (or moralities) encourage such unforgiving behavior. There is irony in calling Mr. Lay an "evil doer" while doing the evil of celebrating his death.

Posted by: Christian | July 5, 2006 03:21 PM

YES he DID get off easy. I guess his heart attack was induced by the unbearable thought of having to give back merely a fraction of the money he stole, swindled, conned, and manipulated out of the American people.
Q: What do you call one dead former Enron official?
A: A good start.

Posted by: John Q | July 5, 2006 03:21 PM

save some tax payer money? who cares about a few dollars compared to what the U.S. politicians takes/spends/wastes/steals/launders every day. Who just voted for each other including themselves to get a raise? How about New Orleans and the money that supposedly went down there (or didn't get down there). How about the iraq attack (not a war) and the half trillion dollars thrown in there and into other peoples pockets afterwards. Hey, why not spend some money on going to Mars and the moon... for what? Go Lou Dobbs, go!!!

Posted by: redflag | July 5, 2006 03:22 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if there were others who had heart attacks after losing their life savings in part because of the actions of this man.

Posted by: Vince | July 5, 2006 03:22 PM

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Posted by: | July 5, 2006 03:24 PM

He deserves to die??


I guess this just shows how inconsiderate, heartless and boorish America has become.

America, like your justice system, is a joke.

Posted by: Kyle | July 5, 2006 03:27 PM

I find his "death" just a little too coincidental. More likely he's in secret "protective" custody.

If he really is dead, then I have no sympathy or pity. The effects of white collar crime is just as corrosive as traditonal violent criminals.

Posted by: Dave | July 5, 2006 03:27 PM

If this be "a deeply religious man" then there's something very very wrong with that religion. He was a liar, a self-righteous hypocrite and thief.

Posted by: JD | July 5, 2006 03:27 PM

What a shame he could not have rotted in prison for the next 20 years. Surely you jest with this article. After all of the lives he made miserable for the rest of their lives, he should have been roasted over an open pit of charcoal with an apple in his mouth.

Posted by: John L. Bill | July 5, 2006 03:28 PM

I would've figured Bush to be the bigger criminal. Birds of a feather.........

America seems to foster this never ending greed and thurst for war - whether it be in corporate or political america.

I'd like to see what all you yahoo-americans would be saying if your precious idiot leader died. I know the world would definitly be a better and safer place with him 6 feet under.

Posted by: Anne | July 5, 2006 03:30 PM

Many of these comments judge Lay's actions. Fair enough. What else can you judge somebody on? Now place yourself in his shoes. I am sure none among us, so filled with self-control, so perfectly modeled, would ever be tempted by greed, by money, by vast and seductive power. For this he deserves to die a horrible and painful death? To leave a family grieving - in pain, to disrupt even more lives? That rights his wrongs? By adding more pain?

Think before you speak.

Posted by: Disappointed | July 5, 2006 03:31 PM

Had he been a poor black man who robbed with a gun, he would have died in prison. As is was, he was a fabulously wealthy white man who associated with other fabulously wealthy white men who rob with their lies and their lawyers and accountants and their bought and paid for politicians. So, he died at home in the comfort of his mansion having escaped punishment for his crimes.

Yes - he got off easy for his crimes. I would have forgiven him had he given every dollar of his fortune to help those whose financial ruin he caused. To the best of my recollection, he never attempted to help those he ruined. In his greed, he only attempted to help himself. He will be remembered as a symbol of unmitigated greed.

Posted by: Bob Grossman | July 5, 2006 03:33 PM

did u see the smartest guys in the room. he is still fubaring with u.the day before sentencing he croakes-give me a brake.5000 unemployed.the largest corporate baukrupcy in US
history.wherever he is dead or alive he is laughing at you. as far as the americans being a forgiving people,the pm of japan was frolicking at Grace Land with g.b. germany has favored nation status.

Posted by: vincent scorza | July 5, 2006 03:35 PM

Mr. Biars:

I certainly hope not too many people share your view - it's an example of incredibly fuzzy logic! Umm...they didn't get into a such a mess "trying to SAVE people's jobs"!!! They got into a mess trying to line their own pockets at the EXPENSE of people's jobs (and retirement savings etc. etc.).

Such an apologist position!

Posted by: Lexi | July 5, 2006 03:38 PM

Quite frankly, I am surprised at your reaction! Kenneth Lay is a symbol of all that is wrong with our country. A country that most Americans feel is headed in the wrong direction and has been steered in that wrong direction by the powerful corporations headed by people such as Kenneth Lay and the legislative, executive and judicial branches of a government of, by and for corporations. Add to that, Mr. Lay was arrogant, defiant and extremely disingenuous about his roll in the collapse of Enron and the suffering of so many. Further still, Mr. Lay's financial suffering was nothing in comparison to the dire circumstances forced on his innocent employees and many customers on limited incomes forced to pay 200% of what they used to pay for electricity in California. What is so wrong with wishing someone had lived and had to face punishment for the great wrongs that they have done? I suspect your reaction to 'our' reaction is simply that you far more readily identify with the Kenneth Lay's of the world then the common working man and woman.

Posted by: Debbi Atkinson | July 5, 2006 03:39 PM

They faked 9/11 and the American sheople bought it.

Faking Lay's death was simple. Keep an eye on Mrs. Lay.

Posted by: Lazerus | July 5, 2006 03:40 PM

You are not in touch with reality, Andrew.

Please read and then RE-read every single one of the comments from your readers. And as for not getting off easy? A quick death from a massive heart attack is one of the fastest, comparatively most painless (given its speed), affordable and easiest ways to go.

How may times have you heard people say, "I'd like to go fast, to die in my sleep, at home, of a heart attack."

Vs. How many times have you heard people say, "I want to serve 25 years in prison, w. no freedom or choices as to how to spend my time, eating rotten boring food, getting sub-decent medical & dental "attention" and being punished in who knows how many venal ways, by inmates who see themselves as representatives of the common men, women & families who were
screwed out of their hard-earned savings
and retirement savings by ... ME."

Give us a break, Andrew. Listen to your readers as they tell you: "The buck stops here." We have Teflon Ronnie Reagan to "thank" for the decrease in belief of that FACT and the obvious decline in leadership in this country."

Show us the body, then maybe we'll believe he's really dead & has not been moved somewhere, surreptitiously. By his former (?) friends in high places.

Btw, at one point, he owned TWO other homes in Aspen, and sold one for $ 7.5 million, the other for 3 or 4 million. Working people in Colorado have no sympathy for this rotten, crooked man or for his family, either.

Posted by: Offended in Colorado | July 5, 2006 03:42 PM

To "me again":

You're right: I don't enjoy such perks. I must speak sternly to my kids about that and set proper expectations.

But if I did enjoy that kind of high life, I might be mistaken for a senator or congressman; you know, those folks who love to make public spectacles of corporate mismanagement and financial abuses while their own are so much the greater, just kept under wraps.

Posted by: J. Lindelien | July 5, 2006 03:42 PM

I agree that it's tough to feel sorry for this man who caused so much misery and who cost so many people to lose their jobs and retirement savings. I would have loved to have seen the guy rot in prison, or now burn in hell.

But isn't it true that since Lay died before he was formally sentenced that he will now be legally "cleared" of any wrongdoing? Won't his criminal conviction be taken away? And I think it also puts his estate out of reach for reimbursement of Enron employees for what they've lost. They can file a civil suit, but I think Lay's death removes his criminal conviction.

When I heard of his death, I admit that I thought it was suicide so that no one but his family would be able to touch his estate.

Posted by: Sue | July 5, 2006 03:46 PM

I refuse to believe that he is dead. Now, before you go calling me a conspiracy nut, consider this, Bush and Lay were close buddies. They even had nick names for each other, Bush was quoted many times as referring to Kenneth Lay as "Kenny Boy". I wouldn't be surprised if this was a cover-up in order to transport Lay out to a safe and secret location. Given
G.W.Bush's corrupt nature and their close relationship, does that seem such a far fetched idea?

Posted by: Steven Jones | July 5, 2006 03:51 PM

"The failure at Enron was a system-wide failure of corporate America."???? Oh, please. You speak as though that's something Ken Lay and his cronies weren't at least partially responsible for. I worked for Worldcom during its bankruptcy and reorganization. People were treated like dirt. I hope Bernie Ebbers is next....

Posted by: richard in boulder | July 5, 2006 03:54 PM

The comment about "how unforgiving we are as a people" suggests that Americans are harridans, who in the face of someone who is contrite about his crimes and begs for the forgiveness of his victims, still refuses mercy. That is not this story.

After causing financial ruin for not only the people at Enron, who have lost their jobs, their retirement funds, and perhaps their careers (would you hire a manager with "Enron" on his resume?), there are millions in California, Oregon, and Washington who paid billions of dollars in fake energy costs due to illegal manipulation. Some small businesses could not afford the crippling gouge, and closed shop - these folks lost their businesses and their lifes' savings. Was Ken Lay sorry? Was he contrite? Did he ask for any forgiveness for his crimes?

No, he maintained all along that he did nothing wrong, that this was the new market strategy, that we were just too dumb to understand how it worked. "Too bad," he said, "but it's not my fault. You all just didn't understand how the new market worked." Yes, we all understood, sometimes all too well, how the greed and corruption worked behind the closed doors at Enron. Americans are not stupid, and are not a gullible people. It was beyond Ken Lay to admit, even after conviction, that he had done anything that required forgiveness - so therefore, he gets none.

Posted by: David | July 5, 2006 03:55 PM

The tragedy here isn't that a complete sociopath has bitten the dust.The tragedy is the torrent of sympathy gushing forth from the power-and-wealth obsessed degenerates in media with the corpse barely cold. A corrupt oligarch dies and we are instructed to pay homage. We are more like a banana republic every day.

B*** me s***-for-brains.

Posted by: dooley | July 5, 2006 03:56 PM

These comments are depressing. There's no question that what Ken Lay did was evil. But it is also evil to wish death upon another human being. No amount of sanctimony can overcome this kind of abborant moral choice.

Posted by: CT | July 5, 2006 03:56 PM

Lay a victim? Mr. Cohen, Kenny Boy victimized and destroyed the lives of most of the people that worked for him. He's not a victim, he's the victimizer. Here's hoping Hell is red hot.

Posted by: Allen Eccles | July 5, 2006 03:57 PM

with this guy's death, can the thousands of victims of his crimes get a better chance at the money Lay & the boys stashed away?

if so, then its a great development

Posted by: dave | July 5, 2006 04:01 PM

Would he had died of a heart attack if this entire scandal had not unfolded? Maybe, maybe not. I cannot imagine the inner turmoil one would feel knowing that within weeks you would spend the remaining days on this earth locked up.

I just wonder how many shareholders died of heart attacks when they realized what had happended to their entire life savings. Those are who we should be sad for.

Posted by: Chris | July 5, 2006 04:02 PM

The "tragedy" is there are many more CEOs like him still in office. He knowingly and arrogantly used people and their money. May he never rest in peace.

Posted by: Cynthia | July 5, 2006 04:02 PM

Me personally. I'm waiting to see an open casket before I presume death was a reality.

Posted by: brit | July 5, 2006 04:02 PM

Ironic he dies of a heart attack on the eve of his sentencing -- doesn't anybody else think is was suicide? Plain & simple...

Posted by: Seline | July 5, 2006 04:03 PM

Wonderfully written article, my sentiments exactly.

Posted by: CSN | July 5, 2006 04:05 PM

If I or any one of you were convicted of the crimes Mr. Lay was, well we would have been in prison, not hanging out in Aspen, CO till September. And what is with all this stuff about him loosing everything finacially, as I just mentioned, he was hanging in ASPEN, CO.

Posted by: It's Not Enough | July 5, 2006 04:07 PM

If he was financially ruined then why or how was he dying in Aspen, Colorado? You aren't the first person who has commented on his personal "inancially ruin" but I have a hard time understanding the contradiction of that statement and the fact that he was in one of the highest income retail markets and its wealth. Please forgive me for asking how this was possible for a "financially ruined" person. This is not a rhetorical question, please explain or clarify that statement with "financially ruined compared to his ill begotten assets... please ignore the thousands of people who were actually financially ruined because their modest accumulation of moneys did not warrant a spit to the great man we are about to bury... amen."

Posted by: Jeff S. | July 5, 2006

Posted by: Michel Corones | July 5, 2006 06:29 PM

It's good to have multiple views and mine is different. I for one believe that Key Lay was a scape-goat. First, for decades he created billions of dollars of wealth for people around the world and was toasted by many. He then semi-retired and placed Skilling in charge. That was a mistake, but not illegal.

He did not create the accounting problems nor was he the CEO when they were created. He had semi-retired and was busy traveling when the company was turned into a highly leveraged dot-com by Skilling et al during the dot-boom and was called out of retirement in August 2001 to take over for Skilling who left for 'personal reasons' as the stock of this and all other dot-coms started to dot-bomb.

So what was Lay's crime? He was convicted of trying to tell investors from Aug 2001 until Nov 2001 that he could fix the problems and to please have confidence in his ability to find a way to save Enron, after all he led Enron for over 20 years and he could do it again. His crime was he should have known things were bad and he should have stated such sooner. In fact, he had meetings in Sept and Oct that were looking gloomy. Why didn't he immediately have a press conference, say things were worse than he thought, and effectively put Enron into bankruptcy? Instead he spent a couple of months trying to find an alternative. The reality was that Enron was a dot-com that leveraged its stock more than its cash flow and it was going to go down no matter how good Lay was at leading the old Enron. He just couldn't believe there was no way to save his kid.

I personally have a rough time thinking he was evil because he tried to sustain investor confidence and right the ship for 2 or 3 months. If he had given up earlier (by a couple of months) he could have avoided jail but the outcome would have been the same. I for one respect that he tried, even if he failed. I am afriad if it had been many others they would have stayed in comfortable retirement and watched it tumble and avoided the hassle and legal jeopardy. And now, btw, that is what we have taught future leaders. Stay away or give up early to protect yourselves.

Posted by: SMS | July 5, 2006 06:29 PM

Reading "The Smartest Guys in the Room" was such a sobering experience largely because of what Mr. Cohen references: the incredible irresponsibility of an entire system of persons and agencies that were supposed to be honest and protecting. Harvard professors, columnists, a Congress that won't give money to the SEC but reams them -- on camera -- when they miss something ... all these people that we thought were doing their jobs were actually on the take in one way or another. Lay was a key player, but there were many others and it's a bit of a fantasy to think that if we could nail him and Skilling -- really make them hurt like we did -- we have somehow put a wrap on this.

It's the "single fix point" approach that is the foundation for both a personal sense of security as well as a chance for righteous indignation: George Bush, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, SUV's, the NRA -- it isn't the system, it is a couple of bad apples. Tar and feather them, put 'em in the stocks and then hang and quarter them, put their head on a stick; THEN we'll have exorcised the virus.

They used to dig up the culprits and burn them or be-head them -- an early version of "don't bury Lay; put him in prison still."

There wasn't much of this outcry when Slobodan Milošević escaped punishment. He hurt other people, not us. It isn't a desire for justice, it is just a blood-lust for revenge.

Posted by: Carson Bennett | July 5, 2006 06:31 PM

I'll believe he died of natural causes when the autopsy confirms it. Drugs can induce a heart attack and this guy probably has a hefty life insurance policy the feds can't touch.

Posted by: TJ | July 5, 2006 06:34 PM

yes, josephine, I too thought that he had simply planned this. it makes too much sense.

Posted by: malcolm c | July 5, 2006 06:34 PM

Just Lay it to rest.

Posted by: Keeny Lay | July 5, 2006 06:42 PM

The Enron thing was always a tempest in a teapot, and we have media dorks, like you WashPo guys, to thank for the disproportionate attention. The "bottom line" loves a scandal, a simplified morality play - quick and easy to write, and for the consumers to digest. (Leaving larger, but more subtle and complex, stories of systemic inequities unwritten*).

So now that you've whipped the plebes into a frenzy, you've got a case of the "vapors" from the vulgar vitriol on display.

Whatever. On balance, I actually agree with the writer's main point. Much as that pains me. Blog commenters are a self-selected group, tending to the more vituperative and cranky. Whaddya gonna do except ignore those with the emotional intelligence of teenagers.

(*To say nothing of the obvious and odious pattern of government deceit - the Iraq War - which The WashPo refused to risk its market share to report!)

Posted by: luci phyrr | July 5, 2006 06:43 PM

I find Andrew Cohen's logic a bit confusing. First of all, Everyone dies. Most ways of dying probably involve a lot of pain; some more than a heart attack some less. Ken Lay was 68 and he died. That's just shy of the average age of death for a male in America. How's that got anything to do with paying a price for his crimes. Just like all the rest of the scumbags Ken Lay used and conspired with(the accounts, lawyers, Judges, slimy members of congress, and the President) he won't spend a minute in a penitentaiary. Cohen or any one else who apolgizes for the class of criminals who have taken complete control of our government and corporations either doesn't care when - non members of the elite suffer real tradgedies that truly destyroy their lives - or he doesn't have a grasp on how much daily suffering, heartaches and worry goes with being poor forever poor due to swine that have rigged electric rates, insurance rates, and raised our interest rates on credit cards to 29%. Everything in America is scam by the rich. They give us no choice whatsoever except to spend are money on Chinese crap that breaks and fills the landfills. They convert the federal forest and parklands into their own profit centers, and They don't even pay taxes. So we hate them intensely. And you're suprised? Get a clue. We need to take the entire ruling class of this country and put them in a Guantamino type facility and keep them there until they give up the congressmen, lawyers and judges they have paid off. Then we should treat them just like the economic terrorist they all are. They should die a slow death just like Ken Lay, except it should be sanctioned and carried out in a very lawful and legal way by the state. Afterall, if it's done according to the law, it's morally OK. Let's pass a law saying that anyone who has ever corrupted a congress person or the President (plus any congress person involved) can get the death penalty, and then we can pack the courts with weirdos from the federalist society who will rule the constitutional prohibition againt post-facto laws doesn't matter. You know just like when the state and the judges extort food money from me to pay for their 'lawful and legal' mandatory car insurance scam. Or when they pay off federal judges to allow Enron's electrical contracts to live on. If it's legal it's all good. Finally, the basic concept that was obliterated here (by a wealthy fed judge) is the notion that when you get convicted of something, and there is scant likelihood of a successful appeal - you Go Straight To JAIL!!! Ken Lay got to wile away his last days in air-conditioned splendor while a multitude of servants carried out his every wish. Gourmet meals, hot tub massages, and the like. Shame on Cohen for defending Lay when he caused so much suffering for so many. We aren't supposed to criticize one of the elites when they just passed, but if I don't pay my criminally-high electric bill right now, my family is screwed. At least Ken Lay's suffering is over. Sincerely. JR

p.s. Was Ken Lay being sentenced tomorrow (on the eve of his sentencing) or was Cohen just twisting facts to support his whitewash.

Posted by: Joe Ryan | July 5, 2006 06:45 PM

For all the little old ladies who have to eat cat food because of Enron's shady deals....

He got what he deserved. I hope he always wanted a summer home in a HOT place.

Posted by: Toby | July 5, 2006 06:57 PM

{Quote}What happened at Enron--what happened to the tens of thousands of people impacted by it-- was truly awful. But it wasn't just Lay, or Skilling for that matter, who are responsible. The failure at Enron was a system-wide failure of corporate America. It was a failure of lawyers and accountants and public-relations officials and market analysts. It was a failure of judges and lawmakers who watered down securities law. In short, it was the failure of a great many people, whose culpability is both known and unknown, but who, unlike Lay, will be able to spend another day, another week, another month, another year on this Earth. I don't call that a case where Lay "got off easy. I call that yet another tragedy in a story that has been filled with them.{/Quote}

Yes, everyone facilitated the corrupt culture in business that Enron has come to represent, but it still takes a corrupt (or foolish) person to violate the rules.

It is one thing to do something unknowingly, and another entirely to do it with the purpose of illegally bettering yourself at the expense of others.

Lay was found guilty of the latter.

Even if he was found guilty unjustly, the best that can be said of him is that he turned a blind eye to unsavory techniques and allowed others to have too much control over the fate of his beloved company and millions of its stakeholders.

Kenneth Lay was a generous man. He donated money and was quite friendly. He took pride in what he built. He wanted the fame and fortune, like us all. I've been to Aspen - it is quite a height. But with the power and fame one finds at the peek comes responsibility, and when you fail, infamy.

Regret the culture he and his cohorts took advantage of, but do not forget that he chose to take advantage of it. He was raised in a religious home, and whatever anyone might think of religion, it teaches right and wrong. Those who broke the law, and bent it, at Enron knew they were doing wrong. They just hoped not to get caught. Lay's energy traders joked about how they were playing the system. Lay, and those he hired, rewarded them.

He is dead, now, and free from further troubles. Thousands of people will live decades more, each of them dealing with the fallout of Lay's transgressions and mistakes. Remember the former employees of Enron, many of whom will never find comparable jobs. How many were close to retirement, and must work 20 more years, if anyone will even hire them? Remember the employees in other states who worked for Enron-owned companies, and saw their savings disappear. How many of them regret the day Enron bought their company? Remember the employees at Andersen who lost their job because of the foolish actions of a few of their peers. Though he government's methods with Andersen have been overturned, we may never know how much its employees, and the employees of other companies, really knew about what was going on at Enron. Remember all of the losses, and all of the trauma caused by the crimes or mistakes of this man. We are all human, but few of us have the power to affect so many with our mistakes.

Rest in Peace, Kenneth Lay, as we should all be so lucky, but let no one forget that you are the father of one of the biggest catastrophes in the history of commerce.

Posted by: Josh | July 5, 2006 07:19 PM

Heart attacks are caused by arteriosclerosis, not evil. Arteriosclerosis is caused by genes and bad eating habits. That would have got him in any case, even if Enron were successful and nicer to its workers than any other company on Earth.

Kenny Boy died at his vacation home in Aspen, instead of a two bit un-air conditioned apartment in Houston, like his employees who were subjected to at least as much stress as him. That counts as getting off easy.

Posted by: Dr. Paul J. Camp | July 5, 2006 07:46 PM

Ken Lay did get off easy. Andrew cohen has no facts connecting Lay's natural death to his life as corporate criminal or making his death a tangible part of his acounatability as his jail time might have been. Ken was not yet held accountable: he was heading to that situation when he was to be sentenced and maybe serve a jail sentence. After going to jail he would have paid his partial debt to society but not fully to the many people he hurt and whose lives he and his staff destroyed.

What he did to his own reputation and wealth was the product of his own actions that created a reputation and wealth he did not deserve.

This was no tragedy, as this was no great man nor was he one battling a superior force unless you include common greed. He was a standard corporate leader among many that saw a weakness in system and exploited to great wealth, fame and power. When he died in Aspen of natural causes he left many lives destroyed while he was on the verge of beginning to make amends to society.

We wish his family peace in this time of grief but we can't leave Cohen's suppositions unchallenged.

Posted by: Ken | July 5, 2006 07:52 PM

to Robert Dingess

you wrote "While the vultures carve up his estate, maybe Ken Lay can finally rest in peace."

I don't know anything, really, about his wife and children. Apparently you do. But should you really be calling them names just now?

Posted by: average joe | July 5, 2006 08:07 PM

The response to Ken Lay's death should not surprise anyone in present day America. We are a nation increasingly bent on mindless vengeance. Heaven forbid someone die before we can exact it. And to hell with affording his family even a day or two to mourn before we spew our venomous hatred, lest our insipient hatred be muted.

Posted by: jim | July 5, 2006 08:32 PM

I have been somewhat impressed by some of the more thoughtful posts here, esp the Monty Python extract about arresting society for individual crimes and this gem, "smart enough to get around the rules but not smart enough to understand why the rules were there." These two comments alone go a long way in helping formulate a proper eulogy at this point.

Ken Lay and his underlings represent a type of human genus that revels in individual glory - for themselves, their families and their friends - over the well-being of strangers and society as a whole. As Bush was one of his friends - "Kenny Boy" he reportedly called him - it doesn't surprise anyone that the Lay/Bush circle of friends are making sure that those who can help themselves have an even easier time of it.

Looking around, we also have Gates and Buffet who spend a lifetime taking money away from others and then decide to give the lion's share of it back - on their own terms. Looking beyond the basically irresponsible lot (the "underachievers") that end up in dead-end jobs and maybe a spell in prison, we have that vast group of citizens that get up and work 49-50 weeks out of the year (minus weekends and holidays) in order to make their contribution to society and in return, get enough annuity to support a middle-class lifestyle. It is these people who are going to have to figure out how we deal with the Lay/Bush crowd and the underachievers. Since the Lay/Bush crowd are Republicans and have managed, using Fox and talk radio, to sway 50% of the voting American public to vote for their program in recent years, it seems that the true burden of keeping American society on the proper, ethical and moral path is born by those successful people in school who go onto professional careers (teachers, scientists, journalists, (decent)lawyers, etc.) - in short, people who are ethically commited to finding and teaching the best we are able to learn. Since it is my experience that the vast majority of such people consider themselves to be moderate Democrats, it seems that this political group needs to get off the duff and start winning some votes starting this Fall and start turning American society onto a more virtuous and ethical path.

We'll see. Karl Rove is at it again, playing the cards he has (flag burning amendment, NYT and gay bashing, cut-and-run Democrats, etc.) and he may still win - at everyone else's expense, except his friends of course.

Mr. Cohen, Ken Lay may not be the only one to blame, but it is clear that he and those responsible for societal transgressions must pay a heavy price and provide a lesson for future generations on - and I borrow again from Monty Python - "how not to be seen (by society)." (cue images of blowing up the offender's house...and where he was born...") Those who are smart enough to get around rules but not "smart" enough to understand why they are there are not "stupid." Look at their university backgrounds. What they lack is proper reflection and perhaps raising. Is that a personal or familial or societal failing? Or all of the above? These are philosophical questions but the one thing we do know is that such people must not get the upper hand for long. Rove, Bush, Cheney, Addington...moderate Democrats, are you listening?

Posted by: Little Man | July 5, 2006 08:42 PM

The comment by 'Little Man' reveals why the Democrats will never again regain the Presidency or control of Congress. Basically, Democrats pretend to represent the little guy, but deep down most of the people who fancy themselves as 'the brains of the party' believe that working people are mostly "underachievers", and they have contempt for anyone who didn't 'do more in life get ahead'. Basically, anyone who has a lower aptitude and doesn't try to go to college or get a higher paying job is a 'loser'. Last week I read a post at a popular liberal blog where the writer lashes out at Bush, and then adds - with great derision - that people in Trailer parks eat up the Bush propoganda. Believe it or not, the working people of this country read too, and they know how the snobby New York and DC Democrats (as well as the entire leadership of the Democratic Party) sees them as dumass rubes. They're all corn-fed idiots because they believe in the the right to own a gun and other working class absurdities. The Democrats lost most of the red states forever when they turned on the gun owners in those states. The Democrat party's New York/DC based leadership and funding gang are absolutely allergic to understanding why someone who lives out in the country or in a dangerous ghetto would want to own a gun. They would much rather claim to represent the underclass while they get busy throwing as many of those dangerous, unpredictable Black men in jail as possible. Just like the Republicans. Remember who brought us NAFTA. It was the Democratic party's elite. The 'we know better know better than you dumb bumpkins' crowd that has brought us so many Republican policies and who have never fought one second for the people they claim to represent. The Democrats will never win anything in my lifetime - including congress this fall - GUARANTEED. The Dems and Republicans are just two big organized crime families.

Posted by: Joe Ryan | July 5, 2006 10:18 PM

Ken Lay's death demonstrates that a victim of any kind of crime can't expect justice in a courtroom. We've heard this from rape victims and families of murder victims when they see someone get a few years for killing or destroying someone's life.

The very same justice system that gives us a false, though reassuring, sense of security as average Americans also allows men who have destroyed the lives of millions to walk out of a courtroom and into an exclusive summer home. That same justice system allows the families of criminals such as Clifford Baxter and Ken Lay to keep millions of stolen monies.

Baxter killed himself after Enron went bankrupt and as a result his family got to keep all the money he stole from Enron's shareholders and employees. Now, conveniently, Lay dies and his family gets to keep all the assets the government was about to seize.

So people can snicker at our anger, they can mock our hope for justice, they can give us lengthy and boring psychological analyses. But the fact of the matter remains Ken Lay wasn't hungry before he died, which makes him better off than my sister who lost everything when Enron went under. She had to beg for money from relatives just to eat and to keep her apartment in Texas heated. When she killed herself it was estimated she hadn't eaten in a few days.

Posted by: Shane | July 6, 2006 12:23 AM

I am sure that the thousands of folks whose life's savings were frittered away by Ken Lay and his evil (yes, evil) minions while they lived the high life would be glad to hear about the inner turmoil that ruined his life and then ruined his heart. That sentiment should keep food on their tables and roofs over their heads, right?
How long have you been on this man's payroll?
I would suggest that anyone that can stake a claim in Lay's Estate should make that claim while his Estate is in Probate Court. Why should Lay's family prosper from his criminal behavior and be given money that might as well be food stolen off the plates of thousands of Enron employees and their poor little homeless children. I'm sure Mr. Lay is finding out just how much God likes bottom-feeding snake in the grass thieves who would profit at the expense of their own employees.

Posted by: | July 7, 2006 12:08 PM

after reading the comments of "sick of losers whining about rich people" I would bet that he or she is an energy lobbyist in d.c.
americans wonder how crimes like this can be committed-

Posted by: sbickel | July 12, 2006 09:35 AM

hah? Tragedy what about Kharma, when kay lay started Enron in Houston, my boyfriend was an Oil Engineer with Transco and He went to work for Enron Mark was one of the first people that got HIV in Houston, when Ken Lay learned that he got HIV the answer was to retire him with full benifits because the SOB will die in 6 months,but listen my boyfriend live for more than 15 years with HIV, He was able to cash his stock at a high prices and his medical bill where paid but his Enron Insurance and the SOB did not died in 6 months but passed away after 15 years of a heart attack , ironic? my boyfriend used said he will see Ken Lay loosing everything, hey they used to be normal peeple but they went greedy and know in Houston everybody is Happy for what it happen to him,He was arrogant and claim to be inocent, exactly he did not do his time, his miscasculate his geniuses friends as Andy and Jeff. he also miscalculate the length that my boyfriend live and end costing Enron a fortune so Tragedy ? or Kharma?

Posted by: R Odom | July 12, 2006 09:34 PM

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