The Kenneth Lay Effect

Wow. We certainly received an overwhelming response to my last post which focused upon the death of Kenneth Lay and my view of it in the larger context of corporate greed. Whether you agreed with me or not, and the vast majority of you did not, your perspectives on the passing of a symbol of excess are a treasure-trove of insight into what America does and does not think about the man who raised up Enron so high and then oversaw its catastrophic fall.

I stand by what I said this morning -- that Lay didn't get off easy. I also stand by what I said in columns I wrote about Lay and his co-defendant, Jeffrey Skilling, during their trial this spring: I don't excuse or condone what they did. There is no inherent inconsistency in saying that Lay should have been, and ultimately was, held responsible for what happened at Enron and, at the same time, saying that he did not "get off easy" by dying at a relatively early age, on top of a mountain, with the feds and creditors closing in, his reputation forever in tatters and his freedom doomed.

O.J. Simpson got off easy. He plays golf every week. Former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow got off easy. The mastermind of Enron's fraud, he will end up serving a fraction of the time Jeffrey Skilling will. Ken Lay? Sorry. A guy who saw the heights and died a convict doesn't fit my definition of getting off easy -- regardless of where he took his last breaths. Had he died last July 4th, before the trial that forever marked him a felon, or on July 4th five years ago as the Enron saga was just unfolding, we all reasonably might have been able to call him lucky. All I call him today is dead. Dead and disgraced.

Look, folks. We all have different ideas about compassion and justice; about empathy and vengeance. I can dislike the man, and what he stands for, and I can feel sympathy for the victims of Enron, which I do, and still feel as though the story of Kenneth Lay's roller-coaster life and timely death is a tragedy. Ken Lay alone didn't lose all those people their jobs or their money. Alone, he didn't ruin thousands of lives. And alone, he shouldn't bear the brunt of your righteous anger about how Enron fell.

And if you are still angry now, after his death, don't take it out on Ken Lay with hatred. He can't hear you anymore. Take it out instead with your votes on the people in government who allowed it to happen. Take it out with your investment decisions upon the power brokers who run the markets who raked it all in while Enron was running hot. Or take it out on your lawyer or accountant the next time he or she suggests fudging things a little here or there. No good will ever again come out of Kenneth Lay. But there is still good that can come out of his tale.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 5, 2006; 6:17 PM ET
Previous: Lay Didn't Get Off Easy | Next: The NSA Fight is Back in Court


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I only know about Ken Lay what I read in the papers. It seems that he's just a guy who rode the great American corporate risk wave -- his life was good, to the point of being indefensibly good, when the wave was rising, but when it crested, his life got really, really bad. Welcome to America in the twenty-first century. We make 'em, then we break 'em. It's who we are now.

But the uproar below over your expression of charity for his soul's last years and days says more about the enraged than it does about Mr. Lay. Our hatred does us little credit. Resquiat in pace, Mr. Lay, even if you are a felon.

Posted by: I Appreciate Your Sanity | July 5, 2006 08:01 PM

I agree. Kenneth Lay is gone -- let him rest in peace. Those of us who cannot sue his estate should let it go and move on.

Posted by: Phil | July 5, 2006 08:22 PM

I hope that people will follow your suggestion about using votes and investing decisions...but frankly, I fear that most people simply prefer to spout hatred at the appointed symbol, even if he is dead. It's a lot easier to denounce a dead person that it is to take action.

Posted by: Senny | July 5, 2006 08:33 PM

If the Feds are unable to seize the filthy lucre accumulated by Lay (now under control by defense lawyers and family members) it means he went out a winner. What amazes me about this entire mess is how Lay, Skilling, Fastow and some of the banks involved have been able to shield the dirty money looted from the people they had a fiduciary responsibility to. This reminds me of that old joke where a guy gets caught for stealing the money from parking meters, after going to court the judge sentences him to a $1000.00 fine and time served, the judge says "do you have any questions?" The guilty party says "Does the court accept nickels and dimes?" I won't shed a tear for this convict anymore than I would for a crackdealing gangbanger, in the end he got what he deserved.

Posted by: Andy G Canada | July 5, 2006 08:39 PM

Hatred is one thing, accountability is another. Ken Lay, alone, is responsible for all that capital and all those jobs. Ken Lay said until his last breath that he had done nothing wrong. That is a complete denial of his basic responsibility. As the head of Enron, Ken Lay owned every success and every failure. The captain is ALWAYS responsible. In my opinion, to say otherwise, shows a basic misunderstanding of the meaning of responsibility and accountability.

Posted by: Jim | July 5, 2006 08:46 PM

I hope the coroner performs a DNA test on Kennyboy's body.
He is the type to abscond with his stolen loot to a faraway place, leaving a murdered corpse in his stead.

Posted by: John Bonanno | July 5, 2006 09:39 PM

I agree! How do we know that Lay is really dead? Maybe he paid off a bunch of people so that he could appear dead, but really slip away and live a life of luxury (with all the assets he had protected) in hiding somewhere.Makes sense to me. The timing is too incredible.

Posted by: Sally Kent | July 5, 2006 09:55 PM

So, old Kenny Boy wasn't ready to give it up for Bubba et al and looked up the recipe for "heart disease" (a bolus of potassium chloride injected directly into a large vein). Bye bye Kenny! Uh, by the way -- go to hell.

Posted by: Richard Hudson | July 5, 2006 09:59 PM

Your POV on Lay's death is emblematic of the disconnect between the media and the citizenry. Just as Dana Priest is wallowing in glory with the media elites--while she is condemned by the citizenry for her treachery--for revealing the detention camps holding the scum we are fighting--you are haughtily above the fray with respect to POS Lay. He needed to serve his prison term--not cheat the justice system. And there are already reports that his heirs will reap the benefits of his misdeeds, now that Lay is purportedly deceased. And that's fine with you?

Posted by: George | July 5, 2006 10:04 PM

I agree with George who stated that Mr. Cohen's comments on Lay and his crimes reflects the media (if not elites) has a disconnect with the public. At issue is, the media tend to be very aloof and in a self righteous manner looking down on the grassroot people and dispensing "wisdom" from above. There is a lack of "connect" and understanding of the grassroot people. A similar story would be the skyrocketing gasoline prices. Most in the media camp dismiss gasoline prices is not a concern and they proceeded to cite statistics to prove that expense on gasoline is a small percentage of total household spending outlay. Little do they wonder a small family living on $20,000 after tax, feeding a family of four. Same here, the media like Mr. Cohen removed himself from the grassroot and stated that Mr. Lay suffered enough. I think a fair and balance approach would be to pit Mr. Lay's criminal conduct with the little guy who lost his/her entire life long saving. By talking compassion for the convicted and disregarding the impact of the crimes and the pain it caused to the victims, Mr. Cohen may cause an increase in viewership on the internet but hardly addressed the issue of justice.

Posted by: Jason Chan | July 5, 2006 10:24 PM

Well, to clarify one issue that keeps popping up here, and to speak for myself, I don't mean to direct my contempt towards Lay alone. As I think many of the voices here have (or would) echo -- particularly the ones that actually seem to have some knowledge of Eron's history -- Skilling, Fastow, and perhaps other exec's were more directly responsible than Lay was for the conniving, fraud and wrongdoing that became so prevalent at the company. And the lawyers, accountants, bankers, analysts, and other supporting characters share varying, often significant, degrees of the blame as well.

But here we are less than 24 hours following Lay's death with a hot story to dissect, many unanswered questions and provocative blog entries to tempt us into this forum for discussion. If anyone at the Post has some juicy breaking news on Skilling, Fastow, etc., I'll be happy to chime in on those fronts with equal, if not stronger venom.

And an important piece of the puzzle as we struggle with the validity and appropriateness of our sometimes spiteful remarks here, is the context in which we express them. The blog is still a fairly new medium of expression for many of us, and perhaps we don't all use it as responsibly as we could. It can offer an audience and a forum for discussion that allows us to express our sometimes repressed thoughts under a veil of relative, if not complete, anonymity. For many, this forum seems to provide a potential for a captive audience and exchange, which may not be readily available to us in our daily interactions with family, friends, colleagues, etc. In some cases, views or tones are expressed that we may not be as open with in other, more direct, settings.

But, back to the Lay story, is it really so harmful for us to lash out verbally at a man who many of us despised as much as other high-profile psychopaths and villains in the limelight today? Is it wrong to speak out so harshly against him on the day he died? The only real qualm I see is the risk of disrespecting the peace and mourning of close family and friends to Lay. But, honestly, from what I know, I can't find a great deal of respect for those individuals or their attitudes. And I've got to think that they've heard all this and worse for so long now that they must be numb or oblivious to it.

So, I say, let's keep ripping him apart for all the evil he perpretated, and all that he represented, just as if he were still alive. I also firmly believe that energy should be used to make personal, business and political decisions that will help to solve the problems at the root of the Enron story moving forward. But I don't think it's a bad idea to shred bastards like Lay in these blogs, if for no other reason than that we might continue to learn a bit from each other and to find ways to vent the extreme bitterness that boils within us as a result of the actions of such scoundrels.

Posted by: speculation | July 5, 2006 10:39 PM

I forgot to mention in my previous posting that Mr. Cohen stated that OJ Simpon "got off easy" and Mr. Lay did not. OJ's guilt or non guilt is to be determined by the public (as overwhelming majority of white America believes his guilt with the same overwhelming majority of black America believes otherwise), however, one thing for sure, OJ is NOT GUILTY as declared by the criminal court whereas Mr. Lay is declared GUILTY by the criminal court. This is very significant that one cannot compare with a convicted criminal with a "not guilty" accused. As long as we apply American juriprudence, not guilty is not guilty and guilty is guilty. Unless you apply the jurisprudence of China when by now, both OJ and Mr. Lay would receive a bullet at the back of their head with the cost of the bullet and related expenses billed to their respective estates. In such a system, OJ will definitely NOT be playing golf in Florida and Mr. Lay would not be vacationing in Aspen as the Chinese execution of justice is immediate after the verdict. Sentimentally, some Americans would like this kind of convoluted justice. However, I prefer not.

Posted by: Jason Chan | July 5, 2006 10:40 PM

Your writing on this matter has been so light weight that a feather could pierce it. We can let Ken rest in peace in this column if you choose to stop absolving him of his crimes or saying he has paid his dues whether or not your were critical in the past. Your recent statements just don't acknowledge the known clinical facts and don't make you seem kind, humane or intelligent.

His death, you can NOT with any clinical or factual certainty, attribute to his corporate downfall or worries thereafter. Rather we can safely say it directly had to do with his genetics and his lifestyle in relation to those genetics.

If you can't say he got a death sentence for his crimes as you imply, then what can we say about his punishment? He disgraced himself and lost his ill gotten reputation and wealth by his own actions and statements. Is that the punishment that was enough for the destruction he and his executives caused? Should we feel so sorry for his public disgrace that we call it even? Shoud we say the US corporate enviroment made him so greedy he destroyed a major corporation and everyone near it? Would that be fair?

He didn't serve a day of restitution for his crimes which would have made him a real convict. Get real! If I was to die of natural causes before I was sentenced and went to jail I would be a lucky man not one full of misfortune. If I was that close to death and got to enjoy Aspen one more time while never tasting a federal jail I would die smilling and wouldn't need your pathetic sympathy.

He is dead and should be left in peace. You should not try to write an obituary of your design whether on not you were critical in the past. He lived his life the way he chose and you should acknowledge what happened as result to him and to thousands and thousands of Americans.

Posted by: Rod | July 5, 2006 10:48 PM

It would be a heck of a story if Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay faked his death, took a midnight flight Saudi Arabia, and is still talking to George Bush on a daily basis. I think it's safe to say though that the good church going man is roasting in hell. Always be weary of those church going people! They'll stick it to ya every time.

Posted by: Sarah | July 5, 2006 10:49 PM

Mr. Cohen - you have now written three columns imploring us to "understand" that Mr. Lay did suffer and that others were as much to blame as he was. Enough. Many of us would feel more sympathy for him if he 1) EVER acknowledged his role in the Enron collapse or 2) attempted to give ANY of his assets to the victims of the collapse. But no, he instead 1) blamed everyone BUT himself for the collapse and 2) managed to cry poor mouth while maintaining a lifestyle far above that of his victims.

Should the government, regulators, investors or anyone else pay for this? Sure. But, no, none of that absolves Mr. Lay.

Posted by: me again | July 5, 2006 11:24 PM

Do you think ol' George W. will be front and centre for his old buddy's/main campaign conributor's funeral?

Posted by: dave | July 5, 2006 11:34 PM

Mr. Cohen, you got it right. I have no sympathy for Lay's acts at Enron, and based on what I've read of the trial, I believe he deserved to be convicted. But I agree with you that he didn't "get off easy."
I am stunned and saddened by the amount of hatred demonstrated by some of the posters here. Regardless of what he did in life, let the man's soul rest in peace, and have some sympathy for his family.

Posted by: appalled | July 6, 2006 12:01 AM

I'm going to weigh in here yet again. One thing the ress and specifically the "business" press has been so lax in reporting is how little they actually act as reporters, with objectivity. They've gone to bed with the establishment because they are now owned and controlled by the establishment. Here's a very valid case in point. The CIBC a Canadian bank who was presented with a class action suit in relation to their fraudulent dealings with Enron settled a Class action lawsuit for over $2.5 Billion dollars...Yes BIllION! The CEO of the CIBC at the time (John Hunkin) retired just a few months before the settlement was announced and walked away with over $50 million dollars in bonuses (for shedding 10% of the companies value) not only that but they are also being sued by Global Crossings trustee to the tune of $2 Billion dollars for insider trading. It's time the business "press" got out of the "business" of printing "press releases" as if they were actually news and actually did some reporting.

Posted by: Andy G Canada | July 6, 2006 12:06 AM

I agree with the sentiments in the article. But after following the trial in detail, I learnt very little about Ken Lay from the article and posts; a great deal more about the mindset of many readers - the dim-witted perception that Lay "stole" vast amounts of money and the ludicrous, recurring suggestion that he would fake his own death, to name just two. But even the stupidity on show here is less of a shock than the hatred. Those financially ruined by Enron's collapse (as Lay was) might be forgiven for such displays of ignorance, vengefulness and irrationality. The others should be ashamed.

Posted by: Alex | July 6, 2006 12:58 AM

Reply to Alex.

Enron's raison d'ĂȘtre was to manipulate commodities prices. As such, they provided no useful product to the nation. They lobbied vigorously in states like mine for energy deregulation, so they could subsequently rape us. (God help us if Enron personifies the future model for US corporations.)

Here in California, we'll be paying the price for Enron for many years to come. There is a modicum of satisfaction in knowing that Enron's employees and shareholders were duly rewarded for rabidly investing themselves and their treasure in this evil company.

But that doesn't mean that Lay and his ilk should escape the sentences meted out by a jury of their peers. And Lay's death should certainly not result in the accrual of any benefit to his heirs. The inheritance tax must be reexamined by Congress if that is the outcome.

Posted by: George | July 6, 2006 01:59 AM

There's no way that dying before your time in a state of total disgrace can be called "getting off easy." If there's any relationship between his premature death and the incredible stress of his downfall, then he actually got the death penalty instead of life in prison. I'm surprised that the people who hate him so much aren't rejoicing at his demise and saying that he got what he deserved.

Posted by: ShaynaP | July 6, 2006 02:09 AM

I'm not sure what people think getting off easy is. Ken Lay didn't serve a day of jail time for 10 felonies he was convicted off. Like many convicted criminals he suffered public scorn but no one would let off a convicted criminal with just public and private shame and the stress that comes with the beginning of accountability or would they???????

I get the pictures that many here would just called it even for Kenny Boy because he lost some of his ill gotten wealth, reputation and power and may have suffered as a result.

His death, as described by the coroner, was due to physical ailments that develop over a lifetime.

Posted by: Marcy | July 6, 2006 03:42 AM

Mr Cohen:

On the day Ken Lay was convicted he made an appearance outside the courthouse. Wrapped in the language of sanctimonious religiosity, he said, 'I firmly believe I'm innocent of the charges against me.' He went on to say, 'We believe that God in fact is in control and indeed he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord.'

I wonder whether God got pissed off at Ken Lay's arrogance and decided to prove Mr Lay's point in His own manner. Now that is just an idle guess on my part since I don't make a point of second-guessing God.

When it comes to compassion I can't be bothered with Mr Lay. I feel sorry for those people who lost the work of their lifetimes and came away with nothing. People die every day. I can't feel especially sorry for Mrs Lay, a woman whose birthday celebration was said to have cost $200,000. I'm sure that Linda Lay and the little Layettes will have been provided for - sumptuously.

We could wait around and keep voting, but my children and I made our decision, influenced in part by what came out of Worldcom and Enron, and the last election. We are emigrating. We are all professionals, and we will earn over twice what we are earning now and we will be earning it in a country with universal health care, and far more robust pension protections than we have here in the US. The taxes we will be paying will actually be lower when we factor in what we will receive for what we will be paying out.

The US has sold out to corporatism, corruption, favouritism, deceit, and the power brokers. As you say, Ken Lay is only the tip of the problem. All this and far more was allowed to happen with the government's collusion. We are not leaving to live abroad as ex-pats, but as immigrants in a new country. We will be taking citizenship. We will never return to the US.

The US won't miss two doctors, one a surgeon, a biochemist, a physicist, and a structural engineer. I was educated in the UK, and I won't miss the oppressive air of religiosity that has eaten its way into the public discourse. I find it ironic that as the Christian rhetoric increases; the deeper the corruption corrodes the structure that once held this nation together.

I wasn't at all surprised to hear all the sanctimonious Christianist blether from Ken Lay, a man who stole many millions from his loyal employees and then left them to face their old age in poverty. Mr Lay's apologists point to the charitable contributions he made to the community. Rich men are always involved in philanthropic endeavours. Al Capone was extremely generous when it came to charitable giving, and I am certain that people who benefited from Mr Capone's largesse were grateful. Yet Mr Capone's victims remained dead, just as Mr Lay's remained unemployed, underemployed, stripped of their pensions, and poor.

Mr Lay never offered one word of apology to the people whose trust he betrayed and whose lives he ruined. Despite the evidence, Mr Lay continued to claim he was innocent, proving that he was no better than what he was.

Posted by: Mairi | July 6, 2006 06:24 AM

Reply to George

I agree that Enron behaved deplorably (but not illegally) during the energy crisis. However, their cynical behaviour came back to haunt them during their own crisis - they could not appeal to the government, having no poitical capital. And perhaps, all involved in Enron share, in some measure, a collective responsibility for their own downfall, as do California's legislators.

Lay was tried in a climate of Houstonians hell-bent on revenge for the financial losses they suffered. The evidence led bore little relation to the indictment charges, the deliberations even less God knows. Many Enron employess lost their savings. Lay lost his savings, his liberty, his reputation and now his life. That should be enough for even the most bloodthirsty.

Posted by: Alex | July 6, 2006 06:54 AM

Most Americans believe that individuals are responsible for their actions. Very few would say a guy from a poor, dysfunctional family who robbed a 7/11 had already 'suffered enough' at the hands of his abusive parents and shouldn't go to jail. Yet when it's a crooked CEO the culture of responsibility goes out the window and it's the system, it's his underlings, it's the fault of everybody and everything except the guy in charge. Andy Fastow got off easy all right but unlike his bosses he came clean, confessed his crimes, gave up most of his ill gotten gains and saved taxpayers the millions it would have cost to put him on trial. If Ken Lay had the decency to do the same prosecutors wouldn't have needed to give his subordinates slap on the wrist sentences in exchange for testimony and spend tens of millions of our tax dollars mounting the most expensive white collar prosecution in history. Let's put this man's legacy in perspective. He apparently had no problem with Enron traders who illegally manipulated the system in California and managed to transfer billions from that state's taxpayers into Enron's coffers. And when he stepped down as CEO, he began working full time lobbying his powerful friends on behalf of the biggest scam of all. A totally deregulated energy market where taxpayers foot the bill for costs\infrastructure and a handful of generously subsidized generators\traders like Enron dictate prices virtually free of competition. The only silver lining in the Enron collapse is that it caused congress to deep six the Cheney energy plan, probably saving every American who uses electricity from a fate similar to that of Californians in 1999-2000. This was Ken Lay's 'vision' for us. I'm not one to dance on anyone's grave but this man was the epitome of ruthlessness, greed, selfishness and avarice. If you had 1/100 of the compassion for his millions of victims that you have for poor Ken Lay I wouldn't even be writing this.

Posted by: Scott Hanrahan | July 6, 2006 09:30 AM

Thanks for the great synopsis Scott. (I had forgotten that the California disaster was set to be replicated nationwide. What hubris!)

Posted by: George | July 6, 2006 10:47 AM

I read Enron's financial statements, invested based on those statements, and lost a sizable sum. I was disappointed in the prevarications of Ken Lay, but I still understand that he was first and last a man self-deluded about his own competence to manage the company. The tragedy of his death is that he never acknowledged the depth of his own responsibility for the debacle. Jeff Skilling, I think, has much greater criminal culpability for creating and executing the accounting transactions solely designed to hide the true state of Enron's finances. This was not just petty thief Fastow's doing.
Unfortunately, the trial of Lay and Skilling did not (probably could not) address the critical issue of the degree of criminality that should be attached to those accounting maneuvers - blessed as they were by high-priced lawyers and CPAs. There is at least one major Houston law firm (Vinson & Elkins) that is still holding its breath. I fervently pray that the lawyers get hit hard, but right now it looks like they are getting off with civil penalties that amount to a slap on the wrist.
With hindsight it is easy to see the folly of Enron unfolding over the course of years (not just the last 3 months before bankruptcy), and I know now that I could have seen it. I'll be a better investor in the future as a result.
Everyone should realize that directly owning common stock is just about the riskiest thing you can do with your money. Invest with care and diversify, because no power on earth can save you from your own unwise investments. If you cannot accept personal responsibility for your losses you should stay away from stocks.

Posted by: Richard | July 6, 2006 11:21 AM

Lot of clueless posters here. The point is, Lay's sudden demise guarantees his family can keep his ill-gotten gains.

Anything else you want to talk about is crap. The bottom line here, as it always is with all things Ken Lay, is money.

They say you can't take it with you? Ken Lay took it with him.

Posted by: Jim J | July 6, 2006 11:30 AM

On all the political lines of discussion, including the blogger's comment about showing your opinion in your votes, many of you seem to have difficulty with dates.

While Bush was close to Lay, and Cheney et al have had strong involvement with many of these large corporations both during this administration and in their private lives, keep one thing in mind.

Like the options spring-loading and backdating scandal currently dominating headlines, most of these corporate scandals began in the 1990s, under a different administration. Though many of these scandals became public in 2001, 2002, and on until today, they have been brewing for years, and it was the previous administration, and previous leaders of the SEC/regulatory bodies that turned a blind eye to the skyrocketing stock market, oblivious to the wheeling and dealing that made it all possible. People both complain that the Stock Market fell while Bush was in office and also blame him for the scandals that made the high market possible, before. That doesn't quite jive. And yes, Enron was one of the leaders of the ridiculous stock market, along with all of the web companies.

Yes, Bush has ties to many nefarious types, but everyone in power does. You simply move in different circles when you're the governor of a state like Texas. What sorts of people does the current governor of New York hang out with? Who attends Hillary Clinton fundraisers? How many friends do the Kennedys have in big business.

Don't pretend all of these corporate scandals can be laid at the feet of the Bush administration when many of them ran their course before he was even elected to the highest office.

Do remember (though you may attribute it solely to pressure from the public), that under this administration sweeping (and to many, excessive) legislation has been passed in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, to help prevent these type of scandals in the future. The full impact of SOX cannot be measured, yet, as like I said, many of these scandals take years to reach a boiling point. Judge Bush's administration's handling of the scandals in 6-8 more years. Look back on what happened while he was actually in office.

9/11 happened while Bush was in office, but the terrorists made their plans (and made precursor attacks on both the WTC and the USS Cole) before Bush came into office.

Likewise, Enron, WorldCom, and all those companies currently embroiled in the backdating scandal started their scheming long before Bush had anything to do with what was going on nationally.

Posted by: Josh | July 6, 2006 12:48 PM

To Alex, on the climate in Houston

Actually, surveys showed that the anger in Houston had simmered considerably. Many in Houston were completely ignoring the trial. The media made it a big deal. If not for all the national media, many people in Houston would have already have forgotten about Ken Lay.

Yes, his victims were many, and they deserve justice, but Ken Lay wasn't railroaded. Some few of the jurors may have felt they needed to set an example with Lay, but that was born in part from his chosen method of defense, showing little to no remorse and pretending (their defense was very insulting) that Enron fell only because Fastow and the short-sellers did them in.

Lay made his own bed, and just as he was about to be tucked in, he died.

Posted by: Josh | July 6, 2006 12:54 PM

A corporate criminal is still a criminal. I am not sure whether a drug lord's family would be allowed to keep his "profits" if he died before the government could seize them and after he was found guilty, but I am sure that no one believes that if the family did get to keep the drug money, this travesty would in any way serve society. Nor would it be just--by any stretch of the imagination. If Lay's family gets to keep any of the illegal profits he managed to cheat Enron investors and employees out of, and if there is not a huge outcry of anger over this injustice if it occurs, then there is something so wrong with this country that one has to wonder if we are beyond repair.

Posted by: Tonyeaux | July 6, 2006 02:34 PM

Per the Wall Street Journal and the legal principle abatement ab initio, Lay technically died an innocent man. Does this change your opinion?

Posted by: R.Enochs | July 7, 2006 10:40 AM

Lay's assets are still at risk in the SEC's action, but only to the extent the SEC can show he profited from the wrong (in which case the amount of the profit is subject to disgorgement), or convince the Court to assess a civil penalty (even though he is now dead).
While the shareholders can also seek to get at these assets, I read that they may drop his estate from their case.

I don't think, though, that Lay "got off easy." First, he was indicted, perp walked, and convicted by a jury, which was likely a humiliating experience for him. Second, the stress of the process likely shortened his life and caused his heart attack. Third, he saw the company he founded go down in flames and become synonymous with corporate wrong-doing. So, no, he didn't get off easy.

However, I think it wrong to argue, as Richard does, that Fastow received less punishment than Skilling. Fastow agreed to serve a 10 year sentence, his wife was incarerated, and we don't know what will happen yet to Skilling. I predict Skilling will get a similar, but slighlty harsher, sentence than Fastow, which is par for the course, as Fastow pled guilty and cooperated, whereas Skilling denied his guilt, and, if you believe the witnesses at the trial, commited perjury before Congress and during his trial.

One note: all of the media talk about Skilling facing over one hundred years' imprisonment is BS; the media simply adding up the statutory maximums, but that is not close to the sentence the court is likely to impose. The sentencing guidelines (which are now advisory) don't prescribe this length of sentence, and there is a tricky issue here based on the "losses" that the government can hold Skilling accountable for (the federal sentence will largely depend on the size of "victim losses" attributable to his conduct).

Posted by: Chris | July 7, 2006 06:31 PM

Andrew, Thank you very much for writing this post. I have been writing that people should leave Ken Lay and his family alone, now that he has died. He did a horrible thing. But the man is dead. Thanks.

Andrew Pass

Posted by: Andrew Pass | July 7, 2006 09:16 PM

hmmmmm...well I can say that I do not wish death on anyone, but do I feel any pitty for ken lays death, No. Now some would think that is just ignorant or selfish but did ken lay have any pitty or guilt for ripping off people and i'm not just talking about rich investors, i'm talking about that 50,000 some hard working low income people who lost all there life savings to this evil greed man.

Death is not an excuse to rid someone of there past evils, ken lay will be rewarded for his good deeds as will anyone when they pass on but there evil deeds will follow them forever.

Posted by: c-doggy | July 9, 2006 05:20 PM

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