Archive: Dispatches

No Foul Play

In a very quick turnaround, a Colorado coroner pronounced yesterday that Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay died of coronary artery disease and that the 64-year-old had suffered a previous heart attack. I doubt this will put all the conspiracy theories -- yes, they started the minute his death was announced...

By Frank Ahrens | July 6, 2006; 09:47 AM ET | Comments (3)

Heart of the Defense

It's coincidental, if not ironic, that Kenneth L. Lay should die of a heart attack. Several weeks into his trial on federal fraud charges, in March, defense lawyer Michael W. Ramsey said he believed he had suffered a small heart attack in court after shouting at a government witness, former...

By Frank Ahrens | July 5, 2006; 04:58 PM ET | Comments (2)

Note From the Afterlife?

Obviously, Kenneth L. Lay's family has other things on its mind now, but a quick check to www.kenlayinfo.com, which the Lay defense team posted more than a year ago and used to tell their client's side of the story, shows it is still active and has not been updated to...

By Frank Ahrens | July 5, 2006; 04:17 PM ET | Comments (2)

A No-Surprise Ending

I'm not surprised by the news of Kenneth L. Lay's sudden death. Nor am I surprised that death came now, less than two months after he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy for his role in Enron's downfall. In many ways, it seems almost inevitable. After Lay was found guilty...

By Frank Ahrens | July 5, 2006; 02:53 PM ET | Comments (7)

The Aftermath

Whatever will we talk about now? Now that a Houston jury has convicted former Enron executives Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling on fraud and conspiracy charges, let's do a little housekeeping, then take a look ahead. There are a couple of good stories in today's Houston Chronicle worth...

By Frank Ahrens | May 26, 2006; 04:09 PM ET | Comments (7)

The Specter of Prison Becomes Real

One commenter to this blog earlier today brought up the point that, perhaps up until now, Jeffrey K. Skilling and Kenneth L. Lay may not have contemplated spending actual time in jail. Now, assuming their convictions do not get overturned on appeal, that is a near-certainty. Legal experts have speculated...

By Frank Ahrens | May 26, 2006; 07:28 AM ET | Comments (7)

Lay Finally Emerges

Kenneth L. Lay just poppped out of the court house with his family. The holdup: He had to come up with the $5 million required for his bail so he could go free. CBNC was reporting that there were federal agents in Lay's luxury Houston penthouse -- the last liquid...

By Frank Ahrens | May 25, 2006; 04:24 PM ET | Comments (13)

Taking a Breath

Phew! Now that we're through the first flurry of activity reporting the verdicts against Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling, let's sit back and take a breath and think about what we've seen and what's ahead. First, a little housekeeping, which I should have gotten to earlier: Unlike in...

By Frank Ahrens | May 25, 2006; 03:16 PM ET | Comments (2)

Lay in Prayer

Jeffrey K. Skilling and his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, emerged from the court house and briefly addressed the media shortly after the verdict. But Kenneth L. Lay has yet to emerge. CNBC reported a few minutes ago that Lay and his family, as well as his lawyers and much of the...

By Frank Ahrens | May 25, 2006; 01:38 PM ET | Comments (20)

Grooving on Glisan

After the verdict was announced, several jurors talked to reporters, explaining what they found compelling in the testimony and evidence. One of the defense's key hopes was that the jury would discount the highly damaging testimony of former Enron chief financial officer Andrew S. Fastow. Fastow had pleaded guilty to...

By Frank Ahrens | May 25, 2006; 01:07 PM ET | Email a Comment

Guilty, Guilty and Guilty

It's pretty clear that the government prosecution hit a home run with the verdicts against former Enron chief executives Jeffrey K. Skilling and Kenneth L. Lay, which were just released. Lay was found guilty on all six couns, Skilling on 19 of 28 counts. The jury, which began deliberation May...

By Frank Ahrens | May 25, 2006; 12:51 PM ET | Comments (2)

Ahrens, Day 30: That's a Wrap

Now that Kenneth L. Lay has finished his testimony, I'm heading back to D.C. It's been a ton of fun, at least partly thanks to my colleagues in the Overflow Press Room (OPR). And it's been a real privilege to have had a front-row seat (well, at least via projection...

By Frank Ahrens | May 3, 2006; 01:44 PM ET | Comments (11)

Lay, Day 5.25: That's a Wrap

Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay finished his testimony Tuesday about two hours into the day, walking off the stand just before 10 a.m. As soon as he left, a string of character witnesses followed, including Houston Astros owner Drayton McLean, who said, basically, Lay's a good guy but I never...

By Frank Ahrens | May 3, 2006; 07:42 AM ET | Comments (5)

Touch My Monkey!

There was a light moment in court this morning following a slip of the tongue by Kenneth L. Lay. During cross-examination, federal prosector John Hueston reminded Lay that his lead lawyer, Michael Ramsey, had publicly referred to former Enron treasurer -- and prosecution witness -- Benjamin Glisan as a "monkey."...

By Frank Ahrens | May 2, 2006; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (3)

Lay's Testimony Ends

Kenneth L. Lay wrapped up his nearly six days on the witness stand in his own defense at a little before 10 a.m. CT by answering one final question from his lawyer, George "Mac" Secrest: "Did you love Enron?" "I loved Enron very much and Enron's employees very much," Lay...

By Frank Ahrens | May 2, 2006; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (1)

This Lawyer Is Working FOR You?

Is there a point at which "folksy" crosses over the line into "seemingly clueless?" Defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest is questioning his client, Kenneth L. Lay, on redirect examination now about something called TCV -- Total Contract Value -- as a way of measuring how well Enron's Energy Services business...

By Frank Ahrens | May 2, 2006; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (1)

Raid on Enron

Kenneth L. Lay, finishing his redirect examination under his defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest, just recalled the circumstances surrounding the descent of FBI agents on Enron in early 2002. Lay said he'd heard on television that lawyers for plaintiffs that were suing Enron in civil actions, such as shareholders stung...

By Frank Ahrens | May 2, 2006; 09:38 AM ET | Comments (1)

Lay, Day Five: It's in the Past. Or Not.

Federal prosecutor John Hueston finished his cross-examination of Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay on Monday afternoon -- a total of a little more than two full days on the stand at the hands of the government, and five days overall, at least so far. Defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest will...

By Frank Ahrens | May 2, 2006; 07:44 AM ET | Comments (7)

Enron: A Fun Place to Work

In his redirect examination of Kenneth L. Lay, defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest is diving into an employee survey that Lay commissioned when he returned to the company in August 2001. Of about 30,000 employees, Lay said he got more than 3,000 responses. Secrest is trying to prove that Enron...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 05:36 PM ET | Email a Comment

The Long and Short of Shorting

In redirect examination -- where the defense gets to try and refute assertions made during the government's cross-examination -- Kenneth L. Lay testified that his son, Mark, was not short-selling Enron stock as the government argued. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling before him testified that a cabal of short-sellers had...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 04:22 PM ET | Comments (5)

Honey, I'm Home

Kenneth L. Lay's defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest just took over from prosecutor John Hueston, who finished his rough three-day cross-examination. The look on Lay's face when he greeted his lawyer was a combination of utter relief and serenity. In fact, I'm not sure one man has ever looked happier...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 04:07 PM ET | Comments (2)

Lay Cross-Ex Wraps Up

Federal prosecutor John Hueston finished his cross-examination of Kenneth L. Lay by detailing Lay's assets in Enron's final days as a way of hammering home what Hueston hopes jurors will see as heartlessness. Just before Enron declared bankruptcy in December 2001, Lay drew out his final $1 million from his...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 03:35 PM ET | Comments (1)

70 Million Pieces

Watching federal prosecutor John Hueston cross-examine Enron founder Kenneth Lay on his stock sales during 2001 reminds me of a quote from "Chariots of Fire," when the running coach tells the runner what he's about to take on: "I'll tear you apart, piece by bloody piece." Hueston is doing a...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 03:02 PM ET | Email a Comment

Lay vs. His Lawyer

Kenneth L. Lay is contradicting his own lawyer now. Prosecutor John Hueston quoted Lay's lead lawyer -- Michael Ramsey -- from his opening statement 14 weeks ago: "You only sold off Enron stock after you sold off all your other stocks." Lay contradicted his lawyer's opening statement -- a statement...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 12:56 PM ET | Comments (1)

Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game

Kenneth L. Lay just flashed some unexpected street cred in cross-examination with prosecutor John Hueston. Lay verified under testimony that he told former Enron communications officer Mark Palmer that the Wall Street Journal had a "hate on" for Enron. Word. That's hard one to refute....

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 11:02 AM ET | Email a Comment

Lay Gives Props to WSJ

Both Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling have disparaged a series of Oct. 2001 articles in the Wall Street Journal that questioned the accounting of the outside-of-Enron partnerships known as the LJMs -- deals that eventually led to Enron's downfall. Lay and Skilling said the stories were filled in...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 10:38 AM ET | Email a Comment

Best Quote Yet

I think Kenneth L. Lay just delivered the quote of the trial -- at least of the four weeks I've been here -- during cross-examination with government prosecutor John Hueston: "The corpse is on the gurney now, Mr. Hueston, and you're carving it up any way you like. I didn't...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 10:10 AM ET | Comments (1)

Lay Battles On

In his third day of cross-examination, Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay continues to battle with prosecutor John Hueston, but has so far kept his anger in check this morning. Lay is accusing Hueston of selectively picking only damaging information to make his case ... duh, that's what prosecutors do. Lay...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 09:49 AM ET | Email a Comment

Last Crack at Lay

Government prosecutor John Hueston likely will wrap up his cross-examination of Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay today, or Tuesday at the latest. After the cross, the defense will get a redirect examination of Lay, in an attempt to answer questions brought up by the prosecution. After that, the government may...

By Frank Ahrens | May 1, 2006; 07:45 AM ET | Email a Comment

Johnson, Ahrens Discuss Week Ahead: Lay Wraps Up

Enron founder and former chief executive Kenneth L. Lay spent last week on the witness stand and will likely wrap up early this week. He was preceded on the stand by fellow former chief Jeffrey K. Skilling. Frank Ahrens sat down this afternoon with Post financial section reporter Carrie Johnson,...

By Frank Ahrens | April 30, 2006; 06:14 PM ET | Email a Comment

The Rashomon Option

Could Kennth L. Lay -- and Jeffrey K. Skilling before him -- be telling the truth? I had a couple of posters recently who have brought up the idea that Lay might very well not have known that some of his key employees were misbehaving. In Lay's testimony, he has...

By Frank Ahrens | April 30, 2006; 08:23 AM ET | Comments (12)

Lay, Day Four: Up a Creek Without a Laptop

So there I was in the lobby of the federal courthouse, sitting on the marble floor, with my computer to my left (refusing to turn on) and my colleague Carrie Johnson's computer to my right (refusing to log on to the network). Smashing start to the day, which began a...

By Frank Ahrens | April 28, 2006; 06:50 AM ET | Comments (6)

Time's a-Wastin'

Kenneth L. Lay evidently has this much patience for things that waste his time. This trial -- specifically, this afternoon's questioning by prosecutor John Hueston about Enron's failed British water company, Wessex/Azurix -- must be a big waste of time in Lay's mind, by the way he's starting to snap...

By Frank Ahrens | April 27, 2006; 04:40 PM ET | Comments (1)

Thanks a Lot, Son

Catching up from the fall-behind this morning: The government dropped a little bomblet in this morning's testimony from Kenneth L. Lay, being cross-examined by government prosecutor John Hueston regarding Lay's son, Mark, who oversaw the family's investments. For backstory, Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling have partially blamed stock short-sellers for...

By Frank Ahrens | April 27, 2006; 03:45 PM ET | Comments (2)

Maybe He's Not a Morning Person

Prosecutor John Hueston is hammering away at Kenneth L. Lay about the Enron founder's massive sales of company stock during the summer and fall of 2001. The prosecution contends that Lay dumped millions of dollars worth of stock when he knew the company was in trouble and did not disclose...

By Frank Ahrens | April 27, 2006; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (3)

Late Start on Lay Today

It would figure: On the first day Judge Simeon Lake III (SL3) says court now has to start at 8 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m., my computer dies. How dead? "Deader than Caesar," as Sean Connery said in "The Untouchables." So I'm using my colleague Carrie Johnson's laptop while she's...

By Frank Ahrens | April 27, 2006; 10:18 AM ET | Comments (4)

Lay, Day Three: Battered and Fried

It's hard to imagine Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay having a tougher day on the witness stand than he did Wednesday. But what the heck. Let's try: Top Five Ways Ken Lay Could Have Had a Tougher Wednesday on the Witness Stand 5. He could have produced a can of...

By Frank Ahrens | April 27, 2006; 07:37 AM ET | Comments (2)

Lay Pugnacious During Cross

At 3:08 p.m. CT, defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest passed Kenneth L. Lay to government prosecutor John Hueston. The opening was instantly contentious. Hueston charged right in, asking a number of questions. Finally, he asked: "Is that the right response?" "It's not the right response, but you can write it...

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 04:21 PM ET | Email a Comment

Lay by the Numbers

Kenneth L. Lay just laid out some big numbers when talking about his personal wealth: -- Net worth, 2000: $350 million. -- Net worth, 2001: $50 million. -- Net worth, today: "More or less zero," Lay said. When pressed, he said it was around $250,000. -- Total personal debt, at...

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 03:42 PM ET | Comments (2)

Off to Valhalla

For ancient Norse Vikings (and perhaps current ones), Valhalla was the name of great god Odin's hall, the place where warriors went once slain in battle. (Klingons call it Sto-vo-kor, by the way.) For Kenneth L. Lay, it's a place he probably wanted to avoid. The prosecution will attempt to...

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 02:12 PM ET | Comments (1)

Unlikeable Lay?

Kenneth L. Lay continued his charm offensive in the courtroom, berating his lawyer, George "Mac" Secrest. Secrest is trying to make an argument showing that Lay is not culpable of the government fraud charges. Lay is doing his best to appear unlikeable. Secrest asked Lay about an event on Oct....

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 12:02 PM ET | Comments (1)

Psych!

Call me overly suspicious, but it sure looks like Judge Simeon T. Lake III (a.k.a. "SL3") is messing with defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest. Yesterday, SL3 was all over Secrest, reprimanding him for moving too slowly, for trying to introduce irrelevant evidence and for generally spoiling the judge's day. Today,...

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 11:23 AM ET | Email a Comment

So Far, So Good

It looks like Kenneth L. Lay and his lawyer, George "Mac" Secrest got in a little rehearsal time last night. So far, their testimony has proceeded much more smoothly than yesterday's. Today, Lay is largely laying off the techno-talk and Secrest seems a little more in charge of his witness,...

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 10:46 AM ET | Email a Comment

Lay, Day Two: The Lost Day

If I were asked to sum up what Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay and his defense lawyer, George "Mac" Secrest accomplished on the witness stand Tuesday, I'd have to say: a) Annoying Judge Simeon T. Lake III (or "SL3" to some courthouse observers), b) blaming former finance chief Andrew S....

By Frank Ahrens | April 26, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Email a Comment

I'm Losing You ...

One of Jeffrey K. Skilling's strengths on the stand was his ability -- under careful guidance of his lawyer, Daniel M. Petrocelli -- to largely avoid financial techno-speak. He slipped sometimes but usually caught himself, even cutting himself off when he realized he was sounding like an energy geek and...

By Frank Ahrens | April 25, 2006; 03:28 PM ET | Comments (3)

Who's In Charge Here?

Defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest is theoretically directing the questioning of his client, Kenneth Lay, but he's getting led by Lay and just got manhandeld by presiding Judge Simeon Lake III. Several times during his first two days on the stand, Lay has directed Secrest, rather than the other way...

By Frank Ahrens | April 25, 2006; 11:39 AM ET | Email a Comment

Journal-istic Defense

Defense lawyer George "Mac" Secrest just showed a blowup of an Oct. 17, 2001, article in the Wall Street Journal on the courtroom screen. One of the prongs of the defense strategy is blaming a series of Journal articles that it claims were unduly negative, leading to a crisis of...

By Frank Ahrens | April 25, 2006; 10:24 AM ET | Email a Comment

Off With a Bang

The second day of Kenneth L. Lay's defense testimony started with a bang: He said he never discussed whistleblower Sherron Watkins's memo, which warned of accounting problems at the company -- with Jeffrey K. Skilling. Watkins was the Enron insider who wrote a memo in the summer of 2001 that...

By Frank Ahrens | April 25, 2006; 09:48 AM ET | Comments (2)

Lay, Day One: All Business, No Smiles

It's unusual to see a picture of Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay when he's not smiling. Lay was the public face of Enron, with his happy Jack-o'-lantern eyes and occasional flyaway hair (part of the huggable multimillionaire's charm). Each morning for the three weeks that I've been here and watched...

By Frank Ahrens | April 25, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Slightly Scary Uncle

Before Jeffrey Skilling took the stand, there was much anticipation about how he'd handle tough cross-examination, given his legendary temper and inability to suffer fools. The phrase most often used to describe Ken Lay, currently on the stand, seems to be "avuncular." Skilling indeed provided some fireworks but kept himself...

By Frank Ahrens | April 24, 2006; 03:00 PM ET | Comments (6)

The Men of Enron: Skilling

Last week's appearance on the witness stand of Susan Lowe, Jeffrey Skilling's first wife, was mesmerizing. Some of the folks who read my description of her took offense, questioning why I had not subjected Skilling and co-defendant Kenneth Lay -- who took the stand this morning on six counts of...

By Frank Ahrens | April 24, 2006; 02:25 PM ET | Comments (3)

Hang On There, Podner

Barely two hours into his time on the stand, Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay has asserted his personality and displayed a very different style from that of his predecessor in the box, co-defendant Jeffrey K. Skilling. Lay is crafting a combination of down-home and don't-mess-with-Texas attitude in his responses to...

By Frank Ahrens | April 24, 2006; 11:24 AM ET | Email a Comment

Lay Takes the Stand

Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay took the stand in his defense against six fraud counts this morning around 8:40 a.m. CT. Asked by his defense lawyer what it's been like to sit in the courtroom for the past 13 weeks and watch the trial, Lay said, "It's been interesting. A...

By Frank Ahrens | April 24, 2006; 10:04 AM ET | Comments (1)

Johnson and Ahrens Discuss the Week Ahead: Lay on the Stand

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling finished nearly eight full days on the witness stand on Thursday, defending himself against 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading charges. Today, Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay takes the stand, facing six counts of fraud. Frank Ahrens sat down with Business...

By Frank Ahrens | April 24, 2006; 07:20 AM ET | Email a Comment

Skilling, Day Eight: Cast of Characters

Scorecards! Get yer scorecards! You can't tell the characters in the character-witness lineup without a scorecard! On Thursday afternoon after former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling wrapped up nearly nine days on the stand, his defense team brought forth a parade of testimonials designed to persuade the jury Skilling...

By Frank Ahrens | April 21, 2006; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (4)

The Apparition of the First Wife

I could write that Jeffrey K. Skilling's first wife, Susan Lowe, was called to the stand this afternoon as a character witness for the accused, but it would be more accurate to say that she materialized in the witness box. She was ghostlike in her mien and manner, tremulous but...

By Frank Ahrens | April 20, 2006; 04:31 PM ET | Comments (14)

The Old Girlfriend Pops Back Up

On his re-cross-examination of Jeffrey K. Skilling, prosecutor Sean Berkowitz just accused the defendant of backdating a $10,000 check to his former girlfriend, Jennifer Binder, to avoid paying taxes on it in 1998. Skilling said he does not remember writing the check or another $10,000 check that were gifts to...

By Frank Ahrens | April 20, 2006; 12:05 PM ET | Email a Comment

What's My Line?

Jeffrey K. Skilling's eighth day (wow!) on the stand started with a little levity between Skilling and his lawer, Daniel M. Petrocelli, who is engaged in redirect examination of his client. Petrocelli asked Skilling a question. Skilling said he didn't remember. Petrocelli asked the question a different way, with no...

By Frank Ahrens | April 20, 2006; 09:46 AM ET | Email a Comment

Skilling, Day Seven: Your Witness -- Now!

Federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz ended his three-day cross-examination of Jeffrey K. Skilling this afternoon as abruptly as Skilling quit Enron in August 2001. I wish I could take credit for that line, but I can't. Reporter Mark Babineck of the hometown Houston Chronicle made the excellent quip mid-afternoon on Wednesday...

By Frank Ahrens | April 20, 2006; 07:14 AM ET | Comments (1)

Skilling to Lucent?

Federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz just brought his cross-examination of Jeffrey K. Skilling to an abrupt and surprising close. On the courtroom screen, he listed all 11(!) reasons Skilling cited for leaving Enron. Primary among them was to spend more time with his family, Skilling said. But Berkowitz hauled out a...

By Frank Ahrens | April 19, 2006; 03:45 PM ET | Email a Comment

Baby, You Can Drive My VAR

The second half of this morning's testimony was a mind-numbing discussion of Enron's risk analysis. I couldn't see the jurors but if I had, I bet they all had little X's where their eyes should have been. Basically, it came down to this: Prosecutor Sean Berkowitz claiming that former Enron...

By Frank Ahrens | April 19, 2006; 01:52 PM ET | Comments (3)

Mining Metadata

Metadata is data about data. For instance, a time stamp on a digital picture you take--if the picture is data, the time-stamp tells you when that data was created. It is metadata. Federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz just whipped out a little metadata to whip up on former Enron chief executive...

By Frank Ahrens | April 19, 2006; 10:50 AM ET | Email a Comment

Skilling, Day Six: Boys and Men

If Jeffrey K. Skilling ended his first day of cross-examination jabbed into a corner by federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz, the former Enron chief executive opened Round 2 on Tuesday seeming determined to punch his way out, snapping back at Berkowitz in self-defense. These two are hardly standing toe-to-toe, slugging it...

By Frank Ahrens | April 19, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Email a Comment

Berkowitz to Skilling: Gotcha!

Federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz, in his cross-examination of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling, just produced a "gotcha" moment when discussing the company's troubled broadband division, which crashed in early 2001 along with a number of tech stocks. Berkowitz produced a script that Skilling was supposed to read from...

By Frank Ahrens | April 18, 2006; 04:52 PM ET | Comments (6)

Whoa, Nellie!

Legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson is known for his country twang and down-home phrases. One of his best, when describing rival football teams: "These two teams plain don't like each other!" It looks like it's shaping up that way between former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling and federal prosecutor Sean...

By Frank Ahrens | April 18, 2006; 03:25 PM ET | Email a Comment

Two Stories on the Sat Phone

Last week, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling testified that, when he went on a summer 2000 trip to Africa with his son and brother, he rented a satellite phone. From the stand, Skilling joked that the phone only held a charge for about 20 seconds and its only...

By Frank Ahrens | April 18, 2006; 12:46 PM ET | Email a Comment

Raptors Explained?

Here's how federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz just took a swipe at explaining Enron's complicated Raptor transactions, which the government charges Enron used to hide losses: "If we have a car that's valued at $1,000 and it's on Enron's balance sheet for $1,000 and it moves into the Raptors, it stays...

By Frank Ahrens | April 18, 2006; 10:41 AM ET | Comments (8)

Skilling, Day Five: Lace 'em Up

Monday was former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling's first day on the stand in the hands of lead government prosecutor Sean Berkowitz. Last week, Skilling spent the week taking questions from his lawyer, Daniel M. Petrocelli, who guided him deftly through the testimony. Yesterday was different. Skilling was up...

By Frank Ahrens | April 18, 2006; 07:25 AM ET | Comments (5)

Sex and the Conflict of Interest

Under questioning from federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling testified that he made a "small" investment of about $60,000 in an online photo business set up by former company photographer Jennifer Binder, which Skilling testified did business with Enron with a "small" contract. Berkowitz asked...

By Frank Ahrens | April 17, 2006; 03:03 PM ET | Email a Comment

Poking at the Tiger

A few moments ago, one reader commented that prosecutor Sean Berkowitz's early pounce on former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling may have set the tone for the coming days. This courtroom sketch shows lead prosecutor Sean Berkowitz, left, cross examining former Enron executive Jeffrey K. Skilling, right, as Skilling's...

By Frank Ahrens | April 17, 2006; 02:20 PM ET | Email a Comment

Berkowitz Strikes

Federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz just showed a lighting-like ability to strike at former Enron chief executive Jeffery Skilling's character, which has been portrayed as arrogant. Berkowitz is cross-examining Skilling in his fraud trial. Talking about Enron's international assets, Berkowitz was ticking off all the problems Skilling saw with having assets...

By Frank Ahrens | April 17, 2006; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (6)

He's Got A Million of 'Em ...

The wry Judge Simeon Lake III has provided frequent relief from the sober nature of the fraud trial of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling with his drawling quips. "Judge Sim" kicked off the 12th week of the trial this morning by handing over the questioning to goverment prosecutor...

By Frank Ahrens | April 17, 2006; 10:48 AM ET | Email a Comment

Johnson and Ahrens Discuss the Week Ahead: Prosecutors Gets a Turn at Skilling

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling spent all four days of last week's trial under friendly questioning from his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli. Starting Monday, it's the government's turn. Federal prosecutor Sean Berkowitz will lead the cross-examination. Prosecutors have charged Skilling with 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. Skilling...

By Frank Ahrens | April 17, 2006; 08:02 AM ET | Comments (1)

Skilling Day Four: Just a Guy Trying to Make An Honest Buck

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling wrapped up the first part his defense testimony on Thursday, spending all four days of this week's trial (trial is in recess on Fridays) attempting refute the government indictment nearly point-by-point. Defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli, left, questions Jeffrey Skilling, center, as co-defendant and Enron...

By Frank Ahrens | April 14, 2006; 06:59 AM ET | Comments (1)

First It Was the British...

Under questioning from his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling is explaining his sales of Enron stock. After he left the company in August 2001, he said he had "two good ideas for investing: one was holding onto Enron and the other was shorting AES." Skilling explained...

By Frank Ahrens | April 13, 2006; 05:32 PM ET | Comments (1)

Oh, No! It's Mr. Bill!

Some of the more potentially damaging testimony against former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling came last month from former Enron broadband executive Kevin Hannon. Hannon testified that, at a meeting, Skilling had read an analyst report that questioned the company's finances. "They're onto us," Hannon testified that Skilling said. Hannon...

By Frank Ahrens | April 13, 2006; 02:49 PM ET | Email a Comment

Skilling Attacks

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling just launched into a long, surprisingly timed and barbed jeremiad against government prosecutors during a reading of the government's indictment relating to March 2001 call with analysts -- a time when the company's stock was dropping. Skilling accused prosecutors of "rewriting history." Jeffrey Skilling,...

By Frank Ahrens | April 13, 2006; 12:02 PM ET | Comments (1)

Skilling Day Three: Faster, Faster!

Toward the end of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling's testimony on Wednesday, his third day on the stand in his defense, I looked down at my laptop and saw that I had typed, in all-caps, "WHY SO FAST???" Skilling was talking about the end of 1999, as Enron was...

By Frank Ahrens | April 13, 2006; 06:49 AM ET | Comments (1)

Here Come the Raptors!

The infamous Raptor deals raised their head first thing off the bat this morning in former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling's third day on the stand in his defense. Skilling said that in the spring of 2000, a number of high-tech companies that Enron had invested in were preparing to...

By Frank Ahrens | April 12, 2006; 11:32 AM ET | Email a Comment

Skilling, Day Two: Of Bear Hugs and Barges

On Tuesday, there was talk of bear hugs and Nigerian barges. To try understand what these two seemingly disparate concepts have to do with Enron is to gain a glimpse into how sprawling this company was at its height and how many far-flung, grandiose projects it tried, one of which...

By Frank Ahrens | April 12, 2006; 07:32 AM ET | Comments (1)

Skilling Hits Fastow Hard

In afternoon questioning by defense lawyer Dan Petrocelli, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling said that in the spring of 2001 he was becoming "more and more exasperated with Mr. [Andrew] Fastow and these LJM transactions." Jeffrey Skilling, right, and attorney Dan Petorcelli arriving Tuesday morning for Skilling's second day...

By Frank Ahrens | April 11, 2006; 04:57 PM ET | Email a Comment

Diving Into the LJMs

This afternoon's session is focusing on the LJM partnerships -- the outside-of-Enron groups controlled by former Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow that are at the heart of the scandal. Fastow pleaded guilty to fraud and is cooperating with government prosecutors. He admits to siphoning Enron money into his LJM...

By Frank Ahrens | April 11, 2006; 03:41 PM ET | Comments (1)

A Breakthrough!

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling may have just told jurors what Enron did in a language folks can actually understand: "If you think about what Enron does, Enron sells reliable delivery and predictable prices..." of natural gas and electricity. That's something you can wrap your head around. It's also...

By Frank Ahrens | April 11, 2006; 12:20 PM ET | Comments (1)

Explaining Earnings Numbers

As he sought to explain the "overview" budget numbers earlier today, defense lawyer Dan Petrocelli is now having former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling explain how an earnings-per-share number can go from 30 cents to 31 cents in one day to meet Wall Street quarterly earnings expectations. One of the...

By Frank Ahrens | April 11, 2006; 12:02 PM ET | Email a Comment

Chipping Away at the Prosecution's Case

Defense lawyer Dan Petrocelli is using former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling to chip away at the government's indictment. Federal prosecutors have charged Skilling with 28 counts of fraud. Petrocelli is asserting that the government did not understand Enron and misinterpreted legal and standard Enron activities and terminology as being...

By Frank Ahrens | April 11, 2006; 11:12 AM ET | Comments (2)

Skilling, Day One: Put On a Human Face

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling did about six sometimes emotional hours on the stand during his first day of testimony on Monday. His defense lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, seemed to be using Skilling to lay the groundwork for two points: In this artist's rendering, former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling explains...

By Frank Ahrens | April 11, 2006; 08:47 AM ET | Email a Comment

...By Any Other Name

During afternoon testimony, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling told jurors that he'd had at least two nicknames bestowed upon him: * A.B., short for "All Business." Friends of Skilling's college girlfriend named him this for his devotion to his business studies. As a mechanical engineering student, Skilling testified that...

By Frank Ahrens | April 10, 2006; 05:23 PM ET | Email a Comment

How Is a Cow Like Natural Gas?

Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling spent much of the afternoon session today describing Enron's ascent and educating jurors on Enron's first "gas bank" -- the revolutionary mechanism for buying and selling natural gas that Skilling devised while working for Enron as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. and which...

By Frank Ahrens | April 10, 2006; 04:56 PM ET | Email a Comment

Skilling's Perp Walk Memories

During afternoon testimony, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling described his personal "perp walk" experience on the day in February 2004 when he surrendered to the FBI and was processed at a Houston courthouse. A perp walk happens when law enforcement officials parade a suspect by a bank of media...

By Frank Ahrens | April 10, 2006; 03:59 PM ET | Email a Comment

Wanna Buy Some Enron Stock?

Under government cross-examination, former Enron general counsel James Derrick revealed that he sold about $6 million worth of Enron stock in 2001. But moments later, as defense lawyers took over, Derrick said that he retained stock that was worth as much as $80 million at one point. He said he...

By Frank Ahrens | April 10, 2006; 10:58 AM ET | Email a Comment

Waiting For the Main Act

Former Enron general counsel James Derrick opens today on the stand, as the government wraps up its cross-examination. Prosecutor John Hueston is grilling Derrick on the investigation of Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins's claims that certain Enron deals seemed fishy. This is important testimony for the government, as it attempts to...

By Frank Ahrens | April 10, 2006; 10:08 AM ET | Email a Comment

Johnson and Ahrens Discuss Skilling's Coming Testimony

Former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling return to the federal courthouse in Houston on Monday as their trial on federal fraud charges continues. Former Enron CFO Jeffrey Skilling is scheduled to take the stand today in Houston. (AP Photo) Skilling, the company's former chief executive, is set to...

By Frank Ahrens | April 9, 2006; 09:17 PM ET | Email a Comment

And The Other Side of the Story

Through Thursday morning and into the afternoon, defense lawyers painted their picture of how well former Enron general counsel James Derrick knew the company's earnings reports and how he handled the investigation into Enron insider Sherron Watkins's grave concerns about the accounting of certain Enron deals. The testimony was flattering...

By Frank Ahrens | April 7, 2006; 12:33 AM ET | Email a Comment

Still Waiting For Skilling

After the trial recessed for the weekend (they take Fridays off), Jeffrey Skilling and his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, briefly spoke to reporters. Petrocelli promised that his client would take the stand on Monday and predicted the testimony would last an entire week. When asked about the wait, Skilling replied, "It's...

By Frank Ahrens | April 6, 2006; 06:33 PM ET | Comments (2)

Some Fireworks During Derrick Cross-Examination

Things heated up for the first time today when government prosecutor John Hueston questioned former Enron general counsel James Derrick about a memo Enron lawyer Lance Shuler had written raising similar concerns to those expressed by whistleblower Sherron Watkins. Shuler said previously that he had talked to Derrick about the...

By Frank Ahrens | April 6, 2006; 05:37 PM ET | Email a Comment

Derrick on Cross-Examination

The prosecution takes its turn at former Enron general counsel James Derrick as government lawyer John Hueston begins cross-examination....

By Frank Ahrens | April 6, 2006; 04:16 PM ET | Email a Comment

Michael Jordan Accounting

One of the assertions made by Enron executives, at least at the time that the whole shebang started to collapse, was that Enron was already in the 21st century in terms of the advanced deals it was trying, no longer trading just oil and gas but broadband space and anything...

By Frank Ahrens | April 6, 2006; 04:14 PM ET | Email a Comment

One Side of the Story

As James Derrick edges toward the conclusion of his time on the stand at the hands of defense lawyers, here is a list of our takeaways: * Jeffrey Skilling left the company because he came face-to-face with the human cost of his business, after visiting the families of Enron employees...

By Frank Ahrens | April 6, 2006; 03:31 PM ET | Email a Comment

Waiting for Skilling

Coming out of the courthouse cafeteria this morning, I glanced over at the folks queued up to walk through the metal detector and there was Jeffrey K. Skilling, in a dark suit and modest tie, politely showing his ID to the guard. "Mr. Skilling," one of the guards said, "how...

By Frank Ahrens | April 6, 2006; 09:45 AM ET | Email a Comment

Hold That Thought ...

There was a dramatic exchange underway that was quite undramatically cut off by the judge, who just called for an afternoon break. On the stand was Enron's former general counsel, James Derrick. Under cross-examination from the government, Derrick was questioned about his estimation of Andrew S. Fastow, Enron's former chief...

By Frank Ahrens | April 5, 2006; 06:46 PM ET | Email a Comment

 

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