Enron - Trial of the Century: Prelude to the Trial

Thomas Fox - Compliance Evangelist
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The five-part series on the Enron Trial kicks off with Tom Fox and actual trial attendee, Loren Steffy. This first episode highlights the major events that led up to the beginning of the trial, many years ago.

Enron in the Early Years 

Enron was once the seventh biggest publicly traded company in America. When natural gas trading was deregulated, Enron made a name for themselves by creating a platform that allowed for easy trade of natural gas See more +

The five-part series on the Enron Trial kicks off with Tom Fox and actual trial attendee, Loren Steffy. This first episode highlights the major events that led up to the beginning of the trial, many years ago.

Enron in the Early Years 

Enron was once the seventh biggest publicly traded company in America. When natural gas trading was deregulated, Enron made a name for themselves by creating a platform that allowed for easy trade of natural gas contracts. 

The Downfall of Enron 

As Enron grew, they attempted to expand their trading mentality to other markets. There was intense pressure to prove their successes due to being publicly traded, and eventually, they found a way to hide debt and fabricate numbers. However, in mid 2001, their stock began to fall and the questions flooded in. Enron’s lies quickly unraveled, leaving them bankrupt by early December - they went from being the seventh largest company in America, to being broke.

The Arrest and Key Charges 

One of the stunning things about Enron, as a corporate scandal, was that it was really the first time this sort of widespread fraud was seen. In the case of Enron, there were dozens of indictments, but many unindicted co-conspirators. Most of the executives cut plea deals, agreeing to testify against the chairman, Kenneth Lay, and former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling. Though there had been past cases of corporate malfeasance, there had never before been a corporate culture so focused on malfeasance as Enron Corporation. “Looking back at Enron,” Loren says, “it was a culture that really encouraged people to break the rules.” 

Off-the-books Partnerships 

Enron’s partnerships began with an operation called JEDI, done with a small oil and gas company, CODA Energy. Their debt was placed into this entity, and essentially, hidden. This became the model that they used, eventually being done on a larger scale with more interlocking companies passing debt back and forth. A partnership with LJM was where most of the debt was parked. Conflicting documents related to this partnership are what led to the exposure of Enron’s sharp practice.

Other famous partnerships included Enron Broadband, and the Nigerian barge deal. 

Andrew Fastow’s Role 

Andrew was the CFO at Enron, and quite the unusual one, at that. He was more of a behind-the-scenes guy in the company, but became a critical player in the trial. Agreeing to a plea deal, he testified against Lay and Skilling in exchange for a ten year sentence. As an observer in the trial, Loren stated that, “His testimony was very striking. He seemed very sincere in the fact that he believed that the company had done things wrong, and that he had committed crimes.”  See less -

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