Enron investigation remains a head scratcher

By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Some people might already be tiring of the media frenzy that has engulfed the investigations into Enron Corporation's bankruptcy filing on Dec. 2.
I say keep the stories coming and investigate more. Dig up any information that might be important and go after any individual who seems suspect.
For those who are tired of seeing it on every news report and on every front page, remember, there are thousands of former Enron workers out there scratching their heads.
They're scratching their heads because one day their financial security is seemingly secure, and the next day their savings and retirement funds are gone. A month and a half later people still don't seem to know exactly why this happened. It's fishy.
Dec. 2 marked the biggest corporate bankruptcy in United States history.
It's odd that a short three months prior to that financially devastating day for so many, Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay sent out an e-mail boasting of the company's growth.
"Our performance has never been stronger," he touted. "We have the finest organization in American business today."
I'm no business expert, but it's odd that a business can go from the strongest it's ever been to bankrupt in a matter of months.
Fishier yet is the fact that employees and retirees were prohibited from selling their Enron shares that compromised the bulk of retirement accounts, and now a lawsuit has arisen in Texas alleging that corporate executives made $1.1 billion by selling 17.3 million shares of the company's stock from 1999 through mid-2001.
It's looking like the big guys came out OK, and the little guys got burned.
Now reports are coming out about improper destruction of documents, as well as reports about the company keeping huge amounts of debt off the company's books in partnerships that had been set up by Enron executives who collect millions of dollars from the partnerships.
Reports have also come out that Chairman Kenneth Lay sought assistance from the federal government just prior to the company going bankrupt.
Those he sought assistance from were the same people Enron and it's employees had contributed $5.77 million in funds to for political campaigns since 1990.
Supposedly Bush was never contacted about the phone calls, but some say those who did receive the calls should have informed the media of them immediately. I agree.
It would not have likely made any difference in the company's fate, but it seemed a lot of people had an idea of what was to come for Enron before Dec. 2. A lot of people, that is, except for Enron workers.
I personally know many former Enron employees in the Nebraska town where I was born and raised.
The ones I know all have families, and I'd be willing to guess that most had worked there long enough to be nearing retirement.
How they're doing now, I'm not sure, because I live 600 miles away and have lost communication.
But I do know one of the men, who has three children for whom I used to baby-sit, said, "I guess I should be thankful. I've still got my health and my family."
He's a pretty tough, optimistic guy, but I still think he deserves some answers on what happened. And it's up to The Justice Department, The Securities and Exchange Commission, the courts and even media to answer his questions.
"Companies come and go. It's part of the genius of capitalism," said Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on what happened to the company that was at one time the nation's seventh largest in revenue.
I dare him to walk up to a table full of former Enron employees and tell them that.

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