Many Will Listen to Kenneth Lay
HOUSTON (AP) _ Sue Nix watches television sparingly to save electricity since she lost her accounting job at Enron Corp., but her eyes will be glued to the screen Monday when Kenneth Lay speaks publicly for the first time about the company’s stunning demise.
``I really can’t afford to go anywhere, so I’ll sit here with the lights out and turn on the TV,″ Nix said of her plan for the appearance of Enron’s former chairman and chief executive before two congressional committees in Washington.
Like thousands of other employees who lost their jobs when Enron filed the largest bankruptcy in history on Dec. 2, Nix wants an explanation from the man who assured workers that the company was strong even after it had entered its death spiral last year.
``Why did he lie to us and tell us everything was just great when it was not?″ she said. ``People can accept the truth. The constant lies are what is hard.″
He has remained silent in public, although his wife, Linda, said last week on NBC’s ``Today″ that he had done nothing wrong in relation to his company’s collapse. Lay has resigned from several boards, including those of Compaq Computer Corp. and Eli Lilly & Co., and organizers of last week’s World Economic Forum removed him from the agenda.
Enron, once No. 7 on the Fortune 500, crashed last year amid revelations of questionable accounting practices and restated earnings that erased millions of dollars in profits dating back to 1997.
In addition to their paychecks, thousands of Enron workers lost their retirement savings that were dominated by company stock. Countless small investors nationwide also were burned by Enron’s stock slide, along with state pension funds.
Aaron Cahn, who represents trading creditors in Enron’s bankruptcy case, said Linda Lay’s declarations could prove problematic when her husband is grilled by the committees.
``Of course, his wife has already said on national television that he doesn’t know anything, so he would seem to have a major public relations and legal conundrum, given that nobody believes that he really didn’t know anything,″ he said.
``He had to have known they didn’t have the money they were saying they had,″ said Donna Muniz, 47, a former Web designer for Enron. ``I think he should confess it. I think he should say ’Hey, we messed up.‴
Muniz said she and her mother bought 400 Enron shares for $4,000 in November, shortly before the company went bankrupt.
Lay has been given no immunity for his testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee Monday morning and the House Financial Committee a few hours later and again on Tuesday.
The Securities and Exchange is investigating the collapse and the Justice Department is in the midst of a criminal probe.
Lay also is being sued by employees and shareholders in a multitude of lawsuits filed against Enron officials, including several seeking money the executives gained by selling stock before the company crashed. Lay sold $101 million in shares from October 1998 through November last year.