Notes: We humans are scared of the unexplained -- the random happening. It shakes us in our belief that we're in control. When events spin out of control it troubles us. If we can just find another human to blame for all of the problems, a scapegoat, then we feel the problem is explainable and the world isn't spinning out of control. We used to sacrifice an animal or a human, often virgins, to appease the gods and bring a return of order and stability. Now, in America, we hold congressional hearings.
It's too early to know the extent of culpability or innocence of former Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay, but he certainly is one of those in line to be the fall guy for all of the problems the Enron bankruptcy has caused. Regardless of Lay's possible fault in the matter, the bankruptcy and repercussions are too big to have been the wholly the fault of one person. Lay will appear before congressional panels on Tuesday and Thursday. On Sunday, according to the Houston Chronicle, Lay announced through spokeswoman Kelly Kimberly that he would plead the Fifth on advice of counsel and not testify.
Former CEO Jeffrey Skilling testified last week before a congressional panel and most of the white-collar criminal lawyers asked about it said that it was stupid from a legal standpoint for him to have done so. Not only may he have waived his immunity not to testify about certain matters, if there is evidence that he lied about anything before the panel, that itself is an indictable offense. Moreover, with all of the civil lawsuits which have been filed, he gave plaintiff's attorneys a preview of his testimony and style. All of these issues face Lay. But, there is the public relations aspect of it that a minority of political consultants say makes it positive to testify.
The Congressmen have not performed well in their questioning of former Enron employees to which they are hostile. Their questioning is really not an examination of a witness, but instead a sound bite during which they express outrage in hopes of ending up on television news.
Many legal analysts have criticized the congressional committees for calling witnesses before them who are already known to assert the Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify. They do so to make the witness claim the privilege in public as something of a publicity stunt. Alan Dershowitz has compared doing that to the McCarthy hearings which did the same. Additionally, some of the Congressmen show their disregard for the witness utilizing the Fifth, something that has been criticized by the likes of former Houston district attorney and tough guy, Johnny Holmes. He doesn't think the constitutional privilege should be scoffed at lightly.
Still, I'm not apologizing for the Enron scandal. Something smells rotten in it. People made too much money too fast as a result of nothing much more than paper profits. Lower employees shouldn't have been unable to sell their stock at a time executives were selling theirs and abandoning ship. But, the truth will come out as a result of serious investigations and lawsuits and not because of posturing, bellicose Congressmen. 2.10.02