Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When Beancounters Attack

In the first news in quite some time concerning the Enron debacle, former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey plead guilty to fraud today and is expected to become one of the government's primary witnesses in the upcoming trial of former Enron executives Jeff Skilling and Kenny Boy Lay.

From JS Online:

The accountant, Richard Causey, pleaded guilty to securities fraud Wednesday in return for a seven-year prison term - which could be shortened to five years if prosecutors are satisfied with his cooperation in the trial. He also must forfeit $1.25 million to the government, according to the plea deal.

Causey's arrangement included a five-page statement of fact in which he admitted that he and other senior Enron managers made various false public filings and statements.

Personally, I hope Mr. Causey serves the entire seven years, if for no other reason than because he sullied the fine reputation my profession used to possess. However, in light of the fact that he may have agreed to take down one of the Bush family's closest friends does make a five year sentence a bit more palatable.

Many liberals I've spoken with have grown quite frustrated at the time delay of this trial. To those good friends I advise patience. The Enron case is incredibly complicated and the bookkeeping acrobatics this company performed are spectacular in a horrifying sort of way. This case if far too important to rush, after all.

Personally, I believe this is really the money quote from the press conference, courtesy of Mr. Causey's lawyer:

"What is true to the extent that he has any involvement in any upcoming legal proceedings, he will do one thing: He will tell to truth, because that is who he is, that is what he should do, and that is what he is going to do," [Defense Attorney Reid] Weingarten said.

Pardon my French, but what a load of horseshit! Telling the truth is part of "who" Causey "is"? That's laughably absurd. Where was this vaunted integrity when thousands of Enron stockholders were getting taken to the cleaners? Where was it when thousands of Enron employees had their retirement savings wiped out by this man's criminal complicity? Sorry, Mr. Causey, but your integrity was tested by the responsibilities of your position and you were found very, very wanting.

Lay, of course, will be the big fish to fry in the upcoming trial, now postponed until January 30th. Lay was a close friend of the Bush family and an ardent supporter of the current White House resident, though Lay will likely find the Bush's to be fair-weather friends at best. George the Younger certainly doesn't need any more bad publicity hanging around his neck, though with his newly-revealed flair for committing felonies and violating the Constitution, it's a toss-up deciding which crook is a worse influence on the other. Lay has already begun prepping the "Sergeant Schultz" defense ("I know nothing!"), which would be humorous if it were not so insulting. The arrogance of the man to actually expect Americans to believe that he had no knowledge of executive-level transactions within the company of which he was paid millions of dollars to be CEO, is breathtaking. Obviously he and George W. Bush were friends; they think just alike. Both think being a chief executive means all privilege and no accountability. Must be more of those Republican "moral values and principals".

The major importance of this trial, outside of establishing some sort of lawfulness again within corporate America, is to demonstrate that there are some lines that even power and influence like Lay had cannot cross. Plus, from a completely partisan perspective, it should be very interesting to see if this trial both exonerates former California Governor Gray Davis and demonstrates some very close ties between Lay and the Bush White House.

"Thick as thieves" they say...

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