How frustrating do you think it is to be a juror in the interminable fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron chairman Ken Lay and former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling?
Now approaching its 20th week, the proceedings, which one New York-based columnist appropriately pointed out was supposed to be the "Trial of the Century," but has morphed into the trial "that's taking a century," has seen both Lay and Skilling attempt to explain away the collapse of what was once the seventh largest company in the world on unscrupulous subordinates.
I can't imagine the anger of having to worry about the security of one's own job while fulfilling jury obligations. But sitting in a courtroom and listening endlessly to this duo -- who together are charged with a total of 34 counts of fraud and conspiracy -- claim they had little or no knowledge of the frail fiscal health of the energy trading giant, has to bury the needle on the stress meter.
Lay, who made more than $200 million from Enron over the years, blamed The Wall Street Journal for conducting a "witch hunt" (read: good investigative reporting) when questions started to pop up about the true picture of the company's balance sheet and the murky off-balance-sheet partnerships fashioned by former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow.
'We thought in fact that The Wall Street Journal was on a witch hunt. We didn't have any information that Mr. Fastow had done anything inappropriate,'" Lay testified.
After that, according to Lay, it was just a matter of time before investors lost faith in the company and the ceiling fell in. Apparently if you combine Dow Jones' persecution of Wicca with the September 11 attacks and a sluggish economy you have all the ingredients for a massive collapse.
Personally, I find Lay's testimony as authentic and believable as Tom Cruise crowing in recent interviews about proper birthing procedures or how he can detox a heroin addict in three days via doses of vitamins.
But I digress.
In the interest of fairness, let Lay have his day in court, or more accurately, months in court.
If Lay, who presided over a company that once had a market cap of $68 billion, was that unaware of Enron's finances, he either deserves immediate membership in the pantheon of history's dumbest chief executives, or, has to be signed to star in a sequel to "Forrest Gump."
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