As a casual observer of Court TV, I'm seldom disappointed when hearing the testimony of the defense -- no matter how far reaching -- when there are literally mountains of evidence stacked against them.

Whether its fingerprints found at the crime scene or on a murder weapon, or bank accounts stuffed with embezzled funds, there's usually a long and protracted explanation to accompany every scenario.

Take, for example, the events currently unfolding in a Houston courtroom.

The fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling and former chairman Kenneth Lay is entering its 12th week.

Both are charged with a total of roughly 34 charges of fraud and conspiracy, as well as lying to auditors and investors about the true financial position of the now-bankrupt energy-trading giant.

For those in need of a memory jolt, Skilling several years ago offered a defense of "I'm not an accountant" as to why curious applications of GAAP and murky off-balance-sheet partnerships culminated in the company ultimately reporting billions in losses and filing for Chapter 11 in December 2001.

Last week, the former Enron CEO updated a portion of his defense and said the reason he tendered his resignation several months before the company imploded was not because of the pending collapse, but rather that elusive search for a work/life balance.

Skilling said the job at Enron had literally consumed his entire existence and that he had neglected his family.

Skilling testified that "Every day was intense," and that he had "not spent the time I should have with my family."

In a faint nod to Skilling's defense, he probably spent little or no time with his family, given the time needed to spearhead Enron's transformation from a staid pipeline company to a complex energy trader.

But the cynic in me just would have to ask, why did a driven executive like him -- who worked his way to the executive suite from modest working-class roots in Aurora, Ill. -- quit what was arguably one of the top corporate posts in the country roughly six months after being named to that position?

He also continually insisted Enron was a financially stable company and that the falling stock price was attributable to the short-sellers and a series of unflattering articles in The Wall Street Journal, which highlighted the company's $618 million, 2001 third-quarter loss and the now-infamous limited partnerships run by Enron's former CFO Andrew Fastow.

Perhaps giddy that he was now afforded the opportunity to spend more time with his family, Skilling attempted to unload some 200,000 shares of stock just weeks after leaving Enron.

He eventually increased that lot to 500,000 shares just two months before news of the company's mammoth bankruptcy splashed across headlines and served as a spark for what ultimately became the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

Again, my perennially cynical nature would suspect that unloading a half-million shares was a more-than-subtle clue that something was amiss.


If convicted of all or even some of the charges, Skilling will spend far less time with his family than during his tenure at Enron, thus giving him ample opportunity to mull over his defense of achieving a work/life balance.

Because his future days will be far from balanced.

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