Why is Ken Lay smiling? mmw at bad things rightly points out that I have a tendency to vanish whenever my pet bugaboo, the Enron scandal, heats up. I'm afraid I don't have much to add now that Kenny Boy has been indicted, except that no matter what happens to him beyond this point it was all worth it for him.
For the small sum of a half-million dollars he managed to help get a man into the White House who now avoids even a mention of him as if it were some rare form of Texan cancer, but who allowed Lay to secretly dictate energy policy with the avid cooperation of Dick Cheney.
Lay's indictment and the handcuffs are a piece of theatre designed for mass media consumption. Lay's little stroll was about the smilingest perp walk I've ever seen.
And the money. Oh, the money. The highest estimate I've seen so far is that he could be fined as much as $5 million. Even if he had to pay the maximum fine, by my calculations, that would still earn him a 1800% return on his investment (i.e., the fine, relative to the $90 million he stole from Enron shareholders). Seems generous, especially compared to what your savings account offers these days. That is, if you have any money left, as so few former Enron employees appear to do.
Supposedly he has less than $20 million left of the original $90 million he stole, but that's because he was given three years to hide $70 million. Don't you think you could do that with a combination of offshore accounts and annuities that pay you income for life (but without the messy accountability of being able to be seized by legitimate creditors, even by court order)?
Why is this man smiling? Because he got away with it. Even if they fine him the maximum, he got away with it.
John Emerson at Seeing the Forest provides a nice compendium of handy Enron links for your amusement or outrage as the case may be.