culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Inmate No. 29296-179: CEO of Enron. The Enron fairy tale is getting at least a partial happy ending (Loren Steffy,
Houston Chronicle):, amid the frozen and fallow fields, is a fitting place for Skilling to begin his penance. This town of almost 10,000 is steeped in the values Skilling long ago traded for the arrogance and greed that dominated his tenure at Enron.

It's a town where, according to the latest census data, the average citizen makes less than $27,000 a year. In Skilling's world, that's more of a rounding error than a salary.

Tucked 14 miles down the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Highway from Interstate 35, it's worlds away from the Houston of Skilling's glory days.

The economy here is tied to a handful of industries, from catalog publishing to electronics manufacturing — real companies producing real products, the sort of asset-laden businesses that Skilling mocked in his days running Enron.

Many of their warehouses and factories are just a stone's throw from the prison yard where Skilling will take his exercise, a reminder of how business ought to be conducted.

One side of the yard borders a row of wood-frame houses, the homes of hard-working people who will pass Skilling's new residence on their way to honest jobs.

They, too, will be a reminder of why he is here. [...]

Across the country, average Americans depended on those [stock] markets for their pensions and their savings and, in some cases, their livelihoods. They expected honesty. Instead they got Enron, one of America's premier public companies that, under Skilling's steady hand, became a financial ruse.

Skilling is serving 24 years and four months in part because, as U.S. District Judge Sim Lake noted, his crimes destroyed the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people whose finances will never recover.

Thousands more suffered losses both direct and indirect. Enron was a blue chip stock that blackened mutual funds, index funds and public pension funds. [...]

Those in Washington who wish to roll back the reforms that followed the demise of Enron and other corporate fraud should come here, to towns like this one, and explain to the people who've entrusted their futures to the market why their investments don't deserve protection from the kind of dishonesty that Skilling and his Enron cronies unleashed.

It's fitting, perhaps even poetic, that the coda of Skilling's career brings him here, that one of the most notorious of America's corporate criminals would serve his time in a town that stands as a living reminder to all he eschewed. [...]

Perhaps as soon as today, Skilling is supposed to begin his new life as Inmate No. 29296-179. He will slide into obscurity as the curtain closes on the greatest fraud in American business.

But the lessons of Enron remain. If Skilling were to wonder why his penalty is so stiff, he'll need only to look out the window of his new home.

The answers will be all around him.
Loren Steffy, The Chronicle's business columnist, has done a great job over the years covering this story, culminating in today's pitch-perfect commentary.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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