The Talking Dog

May 26, 2006, You have the right to remain silent... USE IT

An adage ignored at their extreme peril by Enron poobahs and defendants Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay and Jeffrey Skilling at their trial in Houston, where each was convicted on virtually all of the charges associated with their role in the spectacular collapse of Enron. The jurors felt that each did himself a disservice by taking the stand: Kenny Boy's childish outbursts showed that he was a control freak, not the kind of guy (like, say, someone else we know) who would just sit there obliviously content to just accept whatever he was told, while Skilling's detailed bean-counting knowledge on some points made it inconceivable to the jury that he was as in the dark on others as he suggested.

In short, these men were brought down by their own egos and hubris-- they thought that they could fool a jury when all of their cards were laid (as it were) right out on the table, as opposed to back when they were fooling Wall Street, investors, regulators, etc. when they could keep their cards close to their vest.

The usually affable good-old-boy Lay was rattled under prosecution questions, which meant that he was either (1) guilty as sin and an awful liar, or (2) far too stupid to have amassed the millions of well-timed dollars he did at the expense of... well, everyone else in the country. And the jury wasn't buying (2).

Most peculiar: an "obliviousness" defense can be proven one of two ways: (1) either the defendant (and others around the defendant) testifies as to his or her obliviousness, and the jury believes them, or (2) it's proven "circumstantially", preferably by pointing out that the government's witnesses can't possibly know the state of knowledge of other people, especially if they themselves didn't communicate that knowledge directly. In this case, (2) was the way to go, as (1) required an incredibly dangerous assumption that a dozen Texans, who doubtless knew people who were mortally screwed as a result of Enron's collapse, would accept the word of two of the worst corporate criminals (in raw financial terms) in the history of the world. But it looked like some egos got in the way... again... It's odd that someone like Kenny Boy-- in the end just a petulant child-- would be best buddies with... someone else we know... but I guess bid'ness is bid'ness...

Speaking of which, based on my limited knowledge of the timing of these things, I'm thinking Kenny Boy and Skilling will be able to stretch out post-trial motions and appeals by maybe a year, year and a half... in short, they'll both likely have to check into a Club Fed before the end of 2007, and as their pardons are pre-dated January 19, 2009 (at least Kenny Boy's is)... well, let's just say that I hope, for their sakes, that their prison's golf pro doesn't ruin their games, the way he has many another ex-executive's...