- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Former Enron Corp. Chairman and CEO Kenneth L. Lay, one of Congress' most generous benefactors over the years, looked like a wayward child being forced to endure the scolding of a dozen schoolteachers.
In his long-awaited appearance on Capitol Hill yesterday, Mr. Lay sat glowering in silence as senator after senator denounced him for presiding over the downfall of his giant energy-trading firm taking with it the fortunes of millions of investors, employees and retirees.
"I come here today with a profound sadness about what has happened to Enron, its current and former employees, retirees, shareholders and other stakeholders," Mr. Lay said before invoking the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent "after agonizing consideration" on the advice of his attorney.
"I am deeply troubled about asserting these rights because it may be perceived by some that I have something to hide," he said. "One of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men," he said, quoting from a Supreme Court decision.
Mr. Lay's soulful plea did little to deter a barrage of charges from members of the Senate Commerce Committee. Legislators for weeks have routinely accused Mr. Lay and other top officers of Enron of committing crimes both large and small.
"Mr. Lay, I've concluded that you're perhaps the most accomplished confidence man since Charles Ponzi," said Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, Illinois Republican.
"I'd say you were a carnival-barker, except that wouldn't be fair to carnival-barkers. A carnie will at least tell you up front that he's running a shell game."
Sen. Jean Carnahan, Missouri Democrat, compared him to the captain on the Titanic, while Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, suggested he was "the emperor with no clothes."
While the Enron ex-chairman protested his innocence, the head of a special investigative committee set up by Enron's board of directors said Mr. Lay and "virtually everyone, from the board on down" knew that the company was trying to offset its investment losses with its own stock through illicit off-book partnerships.
"There was one instance where we were able to identify where Mr. Lay had signed off on an approval sheet for one of the underlying transactions with LJM," one of the partnerships, in June 2000, William Powers told the committee.

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