- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Washington-area residents said yesterday they were pleased with the conviction of former Enron chiefs Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey Skilling for the fraud and conspiracy that caused the former energy giant’s demise.

“I saw it on the news and my reaction was, ‘Why did it take so long?’ ” said Connie Lorenz, of North Beach, Md. “These people lost their savings and retirement.”

“Awesome,” said Danielle Poux, manager for a national membership association in Washington, when she heard the news.

Lay and Skilling each face a maximum of more than 100 years in prison, but both will most likely be sentenced to more than 20 years.

“It’s hard to say what’s enough,” Ms. Poux said. “I am just glad that they are being held accountable. I think it will make a difference in that people will just think twice before doing that now.”

Upon hearing the verdict, Jimmy Doulos, manager of the new restaurant Jimmy’s on K, was relieved. “So they got what was coming to them?” he said. “There was a general reaction that they would land on their feet.”

Spending time in a federal prison will be a lifestyle shift for the former multimillionaires, Mr. Doulos said. “From the lifestyle they come from, that’s a bit different.”

Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 11. Skilling is appealing the verdict, which will likely delay his prison time, and Lay most likely will appeal as well.

Lateef Shakir, a District resident and a senior accountant for Innovative Management and Technology Approaches Inc., doubts their time in prison will be that difficult. “But you lose your freedom no matter where you go,” even if they are able to play golf, he joked.

“It’s good because maybe it will teach other companies like Fannie Mae — and what they are going through right now — that they are responsible for whatever actions they took,” Mr. Shakir said.

On Tuesday, a report by Fannie Mae’s regulator said senior executives at the D.C. mortgage giant manipulated accounting to collect millions of dollars in undeserved bonuses and to deceive investors in an $11 billion accounting scandal.

“I think justice is done” in the Enron case, said Franklin Chan of Los Angeles, who was in town for the Book Expo last week.

“I think there are still many people whose belief and trust is hurt” — not to mention the 5,600 jobs that were lost.

He said he was worried that there is no process to help the investors and employees who put many years and their personal savings into Enron before it collapsed in December 2001.

“We all know investment is a risk, but investment based on lies is different,” said Mr. Chan, a bookseller for Skylight Books. “Whatever time Skilling and Lay do is not going to help those people.”

For one D.C. security officer, the conviction brought justice to those who lost their savings. Robbed several years ago, she said she felt great empathy for the employees that lost their jobs and were robbed of their retirements. “There is no mercy when you know you’re doing wrong,” she said. “I was robbed. It’s just like somebody killing you. It takes a while to get back on your feet.”

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