Thursday, July 6, 2006

putting lay to lie

Monday night, Steve and I watched the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which follows the rise and fall of Enron, especially focusing on its top guns, Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and Andy Fastow. The movie was fascinating, and it really helped me understand what had been happening inside the company that led to one of the biggest economic fiascos of the century ... so many people losing their retirement savings (including former employees of Portland General Electric, which Enron took over) and the link between Enron and the California blackouts (something I hadn't known before). It's really an incredible story.

So it was wierdly coincidental, not two days later, to see the news that Ken Lay had died. Everything in the movie was still so fresh in my mind that it felt rather ... unbelievable. When it first came across on the news sites, a cause of death hadn't been announced yet, and I wondered if it was suicide. It wouldn't have been the first for Enron, and Ken Lay was probably going to spend the rest of his life in prison. (Turns out it was a heart attack — but was it? The snarky bloggers and conspiracy theorists are already at work, with conjectures like this one: "How about this? Knowing that his assets would be inheritable if he died, the Lay family suggested to their financial genius paterfamilias that he take a pill that would mimic a massive heart attack. Kind of like Frankie Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II. At least that would have shown a generosity of spirit.")

As for my take on Ken Lay and his death, I'm somewhere in the boring middle. He was a convicted criminal, a victim of greed, arrogance, poor judgment or all of the above. He caused great devastation to many people, and I would never defend him. Yet a man has died, and his family is mourning. No matter who he was in life, he's in someone else's hands now, and I don't feel like dancing on his grave. (I would love to be a fly on the wall at his funeral, though.)


Susanne said...

Oh my gosh, Em. I didn't realize Ken Lay died. Shows how much I know since I've quit hearing the BBC news daily. Thank God no-one at my new work knows that I didn't hear this news. I see what you mean - he was responsible for many, many ruined lives. (Think if Dad were to lose his whole retirement.) But it's still sad, and hopefully wasn't suicide...

Ray Mikell said...

After a bit, I thought about you having just watched that movie. I was really busy, however, on business so I couldn't come on here and say as much!

Meanwhile, Susanne, BBC's World Service radio has been broadcasting a good deal of Wimbledon, so you might not have heard the news. The tennis bit sounds almost worst than radio broadcasts of NASCAR, doesn't it? It's going over the net! Now it's back over! Wait, now (he/she) hits it back and . . . oh, it hits the net. I couldn't listen to that while driving in the rain. On the drive back to my apt., however, I noticed the commentary was a bit more colorful and interesting--but it's still not the ideal sport for radio.