45 KEN LAY

1942–2006

At 3:11am on 5th July 2006, a 64 year old man was pronounced dead at Aspen Valley Hospital. The cause of death was a heart attack and the man was Kenneth Lay, who at the time was awaiting sentencing for one of history's largest ever cases of corporate corruption and accounting fraud.

Born into a working class Baptist family, Lay rose to become one of America's highest paid CEOs, earning over $40 million in 1999 alone. During Lay's tenure, Enron transformed itself from a modest natural gas company in Omaha, into the world's leading energy corporation. Lay was a personal friend and corporate donor to George W. Bush, and was tipped as a possible contender for President Bush's Treasury secretary.

Enron was a pioneer in the energy sector. In December 2000 Senator Phil Gramm passed through legislation deregulating California's energy commodity trading. As a result, wholesale revenues quadrupled from $12 billion per quarter to approximately $50 billion.

WITH REPORTED YEARLY REVENUES OF OVER $100 BILLION IN 2000, IN 2001 ENRON WAS VOTED ‘AMERICA'S MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANY' FOR THE SIXTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR. ‘INNOVATIVE'? YOU BET.

Since 1993, Enron had been using a series of ‘limited liability special purpose entities', within which taxes could be avoided and liabilities could be parked to make Enron appear more profitable than it actually was; thus maintaining its ‘investment grade' credit status. Asset inflation was widespread, creating a vicious cycle whereby increasingly ...

Get Heroes and Villains of Finance now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.