Sunday, January 29, 2006
The Enron Trial of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling opens today. And it is likely that this trial, although perhaps at times it will be a sleeper, may be the biggest corporate trial of the year, and perhaps the decade. Like many of the recent trials, it places two top corporate executives on trial for criminal actions occurring on their watch. Their participation in those actions and their knowledge of those actions are likely to be the focal point of contention throughout the trial. How much knowledge does a CEO need to have in order to be considered a participant in the criminal activity? And how much knowledge did Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling have regarding the improper and criminal activities occurring at Enron?
Prosecution Strengths -
- The venue - Trying this case in hometown Houston will certainly be a plus for the prosecution team.
- The loss suffered by so many - The amount of loss to so many people will be a strong point for the prosecution case.
- The number of key witnesses who have flipped and will be available for the prosecution- this will likely offer key evidence that can support the prosecution's case.
- The charges - conspiracy and fraud are fairly easy for the prosecution to prove.
The Defense Strengths -
- Complexity of the case - This case requires the prosecution to explain to the jury accounting mechanics that even with superb graphics may be difficult for the typical layperson to understand.
- Some may believe that all the guilty people flipped and thus, only the innocent ones remain.
- The essence of the illegality rested with other individuals - e.g., Fastow.
- How can a CEO know everything going on in the company?
Unknown Factor -
- Normally an accused says little before trial. Here, however, we have ample statements and all proclaim innocence. How will this play to a jury?
The NYTimes has a wonderful playbill of the upcoming trial of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. (here) It provides a synopsis of the 10 Enron players here and one even has a short video of the upcoming scenes.
Tom Kirkendall of Houston Clearthinkers discusses an anticipated key evidentiary issue. (here)
Ken Lay's Website here has been quiet since January 20th.
Addendum - Washington Post story here.