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An editorial
July 14, 2004

An unidentified man directs former Enron Corp. chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay and his wife Linda to a waiting car after Lay's appearance in federal court in Houston last Thursday. (AP Photo/Brett Coomer)

The Enron scandal, which has come to symbolize corporate crime at its worst - with the possible exception of Halliburton's war profiteering in Iraq - came to light almost three years ago.

From the moment the dirty dealings by the Texas-based energy firm were first revealed, it seemed clear that Enron CEO Ken Lay had been in the thick of the financial fraud that cost thousands of company employees their livelihoods and their retirement security, robbed investors of tens of billions of dollars and caused the collapse of one of the world's largest corporations.

Yet it is only now, all these years after the Enron scandal hit the headlines, that Lay has been charged with crimes committed in the corporation's executive suite.

Few will question the appropriateness of indicting Lay.

Many, however, have questioned why Lay is only now being called to account. Why does it take so long to bring white-collar criminals to justice? Why is it that if a petty thief stole the sign in front of Enron's headquarters he would, in all likelihood, have been arrested, tried and jailed by now, while Lay, who stands accused of stealing the hopes and dreams of Enron employees and stockholders, has only begun to face the consequences of his alleged wrongdoing?

Is it because Lay was a "Bush Pioneer" - a top contributor to the 2000 campaign of George W. Bush? Is it because Lay gave so generously to the fund that paid for the Bush-Cheney campaign's fight to prevent a full recount of Florida ballots following the disputed 2000 presidential vote? Is it because Lay and Enron did so much to cover the costs of the 2001 Bush-Cheney inaugural? Is it because of Lay's close personal friendship with Bush and his history of business ties to Cheney?

Or is it simply because all suspected white-collar criminals are given a break that petty thieves and shoplifters could never expect?Yes, it takes longer to build the complex case against a corporate wrongdoer than against a street criminal. But the Lay delay was extreme. And the best bet is that the former Enron CEO will not see the inside of a trial courtroom - let alone a jail cell - anytime soon.

The disparities within a justice system that treats Lay so gently, and poorer Americans so harshly, ought to be a concern for judges, prosecutors and everyone else involved with issues of crime and punishment. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied - and never is that statement more true than when the delays and denials appear to be delivered depending on one's economic status or political connections.

Published: 7:49 AM 7/14/04

19,296 Posts
I dated Ken Lay between wife No. 1 and No. 2. We didn't talk marriage because he's not Southern, but he was pretty hot, he got Helen Lawson's full attention, and I don't just mean because of the jewelry and jets. Lay offered me a spot on Enron's board of directors, but I never got around to accepting. Good move!!

They had a weak case against Lay evidence-wise, and had to get Andy Fastow to turn on him, and that took several years of negotations. Once Fastow turned on him, they moved quickly.
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