Enron turned obscure businesspeople into household names. Here's where they are now - CNBC
Dec 02, 2021 2 mins, 25 secs

The sudden collapse of Enron, culminating in what was then the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S.

One former executive said he would need time to "decompress" after an hour-and-20-minute phone conversation about Enron — most conversations with Enron alumni are long.

All the former company leaders CNBC spoke with still recall their time at Enron fondly, as do many of the thousands of employees who may still blame them for the collapse of what all seem to agree was a special place to work.

Convicted on 10 felony counts in 2006 — a verdict that he said at the time left him "shocked" — Lay died of a heart attack six weeks later while awaiting sentencing.

Lay's daughter Elizabeth, an attorney who worked on his defense team, and son Mark, a former Enron vice president who still works in the energy industry, recalled what they said were multiple firsts at Enron under their father's leadership, in areas including renewable energy, environmental stewardship, and support for minorities and disadvantaged people.

One of the few former Enron executives willing to discuss their experiences is Andy Fastow, former chief financial officer.

Another former Enron executive who has parlayed her experience into a speaking and consulting career said that from what she has seen, Fastow still doesn't get it.

"The CFO of the Year award is the same information as investors and employees, while the Department of Justice has subpoena power and could get to the root of the transaction, so that's a misrepresentation," said former Enron Vice President Sherron Watkins in an interview.

Watkins, who at one time reported to Fastow, brought her concerns about Enron's accounting to Lay soon after Skilling's resignation.

After testifying before Congress and in the trial of Skilling and Lay in 2006, Watkins became a speaker and a corporate consultant, although she said the consulting work never really took off.

While the most prominent Enron executives have kept a low profile over the past 20 years, some members of the government team that investigated the collapse saw their own careers skyrocket.

Bush administration formed an Enron Task Force to investigate the company.

The first director of the task force was Leslie Caldwell, who had cut her teeth prosecuting organized crime in Brooklyn, New York, and brought many of the same tactics to the Enron investigation.

Caldwell, who obtained the indictments of Fastow and Skilling, and secured the pivotal guilty plea from Fastow, would go on to head the Justice Department's criminal division in the Obama administration.

Her successor as Enron Task Force director, Andrew Weissmann, would go on to become a top prosecutor in former FBI Director Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A deputy director of the task force, Kathryn Ruemmler, would go on to become White House counsel in the Obama administration


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