Enron Schemes Caught On Tape

Enron tapes audio CBS/AP

During the West Coast Power crisis homes went dark and streetlights were out in California — causing injuries and accidents. But the danger didn't stop Enron's energy traders from having a good laugh.

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports on the Enron scheme, as caught on . The traders and plant operator laugh and plot in a display that seems to prove the theory that years before the energy crisis, Enron manipulated markets.

"They had to do a rolling blackout through the town and there was a red light there he didn't see," one Enron trader says on tape.

"That's beautiful," a second voice responds.

"I'm like, this is causing animosity throughout the state now," the first says. "Cars are blowing up."

The new tapes — routinely recorded by Enron to protect their own deals and later obtained by this small utility in Washington state — confirm what CBS News has been reporting for four years: That Enron secretly shut power plants down so they could cause, and then cash in on, the crisis.

"Ah, we want you guys to get a little creative..." one voice says on the tape.

"OK," a plant operator replies.

"…and come up with a reason to go down," the first man finishes his sentence.

Plant operators were coached on how to lie to officials.

"Just call 'em, Hey guys…we're coming down," one Enron trader says. The plant operator replies, "OK, so we're just comin' down for some maintenance, like a forced outage type thing?"

"Right," the trader says.

"And that's cool?" the plant operator asks.

"Hopefully," the trader responds, to which the men are heard laughing.

Enron also pulled power out of states like California, causing emergency conditions to worsen.

"Sorry California," an Enron trader says. "I'm bringing all our power out of state today. I moved out six — over six hundred megawatts."

The "shut downs" and "pull outs" triggered sky high power prices.

"We're just making money hand over fist!" one voice is heard saying on the tape.

And when states complained, the guys at Enron seemed to have a response.

"Get a f****** clue," one says. "Yeah," another chimes in. "Leave us alone. Let us make a little bit of money."

"Exactly," says another trader.

But when the schemes began to unravel, employees blamed the men running Enron.

"I told you they were all crooks," one Enron employee is heard saying. "I just didn't know how much."

"As far as I'm concerned, nothing happened at Enron that Ken Lay didn't bless," another says.

But former CEO Ken Lay — in this Enron training tape obtained by CBS News — had a different message.

"Enron in a company that deals with everyone with absolute integrity. We play by all of the rules," Lay said in a pre-recorded video.

A federal Grand Jury didn't buy it. Lay has been indicted, and the tapes could be used as evidence against him. As can other video and audiotapes. An Enron spokesperson would only say the company continues to cooperate with all ongoing investigations.

  • Christine Lagorio

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