Ex-Enron Employees Still Reeling

For most of us, the trial of former Enron Chairman Ken Lay and ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling culminates a story of alleged corporate greed and deception virtually unparalleled in American business history.

But for the more than 4,000 people who worked for the energy giant, and whose lives revolved around it, the proceedings will have an intensely personal hold as they unfold.

The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler , who recalled the good times, recounted the surreal end, and detailed their travails since.

They also had some choice words as they speculated on what they would feel if Lay and Skilling are convicted — and if they're not — as Syler got their side of the story.

The story of Enron is one of the biggest corporate scandals ever. Thousands of Enron workers lost not only their jobs but their retirement funds.

Before the collapse, though, some employees say working there was a joy.

"It was a wonderful, wonderful sense of pride for us to work there," Diana Peters told Syler.

"They would pass out pompoms and toys," Deborah DefForge remembered, saying Enron was really big on building team spirit.

The former Enron workers once saw theirs as dream jobs.

"We worked and strived all our life to build that corporation to what it was," lamented Charles Prestwood.

"All that you thought you had secure is now gone, just like that!" said Cathy Peterson, snapping her fingers.

But when Enron tuned off the lights, "You had 15 to 20 minutes to get your desks cleaned out and get out of the building," said DefForge.

And, almost overnight, they found their retirement accounts frozen and worthless.

Prestwood says his entire retirement portfolio was in Enron stock — all $1,310,000 of it.

Peters said she lost $75,000, DefForge, roughly $200,000, including stock options.

But, says Syler, no on lost more than Peterson.

As the scandal unfolded, her husband, Bill, was diagnosed with melanoma.

"When he was first diagnosed, they said, 'It's a 50-50 chance you can make it, but a positive attitude is key to your recovery.' "

Bill Peterson had cancer surgery the same week Enron imploded. Cathy says the company had promised to keep paying for disability, but the benefits stopped.

  • Joel Roberts

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