Enron Closing Arguments: Sneak Peek

ENRON, Generic, Logo on photo of Enron Corporation headquarters, Houston, Texas. 020307, GD.
Closing arguments are set to begin Monday and are expected to last until Wednesday in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay and his former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling.

Because you likely won't get to federal court in downtown Houston to actually see and hear the arguments, and because those arguments will last for hour upon hour, I thought I would offer you a likely (and brief) preview of each.

For the prosecution: Thank you, folks, for your service during this long and often complex case. When we first addressed you directly, all those months ago, we promised you that we were going to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these two defendants were too smart, too savvy, too successful, and too controlling to have been uninvolved in the massive fraud that went on at Enron, the fraud that cost so many people so much.

We delivered on that promise, ladies and gentlemen, and if you didn't believe our witnesses - the caravan of former Enron officials who came before you pointing fingers at the defendants - then believe the defendants themselves.

They testified in this case, day after day. You heard them answer hundreds, even thousands of questions from our side and from their own lawyers. Did they give you the impression, ladies and gentlemen, that there was a whole lot going on at Enron that they wouldn't have either been aware of or involved in?

When Jeffrey Skilling was explaining Enron's businesses to you like he was your professor, did you get the sense that he didn't know about Andrew Fastow's secret deals? Did you get the sense that he is the type of fellow who truly can't remember important business meetings where crucial decisions are made?

Don't you think that when he said "They're on to us" to his colleagues at Enron he wasn't making a joke?

And what about his boss, Ken Lay? He told you that Enron's trading business depended upon the confidence of investors and the credit markets. What does that tell you about the lengths to which Mr. Lay was willing to go to ensure the company oozed confidence even as its losses mounted due to bad business decisions?

And are you satisfied with the answers Mr. Lay offered you when he was asked why he was telling his employees to buy or hold Enron stock at the same time that he was dumping his? Given his demeanor on the witness stand, the way he lit into us, do you really think this man was completely above the fray at the company he founded and loved?

The defense is going to stand up soon and tell you that our case is all about sound and fury but signifies nothing. These lawyers here will tell you that there is no smoking gun in this case, no foolproof testimony that you can rely upon to convict these men.

Well, guess what. That's not a surprise in a case like this. Any guys smart enough to run Enron are smart enough not to write an e-mail, or otherwise record an order, that would later incriminate them. And you know from living in the real world that conspiracies can be proven without a certified videotape of the conspirators gathered together to plan their crime.

That's why we brought before you Enron witness after witness to testify about what truly went on at Enron and what the defendants truly knew about it.

We brought you David Delainey, an executive at Enron, who told you that Skilling and his colleagues lied about the company's finances. We brought you Wesley Colwell, one of the chief accountants at Enron, who told you that he raided the company's reserves to increase earnings' reports because he believed that's precisely what his superiors at Enron wanted and needed him to do. And we brought you Andrew Fastow, the former chief financial officer, who directly linked these defendants to these crimes.