Taking care of people was not his top priority

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 8 13:00:21 MST 2002

Washington Post, February 8, 2002

Ex-Enron Workers See Little to Believe
Former CEO Skilling's Testimony Elicits Disdain, Derision in Houston

By Kirstin Downey Grimsley

Across Houston, Enron Corp. employees watched former chief executive
Jeffrey K. Skilling's congressional testimony on television, turning
incredulous, angry and then sarcastic by turns, as a man they knew as savvy
and detail-oriented pleaded memory failure and ignorance about critical
financial transactions at the now-collapsed energy giant.

Helen Mathews, who lost her $35,800-a-year job as a senior administrative
assistant when the company failed, turned on the TV in her Houston
apartment after returning home from the unemployment office.

"It's kind of hard to believe: a CEO who doesn't know how the company made
its money," said a bemused Mathews, who is in her fifties and worked at
Enron for five years. She wondered aloud why he had agreed to testify, when
others evaded congressional questioners, but said she imagined he did it
because he believed he could outwit them.

"He probably figured he was smart and could deal with it," she said of
Skilling, whom she described as a "hotshot" with more than a touch of
arrogance. "Like he thinks he's the man."

Digna Showers, 53, who lost her job as an administrative assistant as well
as $450,000 in her retirement fund, grew indignant as she listened to
Skilling testify.

"He is lying; he knew everything," said Showers, who said she had seen
Skilling frequently over her 18 years of employment with the firm, where
Skilling was known for his intimate grasp of the inner doings at the
company. "I am getting sicker by the minute.

"[Skillings] has an MBA from Harvard," said Showers, who is the primary
supporter of her husband, a disabled schoolteacher. "He's knowledgeable.
He's twisting things around. He's not answering things directly."

For Dorothy Ricketts, 46, a former business analyst at Enron who earned
$70,000 a year, the testimony provided one more disturbing twist in what
for her had been a 12-year saga at Enron. Much of her retirement money was
tied up in Enron stock -- how much, she won't say. "It hurts too much to
talk about it," she said.

She said she had believed what Enron executives told her about its business
prospects and was eager to show her loyalty by buying company stock.

"I guess you could say I believed the hype and what they were telling us,"
Ricketts said.

Watching the testimony at her home in Missouri City, a Houston suburb,
produced odd feelings. "I don't understand how he could be in the position
he was in and say he didn't know what was going on," she said. "It's
unbelievable. He doesn't recall a lot."

Alice Johnson, 50, a market services analyst at Northern Natural Gas Co.,
watched the testimony with family members and said she found herself
wondering when "the real truth" would emerge.

Johnson has not lost her job at the former Enron subsidiary but fears she
will under its new owner, Dynegy Inc. She said she sometimes saw Skilling
in meetings over the 28 years she worked at the firm. She recalled him as
"knowledgeable," with a razor-sharp sense for business but also a short fuse.

"He wasn't conscious of people, just the bottom line," Johnson said. "As
long as we were making money, we were okay. But taking care of people was
not his top priority."

Still, she praised Skilling's ability to maintain his composure yesterday
under intense questioning. "He's cool considering the circumstances," she
said. "He's pretty bold."

Louis Proyect
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