Ken Lay, 1942 – 2006

Kenneth Lay
Wiped out the life savings of thousands of his own loyal employees.
Ripped off everyone who invested in his company.
Gouged millions of utility customers.
Lived like a sultan.
Built nothing.

Never took responsibility for his actions.

Try your double-talk at the pearly gates, asshole.

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18 Replies to “Ken Lay, 1942 – 2006”

  1. Here’s dirt on your grave, motherfucker.

    He got out of jail very neatly. I’d kick his corpse just to make sure he was dead. Hate to think he was just scamming us again!

  2. Hi Larry!

    I couldn’t believe it when I heard he died! Craaaaaaziness!

    I still find it hard to kick a guy 6 feet under.

    You lose buddy!

    Sorry I haven’t been around — you can put your Kleenex away now — I’ve just been crazy busy —

    Aren’t you glad I filled you in on that little tid-bit of my life?

    I know you were dying to know.


  3. The right-wing Christians must be delighted these days: Lay’s death has caused a revival of stated beliefs in an afterlife in which punishment is dealt out by … by … by … could it be GOD? It’s sort of like Falwell claiming that Hurricane Katrina was caused by queers at Mardi Gras.

    Of course there’s no such thing as a Hell-worthy left-wing socialist, so we’ll never hear such sentiments with the passing of such people. Even Saddam Hussein will, after his death, be mourned with such comments as “He was a positive force for the stability of Iraq, despite his occasional lapses of judgment, which were largely the result of an unhappy childhood.” And the same will go for Kim what’s-his-name in NorK. When he dies, he will be the victim of Western imperialism, driven to starve his people from fear of invasion.

    As for Lay, he was more literally a capitalist than just about any major business figure today. Bill Gates, after all, makes something that’s more or less touchable. Lay’s company fashioned a computer program to trade energy futures. Then he and his cronies fashioned accounting tricks to recharacterize alleged quantities of money from liabilities to assets. Wall Street analysts wrote words about how good it was. Meanwhile, nothing real was created, but Enron stock went up to something like $100 a share.

    In the end, it came apart, and lots of share-owning, on-paper millionaires “lost everthing.” And many people blame Lay for destroying the lives of these little-guy supercapitalists, and want him butt-fucked by gorillas for an eternity.

    But I believe that many of today’s Lay’s critics have a socialist bent and are critical of capitalism in most of its forms, not to mention the fantasy, Ponzi-scheme, corruption of capitalism practiced by Lay.

    It seems to me that these critics should be a bit more restrained in their criticism of Lay for “destroying the lives of Enron investors.” People who overallocated to Enron — especially the employees — were little Layettes, in my view, not ENTIRELY without responsibility for what happened to the stock of Enron. Don’t forget that many of them say today that they thought about selling but didn’t. They suspected something was up. Sure, they believed Lay’s lies about the value of the stock, but they knew something was up! They let greed trump fear. Thus, they were partially culpable, and they weren’t like rape victims in a dark alley.

    All this said, I am sorry that Lay will not be sentenced and make an enduring example for other CEOs of the future. And it’s terrible that his death may cause certain civil claims to be dismissed or diminished.

    But to blame him for ALL of the destruction of wealth is like blaming Hitler for all of that weird German stuff in the 1930s. They both had their “good helpers,” and they both had people who believed in them too much.

  4. Well, Caravana Basura, you sure must have a great big hairy set of balls to bring your free market blame-the-victim defense of Ken Lay here. Nobody thinks Lay’s own defense was credible. At the time of his death he was a convicted felon awaiting sentencing, who was expressing no remorse or even admitting any responsibility. Indeed, his attitude was that the investigators, the paper trail, the witnesses, the prosecutors, the jury and the judge had made a big mistake.

    I’ll take the red-herring bait about right-wing Christians being “delighted” about this, because it is so easily disposed of: Right-wing Christians would not be happy about this death. For one thing, their “stated beliefs” are never under review, and they don’t need any external events to continue to hold fast to them. The bumper sticker “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” does not end with “…as long as I have some empirical proof, like bad people having massive heart attacks.” For another thing, right-wing Christians are among the strongest supporters of George W. Bush, with whom Lay was in bed, so I think we can deduce where their sympathies lie, and how “delighted” they might be at Lay’s demise.

    In addition to falsely seeming to take a scornful lefty position on the Christian right, you have admirably, if not effectively, deployed the latest right-wing hide-the-ball tactic yourself, that of raising a cloud of question over a decided issue by framing it as a “debate.” Evolution is only a scientific “theory,” and thus open to debate, alongside Creationism. Global warming would indeed be very serious if we were certain that it is taking place, so we must engage in the debate to try and determine if it is really happening. We need to get to the bottom of the “debate” over who was really at fault in the loss of all that Enron money: Lay or the employees and stockholders?

    By suggesting that Ken Lay was really just a good capitalist you try to use a culturally positive word (capitalist) to blind me to what he really was, which is a criminal. The only people who think unfettered capitalism is a good thing are the extremely rich. What I want, and what I think the rest of us want, is a chance to make a decent living, some hope for the future and the requirement that everyone in the market – not just the guy who punches a time clock – plays fair and tells the truth.

    When a guy like Lay comes along, talking out of both sides of his mouth, blowing smoke and shining mirrors, I want regulations with genuine enforcement to expose him and stop him. Better yet, I want it clear enough going in that whatever fraud he might be planning will not be tolerated, so that he will decide instead to use only one set of books, to sell only real value and to take the hit when he screws up, instead of turning “liabilities into assets.”

    You admit that nothing real was created by Lay and Enron, and you remark that the stock price rose to amazing heights anyway, but your patronizing use of quotation marks (“…lots of share-owning, on-paper millionaires “lost everthing.”) tries to suggest that the losses were not real. I can tell you that if I worked somewhere for 25 years and my pension plan disappeared overnight because of the malfeasance of the top officers of the company, I would feel that I had lost something real, even if my retirement money was only “on paper.” The fact that I had never seen the money, that it was not under my mattress, that it was not stolen at gunpoint by Kenneth Lay would not mean shit to me. How arrogant to imply that these workers were guilty of participating in their own ruin! Have they not some right to expect their bosses to tell them the truth, or at least not lie to them? Is it only socialists who demand truth in advertising? Does it make me a socialist to say that corporate officers should not make speeches about the safety and security of company stock, while secretly dumping it as fast as they can? Does capitalism allow one to do or say anything, as long as one wins the prize?

    Then damned fucking right I’m a socialist.

    Obviously, you are a wise and experienced business investor who has never been conned. Otherwise you would not gloss over so easily the difference between “knowing something was up” and being the one who creates the scam, lies to keep it going, then grabs the last of the money and runs.

    Despite your efforts here, there is no “debate” about who the bad guys are and who the victims are. Lay and his cronies were pulling some shit. Everybody knows it, and it’s been settled in court. I don’t know what your agenda is or why you want to hold the victims responsible. At some point we all have to trust somebody. Not all of us have the time, background and experience that you clearly have to know how to invest, in what to invest, and, sadly, in whom to place our trust. But I don’t buy your economic Darwinist claim that we are therefore weak, and should lose all our money.

    Looking forward to your further apologies for Hitler.

  5. Look, I said I wanted Lay to go to jail. I said it’s too bad that his death will cause civil claims to be dismissed or diminished. Only IMPLICIT in those comments was my agreeement with you that Lay was a criminal. So let me say it more clearly: Lay was a criminal.

    When I said he was “more literally a capitalist” than Gates, that was not a compliment. In fact, it was the opposite. I think people should make profits by selling things that are useful, like Gates does. “Literal capitalists” are people who make money by pushing money around — not, in my mind, a noble pursuit.

    With Lay, I talked about how he made money with energy futures, and by playing with accounting tricks. I talked about how Wall Street analysts claimed it was good.

    To me, these statements, especially “Wall Street analysts claimed it was good,” are on their face snide condemnations. But I see that I was inept and too quick to submit my comment. I did not make abudantly clear my abhorrence of Lay and what he did. (And we’re not even talking about how Enron fucked over California during the power problems in 2002, or whenever that was.)

    I hope I will learn from this. I often try to noddle around with nuance, and I usually end up sorry for saying anything. I think I do this in some part to make people feel less bleak, but I guess I should drop it.

    But let me repeat, if I may, what I will stipulate is an asshole nuance: Many paper millionaires who took the ride should not blame Lay ALONE for the loss of their Enron wealth. They took a chance, they rolled the dice, they hung on too long. They overallocated. OK, an asshole nuance. (By the way, I believe Enron did not have a pension plan. I think it had a self-directed 401(k), meaning the employees DID have a choice in their allocations. Had Enron had a true pension plan, the losses would have been covered by federal insurance.)

    And as far as my own investments, I have done VERY badly since I started playing the games in 1995. I am not very smart with the specifics of buying and selling individual stocks. I have ridden many stocks down to zero, making the fatal mistakes so many people do: They remember what they paid for a stock, or they remember its highest price; then they hang on until the day the stock reattains that number. It never does. Then, at some point, the stock is “too cheap to sell.” Then, the stock is zero. Then, a few years later, they get $38 from a class-action suit.

    I have been there. And I blame myself and my own lack of discipline. Even worse, I may repeat the pattern again.

    In similar fashion, I take issue with Enron employees who were 100 percent in Enron stock, who saw their retirement wealth destoyed, and who hold themselves as 100 percent victims.

    Yes, Lay was a criminal who deserved to rot in jail for 30 years. But the Enron employees who went 100 percent into Enron stock were not without a MODICUM of responsibility. Again, an asshole nuance. (By the way, do you own HugeCorp stock in your 401(k)? Do you own too much? Are you forced to own what you have? Are you forbidden from selling it? Do you believe the big bosses who reassure you about HugeCorp’s value?)

    As for my comments about right-wing Christians, I want to say first that I dislike them greatly. I thought briefly about calling them Christers, but thought better about it. I know you want to achieve a certain level of civil discourse. It would be unseemly to use such a word, just as I would never call anyone a Towelhead.

    Second, I did not say that RWCs were delighted over Lay’s death. I did say that they must be delighted that more people are turning to God in their SEARCH TO UNDERSTAND why Lay is dead and what will happen to him in the afterlife. For an RWC, anything that sends a man to God is good, right? (Do I need a winking smiley face here?)

    You see, I saw some irony that your fans — well, I’m making assumptions about bloggers here, so forgive me — generally reject the idea of a judgmental God, the idea of an afterlife, the idea of capital punishment; yet here, they delight in these ideas, because they apply to a capitalist pig rumored to be a Christian.

    Would they have the same delight in the “untimely” death of other forms of recently convicted criminals? Who would those criminals be? Child killers? Serial murderers? Cop killers? Assassins? Bank robbers? Animal abusers?

    I’m not being very coherent here. I’ve gone back to reread Larry’s comments, and I am flattered at his attention, dazzled by his prose, ashamed at how I’ve taken so much valuable time from his life. Please, people: I’m not being saracastic here. Larry has shown us what a really fine and dedicated guy he is, and I am humbled. He makes his case better than I make mine.

    I’ve had two margaritas and am going to have some wine, so please, everyone, forgive the many editorial lapses that may have occurred. I think I’ve been misunderstood. I think I wanted only to say that SOME of the Enron-employee victims are disingenuous. I think I wanted only to say that some of them fat asses should not be pitied.

    As for Hitler, do you believe he did it all by himself?

  6. That last one is quite a comment. Since it was written after two margaritas I’ll let it stand, except for the question about Hitler:

    No, I don’t believe Hitler did it all by himself. But I don’t think you can blame the Jews.

  7. In writing about the Enron employees who lost their wealth because they put all their money in Enron, I was not blaming them for the behavior of the company itself. All I was saying was that in putting all their money with Enron, they were unwise. Well, I was trying to say that. I was thinking that. Admittedly, I said it badly. And continue to do, apparently.

    Let me try again: In writing about Enron employees’ responsibility, I was referring only to responsibility for the damage to the personal wealth of those employees. I believe they had SOME responsibility, by virtue of the fact that they placed too big on their employer. Maybe HugeCorp is different; maybe its stock price will be forever upward bound, beating them boring indexes.

    You know, there weren’t that many of those 100-percenters. At least, I don’t think. Maybe a few hundred?

    I do not think they were responsible for the criminal behavior of their employer. And the legal system doesn’t either, apparently, because the other convicted criminals are small in number. (Putting aside what happened to the Arthur Andersen company.)

    In suggesting that Hitler had a certain, shall we say, infrastructure to assist him in his aims, I did mean to suggest that blame should be directed to the Jews who lived and suffered in Germany. If I implied that in my writing, I really really really need to shut up … or find an editor.

  8. YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    In my last paragraph, I meant “I did NOT mean to suggest that blame…”

    I suppose that will follow me for the rest of my life.

    Will I be accused of a Freudian slip? I suppose I will be.

  9. Caravana Basura – My own good nature, and the good nature of the Precious Few who read and comment here, prohibits me – and us – from thinking that you mean to blame the Jews for the horrors of the Third Reich.

    However, you might want to put down the tequila bottle, and step slowly away from the margaritas.

  10. Actually, the margaritas were served at a local Mexican restaurant. They were not made by me.

    I had two because I couldn’t believe the first had so little tequila. The second confirmed my initial impression about the first. “Better have some wine at home,” said I. But then, coward that I am, I implied the margaritas had potency when I tried to explain away my incoherence.

    But at least the M’s were “cheap” — solamente $4.95 por cada una. Not bad for the ‘burb I must travel to from my trailer park.

    I like that price. It means that if you’re at the bar, you can tip the bartender 5 cents. “Keep the change,” you can say. “El cambio es suyo.”

    And this is what happens to you sometimes. You shift into third person when you’re explaining your behavior. Why do you do that?

    Remember Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay”?

    It really should have been, in order to be grammatical, “Lie, Lady, Lie.” Emma Goldman and Larry Jones know this, I bet, and it’s a small point.

    In the end, it was the laywers singing to Ken, “Lie, Lay, Lie.”

    And after that the journalists said, “Lay Lady Lied,” when referring to Mrs. Lay’s lies. I’m sure she lied sometime.

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