WASHINGTON (AP) Congress dug forcefully into the Enron debacle yesterday with a second subpoena for Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of the energy trading firm, and a sympathetic hearing for a laid-off employee whose retirement savings all but disappeared when the company failed.
“This should not and cannot ever happen again in America,” said Deborah Perrotta, who tearfully told lawmakers she lost $40,000 from her retirement account when Enron”s stock price plummeted last fall.
On a day in which hearings spilled across Capitol Hill, lawmakers pummelled the head of Arthur Andersen, Enron”s former accounting firm, for its handling of the energy firm”s books. “At the end of the day we do not cause companies to fail,” said Joseph Berardino, chief executive officer of Andersen Worldwide.
The vote was unanimous in the Senate Commerce Committee to compel Lay”s appearance on Feb. 12. “We have no choice,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), one day after Lay scrubbed a voluntary appearance.
Lawmakers predicted Lay would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he appears.
Lay”s attorney, Earl Silbert, said he had already accepted a subpoena from a second congressional panel seeking testimony, this one in the House. The lawyer said any suggestion that Lay was “making himself scarce” is “absolute nonsense. He”s in Houston with his family.”
Congress aside, the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the Enron bankruptcy.