Enron CEO Seeks $25 Million

Stephen Cooper argues in court that he and his firm guided the erstwhile energy giant through a thorny bankruptcy without having to sell off major ...
Stephen TaubNovember 16, 2005

How much is the executive charged with turning around Enron Corp. worth?

Stephen Cooper, who has been Enron’s interim chief executive officer since January 2002, values his accomplishments at $25 million, according to the Associated Press.

At a hearing held in New York to examine Cooper’s request and final fee and expense requests from lawyers, accountants, and other professionals involved in the case, he said he and his firm deserved this “success fee,” according to the report. The reason Cooper gave was that they guided Enron through its complicated bankruptcy without selling major assets at bargain-basement prices during what later turned out to be an abysmal economic environment.

Cooper and his firm have already received $107 million in professional fees, the AP noted. “The company was in a state of just total chaos and it had a very high potential to be just a complete meltdown,” Cooper told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez at the hearing, according to the wire service. “In fact, all the marketplace buzz was that this was going to be a short fire-sale liquidation.”

Enron emerged from Chapter 11 one year ago. Cooper’s firm credits itself with wrapping up the case in three years, the AP reported.

Excluding Cooper’s success fee, on which he will rule later, the judge approved most of $689 million in final fee and expense requests, according to the report. That was reduced from more than $714 million by a court-appointed committee assigned to review fees and expenses in the bankruptcy, the wire service pointed out.

In an unrelated matter involving Enron, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a $1.5 billion settlement of charges that the onetime energy giant manipulated electricity stock holds during the 2000–2001 power crisis in a number of Western states, according to Reuters. The case stemmed from the company’s role in the Western energy crisis in 2000 and 2001.

The settlement allows California, Oregon, and Washington to try to obtain unsecured claims of $875 million, the amount tied to Enron’s bankruptcy proceeding, according to the news service. It also imposes a $600 million civil penalty in favor of the attorneys general in those three states and provides cash or cash equivalents of about $47.4 million.

Enron, however, will likely lack the resources to pay more than pennies on the dollar, Reuters reported.

The California parties to the settlement include Southern California Edison Co., Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Diego Gas and Electric Co., the California attorney general, the California Department of Water Resources, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Electricity Oversight Board.

The settlement also calls for Enron to cooperate with the parties in pursuing claims against other entities linked to the Western energy markets or to third-party participants in alleged Enron misconduct from January 16, 1997, through June 25, 2003.