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Enron Investigation Continuing

Ex-Enron CFO reportedly seeking protection against civil suits. Meanwhile, new survey of executives reveals most important trait in a leader.
Lisa YoonJune 25, 2002

>> Former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow reportedly requested protection from civil lawsuits as the federal investigation against Fastow and other former Enron executives continues… According to report by Associated Press, Fastow’s lawyers argued in court papers that information he gave could be used against him in event of an indictment… In the request submitted to U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, lawyers said Fastow would have to plead the Fifth in the combined civil trial scheduled for December 2003… So far, Harmon has not ruled or scheduled a hearing on the request…

It would not be the first time Fastow invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination… Former Enron CFO also took the Fifth while testifying before Congress February 7… Obviously, refusing to testify doesn’t mean Fastow did anything wrong while at Enron, but it doesn’t make him look good in the court of public opinion… Lead plaintiff against Fastow, the University of California, stated in court papers filed last month: “It is no wonder that defendant Andrew Fastow fears criminal investigation and prosecution. Partnerships named after his family and funded by certain bank defendants were used as artifices to defraud Enron’s investors.”

>> As far as policies go, you can’t beat honesty… At least that’s the upshot of a new survey on leadership trends among midcaps (revenues between $5 million and $500 million)… In the survey, conducted by audit and professional-services firm Grant Thornton, honesty was overwhelmingly voted the most important characteristic of a good leader, getting 86 percent of the vote… And 8 out of 10 middle-market business owners believe strong leadership is even more important today than it was two to three years ago…

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For the most part, survey respondents (67 percent) said the skills needed to be a good leader today are still the same… Those skills include listening to customers (74 percent said this was most important), decision-making under pressure (69 percent), leading by example (62 percent), and showing concern for employees through words and actions (62 percent)…

Meeting personally with key customers tops the list of actions survey respondents plan to take in the next six months (80 percent). Other items on the to-do list: streamlining business processes (78 percent) and identifying high-impact niche opportunities (75 percent)…

More surprising is what midcap execs consider less important: long-term planning… Less than half (40 percent) of respondents said they plan to develop a contingency/disaster recovery plan in 2002… Apparently, middle-market businesses are more spooked by the economic downturn than terror attacks…

>> Digital-cable provider USA Broadband Inc. tapped cable veteran Grant Miller as its CFO… Miller, 46, honed his media and cable experience in various positions at Time Warner’s cable and telephony businesses, ending up as VP of finance and administration… He also served a stint as international director of development for Time Warner Cable Ventures Espana, where he designed strategic business investment strategy and helped build one of company’s major cable consortiums in Spain… After Time Warner, Miller was CFO of privately held long-distance provider WorldExchange Inc….

>> Kurt Johnson closing window on Internet advertiser ValueClick Inc…. Johnson resigned as CFO and treasurer to join a financial advisory firm as principal and managing director… For now, ValueClick sticking with insiders to fill in, with Sam Paisley, president of media, assuming CFO duties… Paisley joined company in 2000 and was promoted to president of media in February… Finance a familiar role for Paisley, who joined ValueClick from integrated-circuit manufacturer Automata International, where he was finance chief and EVP from 1998 to 2000… Before that he spent 18 years at KPMG Peat Marwick…

>> Affinity Internet Holdings, which resells branded telecom and Internet services in the United Kingdom, named Nicola Sawford finance director… Sawford, former CFO of venture-capital firm Vesta, enters tech sector after a career in such traditional British establishments as the BBC, where she was corporate finance manager… She also worked at the London Stock Exchange, where she led the business analysis team from 1996 to 1999… Sawford started her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers…