Risk & Compliance

Prosecutor: Enron Execs “Chose to Lie”

In closing arguments, the Enron prosecutor charged that Lay and Skilling used "fiction, hocus-pocus, trickery" rather than choosing to "come clean."
Stephen TaubMay 15, 2006

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The prosecutor in the Enron trial portrayed founder Kenneth Lay and former President Jeffrey Skilling as liars who felt they were above the law, costing their victims millions of dollars.

In her closing arguments, begun on Monday morning, prosecutor Kathryn Ruemmler asserted that the two defendants “lied over and over and over again” to investors and employees in a widespread fraud, reported the Associated Press. The pair pulled off their scheme by using “accounting tricks, fiction, hocus-pocus, trickery, misleading statements, half-truths, omissions and outright lies,” Ruemmler told the packed courtroom, according to the wire service.

The prosecutor said the pair’s actions were motivated by a desire to maintain Enron’s stock price. When the company’s finances began to collapse, “Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay had a choice,” the prosecutor said, according to the AP. “They could come clean and tell the truth about Enron’s financial condition—or they could lie to cover it up. They chose to lie.”

Ruemmler told jurors that Lay and Skilling believed that they were above the law as they orchestrated their fraudulent scheme, added Reuters. “There can be no doubt that there was a conspiracy to mislead the public at Enron, and that these two men led it,” she reportedly said. Emphasizing that Lay and Skilling insisted that Enron was a healthy company brought down by negative press reports and devious investors, the prosecutor reportedly asserted, “It’s nonsensical; it’s absurd; it’s ridiculous. Don’t buy it.”

The closing argument began after U.S. District Judge Sim Lake gave his instructions to the jury, urging them to weigh with “great care” the testimony of witnesses who have pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors, according to the AP. He reportedly stressed that those plea agreements are “lawful and proper.”

According to published reports, the jury will likely begin deliberations on Wednesday.