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Former Enron Executive Dead in Apparent Suicide

Baxter, age 43, was found with a gun shot to his head in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston this morning. Authorities confirmed that there was a suicide note in the car, but did not reveal what it said.

Baxter was vice chairman of Enron’s board and chief strategy officer until he resigned several months before Enron’s bankruptcy. At the time, Baxter said he was resigning in order to spend more time with his family.

Baxter was one of the senior executives named in Sherron Watkins’ letter sent anonymously to former CEO Kenneth Lay complaining about Enron’s accounting practices and illegal partnerships.

Watkins wrote that “Cliff Baxter complained mightily to (then-CEO Kenneth) Lay and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions with LJM.”

Baxter was also one of 29 Enron board members and executives named as defendants in a civil law suit filed by Amalgamated Bank and former Enron employees. The plaintiffs accuse Enron officials of insider trading; Baxter is cited for selling 577, 436 shares worth over $35 million.

Hearings continue

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee entered their second day of hearings on Enron’s collapse, focusing on Arthur Andersen’s role.

Lawmakers said yesterday’s testimony showed that Enron’s auditors destroyed important company documents, knowing that the information was relevant in a pending federal investigation. The investigation has shown that two weeks before Andersen’s Houston employees began shredding documents, Andersen contracted a law firm to defend itself against possible litigation regarding the company’s relationships with Enron.

Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opened hearings with a strong rebuke against Arthur Andersen’s oversight failure, saying the destruction of documents “compounded the catastrophic business failure.”

Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.), chair of the committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, introduced David Duncan, the first witness, by describing his leadership role in shredding documents.

“Enron robbed the bank, Arthur Andersen provided the getaway car and they say you were at the wheel,”Greenwood said to Duncan.

Duncan, who was fired earlier this month, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

Lawmakers expressed frustration and anger that Duncan refused to provide any information that could clarify Andersen’s degree of involvement in trying to cover up Enron’s allegedly fraudulent financial statements.

“We certainly have not found out today the answer to the burning question, which was why those documents were destroyed,” said Rep. Billy Tauzin, chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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