Former CEO Jeffrey Skilling told senators he “didn’t lie to Congress or anyone else” when he told a House panel earlier this month he was unaware of the energy giant’s financial woes at the time of his August 2001 resignation.
“The entire management and board of Enron have been labeled everything from hucksters to criminals,” he said in his opening statement. “These untruths shatter lives and do nothing to advance the public understanding of Enron.”
However, whistleblower Sherron Watkins and chief operating officer Jeffrey McMahon both testified that Skilling had been warned of problems and had not taken any action.
The conflicting testimony drew skeptical responses from lawmakers.
“If you plan to tell this committee that you did not understand Enron’s true financial condition, then you will need to explain why; why you failed to understand things that any diligent chief executive officer would have understood,” Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) told Skilling.
Skilling defended his efforts to keep former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay informed on the status of the company.
“I never duped Ken Lay,” Skilling told the Senate Commerce Committee. “I heard Ms. Watkins testify to her opinion [before a House committee], I have no idea what the basis is for that opinion.”
Both Watkins and McMahon said they had attempted to draw attention to Enron’s questionable accounting practices and special partnerships that ultimately brought about its downfall.
Watkins has testified that she believes Skilling and former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow deceived Lay. Both Lay and Fastow have taken the fifth amendment rather than testifying.
“I was incredibly frustrated with Mr. Lay’s actions, or lack thereof. I believe that Enron had a brief window to salvage itself this past fall and we missed that opportunity because of Mr. Lay’s failure to recognize or accept that the company had manipulated its financial statements,” Watkins said.