Enron: Lay could testify next week

Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay could testify at a US Senate hearing on Tuesday, a week after pulling out of two scheduled appearances when some in Congress suggested he had engaged in criminal activity.

Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay could testify at a US Senate hearing on Tuesday, a week after pulling out of two scheduled appearances when some in Congress suggested he had engaged in criminal activity.

Mr Lay’s spokeswoman said yesterday that he had not decided what to do about his scheduled testimony, but Senator Byron Dorgan sounded optimistic that ex-Enron chief would answer questions.

It is customary for witnesses to inform a congressional panel if they intend to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and ‘‘they are not doing so at this point,’’ said Senator Dorgan.

‘‘Ken Lay is still weighing his options for how he will handle the hearing on Tuesday,’’ said spokeswoman Kelly Kimberly.

Mr Lay decided last Sunday not to testify at two scheduled congressional hearings, after a number of comments by senators and House members on TV talk shows about alleged criminality, including one that Mr Lay had to know Enron was a giant pyramid scheme.

Meanwhile, legal experts said that Thursday’s House testimony by former Enron chief executive officer Jeff Skilling could have serious legal consequences.

In a three-hour appearance before a House subcommittee, Mr Skilling said he knew few details about the web of partnerships that brought the company to ruin, and the former CEO insisted he was never warned of problems with the partnerships.

But he was contradicted by Enron treasurer Jeff McMahon and congressmen were sceptical of his story. The former CEO said he was unaware Enron was using the off-the-books partnerships to ‘‘conceal liabilities or inflate profitability’’.

The partnerships kept hundreds of millions of dollars in debt off the company’s balance sheet.

Asked whether Mr Skilling was willing to come back to Capitol Hill for more questioning, a spokeswoman, Judy Leon, said: ‘‘He’s responding to all the invitations.’’

In another development yesterday, the Pentagon disclosed that it is one of the federal agencies along with the White House that the Justice Department has directed must preserve all Enron-related documents.

The department’s February 1 letter requests the Pentagon general counsel’s assistance in preserving all records ‘‘which relate in any way to Enron’s financial condition and/or business interests’’.

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