May 24, 2006
Frames Innocent CEO
Enron CEO Ken Lay is facing six counts of fraud and conspiracy, and
could be facing 45 years in prison. Now, if I were facing 45 years in
prison, I would want the best lawyer I could possibly find – and I’m
thinking that’s not the guy representing Ken Lay.
Because the best lawyer someone could possibly find would certainly come
up with a better excuse than “The auto-pen did it!”
Auto-pens are great inventions. If you’re a CEO and you have to sign a
lot of letters, legal documents, checks and so on, they save you time.
If you’re the Secretary of Defense, you can sign condolence letters with
one until the Democrats find out.
don’t think you’re supposed to commit fraud with them, but maybe that’s
my fault, because I don’t actually have one, so I’ve never really read
the usage manual. Apparently Mr. Lay and his attorney are asking the
jury to believe that auto-pens have minds of their own.
Lay is to be believed, here is what his auto-pen did:
Called a bunch
of lenders and got them to lend him $75 million, on the condition
that he (Lay, not the auto-pen, I think) wouldn’t use the money to
buy margin stock
Used the money
to buy margin stock (see, you’re not supposed to do that)
the $75 million loans with Enron stock, which got to be a bit of a
problem when the Enron stock started tanking and he (Lay, not the
auto-pen, I think) had to make a margin call, which he paid for by
simply taking the money out of Enron company funds. You’re not
supposed to do that!
with – are you ready for this? – Enron stock!
a very sneaky auto-pen. And yet this is Mr. Lay’s defense theory. The
bank documents were signed by the auto-pen, not by Mr. Lay himself, so
this clearly leaves more questions than answers. Where did the auto-pen
hide the money? Why doesn’t the auto-pen have legal representation, what
with all this stuff it is being accused of? If an auto-pen were signing
a fraudulent bank document while riding on a train leaving Boston at 48
miles per hour and sipping Snapple Kiwi Strawberry, would Fox News
Channel issue a Fox News Alert to report what Alan Greenspan thought
pretty sure the whole idea of the auto-pen is that, when it is used to
sign your signature, that the legal authority of the signature
is, you know, like you actually signed it? Otherwise, a whole
bunch of checks couldn’t be cashed, and I would have to start
reconsidering a lot of the generous offers I receive in the mail.
auto-pen defense actually gets Lay off, perhaps we will see a growing
trend of CEOs using similar excuses for all kinds of false moves,
whether they are criminal or merely dumb.
didn’t send you that e-mail overstating cost estimates on the project.
My computer sent it! Just because I click a mouse doesn’t mean that I
understand what happens next. That gong that was purchased for the
office? You didn’t like that? Well, sure, I told Bob to buy it, but he
used his ears to listen, and he placed the order with his
I’m just sore because, if I tried to borrow $75 million, I could promise
not to use the money for margin stock, illegal drugs, pay toilets or
frozen yogurt, and I don’t think anyone would give it to me. And I don’t
own a company whose logo is known far and wide as “the crooked E,” which
you would think might be a clue.
I were guilty of what Lay allegedly did, it seems a more plausible
defense might go something like this:
“You’re alleging I did what? I didn’t even understand half
of what you said I did, so how can you hold me responsible for it? How’
bout I just say I’m sorry, K?”
might not work, but it would stand a better chance than blaming a pen.
Then again, a guy once shot the mayor of San Francisco and got off by
blaming a Twinkie. I guess I’m just not creative enough to be a
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