Lawyers representing former Enron employees went into federal district court in Houston today to ask a judge to prevent further shredding of the papers and records of the company’s three top officials, including chairman Ken Lay. Kenneth Marks, attorney for Enron, said at today’s hearing that last night the company discovered a wastepaper basket full of shredded documents. He said he immediately called the FBI. The judge took the matter under advisement.
Earlier today, FBI agents and prosecutors entered the Enron headquarters building as part of their investigation into allegations of shredding. Certain papers relating to the company’s partnerships were destroyed, according to employees. Public Citizen, the Washington watchdog group, has charged the company was hiding off-the-books financing in offshore bank accounts, some of them possibly in the Cayman Islands, which are not subject to rigorous reporting requirements. When shredding charges were first aired Monday night by an employee and lawyers suing Enron, the company immediately took steps to preserve “the integrity of the site,” Enron spokesman Mark Palmer told the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, official Washington was trying to piece together the origins of the Enron scandal. Enron was unlike other companies in the electric utilities field because it sold electricity as if it were a commodity the same way pork bellies are traded in an agricultural futures market. Though the company gave generously to President Bush’s campaign and has close to ties to the administration, its rise to power can be traced to the last Democratic White House.
On Monday, Tyson Slocum, the Public Citizen researcher who has tracked Enron, said at a press conference that in January 1997, Enron won a key ruling before the Securities and Exchange Commission to exempt power marketers like itself from the commission’s jurisdiction. “As a result, power marketers like Enron were free to command significant market share in deregulated markets,”said Slocum. “That would place at least part of the onus on the Clinton administration.”
Additional reporting: Adrian Brune