Fast Company

Be Vewwy Quiet! I'm Hunting for Excuses!

Ken Lay might want to rethink his "I was fooled" defense, because it's the same one used--unsuccessfully--by former WorldCom exec Bernie Ebbers, who was found guilty on nine counts of fraud today and now faces up to 85 years in jail.

For those of you who missed 60 Minutes interview with former Enron CEO Ken Lay on Sunday, you missed a great performance. Lay, who is charged with fraud by the U.S. government, said that he was fooled by Andy Fastow, Enron's CFO, who cooked the books without his knowledge. Ebbers claimed the same thing during his trial, that he had no knowledge about the $11 billion accounting funny-business going on.

During the 60 Minutes segment, Bill Lerach, who's leading an investor lawsuit against Enron and Lay, called it the "Elmer Fudd" defense. How audacious do you have to be to have been the head of a billion-dollar organization, and profess innocence about such a massive fraud taking place right under your nose?

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3 Comments

  • LP

    Can anyone say "directorial responsibility"?

    If a company commits fraud, then ultimately - knowingly or not - the CEO IS responsible.

    My two penneth:
    If the CEO can't prove he's innocent, he's a crook and should be sued under RICO statutes.

    If the CEO can prove he's innocent, then he's a right eejit who wasn't in control of the company and should be sued for the recouping of any losses caused by his idiocy.

  • metoo

    Exactly. If the CEO has no knowledge of the massive longterm fraud occuring right under his nose, he's one hell of an incompetent manager and should be drawn and quartered by the company's stockholders.

    But it's the same as the Bush-9/11 defense: honest, we didn't know nuthin was afoot, honest.