Tags: Enron | 10 | Years | Later

Former Enron Workers Look Back With a Mix of Feelings a Decade After Collapse

Thursday, 01 Dec 2011 11:21 AM

 

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Former Enron Corp. employees say they're still angry about the deceit that led to the energy giant's spectacular downfall 10 years ago. But most have tried to move on as best they can.

Enron once was the nation's seventh-largest company. It plunged into bankruptcy after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable.

The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.

Deborah DeFforge worked in Enron's energy retail arm for five years. She's since started a new career as a real estate agent.

DeFforge acknowledges her former company's collapse stung for a while, but says "it's not like something we just sit and cry over every day."

Several top executives, including ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling, landed in prison for their roles in a scheme to manipulate the company's earnings and stock price by lying to employees and investors about Enron's financial health. They were accused of using accounting tricks and complex financial structures to hide losses and create an illusion of success.

Some former employees say that beyond the loss of their jobs and retirement savings, they're upset that many people still think the vast majority of Enron workers were part of the greed and dishonesty that brought down the company. They lament that the innovation and generosity that once made it a great place to work are now long forgotten.

"Enron wasn't evil ... A few individuals were corrupt, but not the entire company," said Karen Hunter, who lost her job in Enron's international marketing section and eventually found new work in marketing.

Former Enron employee George Maddox, who lost his retirement savings when the energy giant collapsed, says he has been forced to spend his golden years making ends meet by mowing pastures and living in a run-down East Texas farmhouse.

Maddox, who served 30 years as a plant manager with the company, was long retired as Enron began spiraling out of control in the months leading up to its bankruptcy on Dec. 2, 2001. With all his retirement savings tied up in 14,000 shares of company stock, then worth more than $1.3 million, Maddox says he never saw the crash coming.

"There was no way I thought it would go belly up," said Maddox, 78.

Maddox's anger is directed particularly at three of the 24 Enron executives who were convicted in the scandal: Skilling; founder Kenneth Lay; and Andrew Fastow, the ex-chief financial officer and architect behind financial schemes that doomed the company.

Skilling remains in prison awaiting resentencing after an appeals court overturned his 24-year sentence and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn his convictions. Lay's convictions were vacated after he died of heart disease following his 2006 trial.

Fastow is serving the remainder of a six-year prison term in home confinement in Houston and is set to be released Dec. 17. He is now working as a document review clerk for the Houston law firm that represented him in civil cases over the last decade.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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