WASHINGTON - A senator leading an investigation of Enron asked the Justice
Department on Friday to explain why it hasn't prosecuted executives of the energy
company that collapsed in December.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer affairs, asked Attorney General John Ashcroft in a letter "why no action has been taken against those who were responsible for illegal activities at the Enron Corp."
Dorgan noted that in recent weeks, the Justice Department has filed criminal charges against top executives of several big companies, some of whom have been led away in handcuffs.
On July 24, for example, the founder of bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp. and two of his sons were charged with conspiracy for allegedly looting the cable TV provider and using it as their "personal piggy bank." Two former WorldCom executives - chief financial officer Scott Sullivan and controller David Myers - were released on millions of dollars in bail after their arrests Aug. 1 on charges of concealing more than $3.8 billion in company expenses.
"These arrests have been arranged to allow the American public to see corporate executives taken away in handcuffs," Dorgan wrote Ashcroft.
"The Enron scandal was the corporate scandal first to be uncovered. Yet the investors, the employees and the American public have seen no action taken against those who were involved," Dorgan said.
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said Ashcroft hadn't yet seen Dorgan's letter.
A department task force investigating Enron since January "is working as fast as they can and as aggressively as they can," Sierra said.
Justice prosecutors won a conviction of accounting firm Arthur Andersen in June on an obstruction of justice charge for shredding of Enron audit documents.
Sierra said the Enron investigation is extremely complex and any prosecutions will be "based solely on the evidence and the facts," rather than politicians' calls for action.
Houston-based Enron, which took the investments of millions of people with it when it entered bankruptcy in December, used a web of thousands of off-balance-sheet partnerships to hide some $1 billion in debt from investors and federal regulators.
A director of the failed company who conducted an investigation has said that Enron managers, from former chairman Kenneth Lay down, knew that the network of partnerships was being used to conceal huge debts.
Lay, who has been a friend of President Bush and one of his biggest campaign benefactors over the years, enjoyed access to regulators and lawmakers in Washington.
In June, the Justice Department charged three former British bankers with wire fraud in an alleged $7.3 million scheme involving Enron - the first charges involving Enron as a company.
The criminal complaint against the three former officers of National Westminster
Bank alleges that they secretly invested in an Enron entity, Southampton LP, through
a series of financial transactions.
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press