In (Very Limited) Defense of “Kenny Boy”

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While I agree that Enron was part and parcel to the ongoing nefarious relationship between government and business, Ken Lay did not invent the regulatory state. Moreover, the energy business is heavily regulated and vast state ownership of lands that produce oil, gas, and coal guarantees that there will be an incestuous relationship between the state and the energy companies.

As most readers know, I was (and still am) very skeptical of the government’s charges against Lay and Skilling, not to mention the rest of the Enron gang. Having researched the actions of federal prosecutors and having seen these people at work, I look askance at most federal “criminal” convictions. As I see it, Lay and Skilling were prosecuted because Enron tanked, and the feds were alleging that it was the “illegal” actions of Lay and Skilling that caused the company to go belly up.

Perhaps some readers are comfortable with government prosecutors going after “white collar” people, and especially executives. But, do you realize that literally every single executive in this country could be prosecuted for something? All it takes is some creativity by prosecutors and a public willing to swallow the lies of prosecutors (and they are legion).

I recently had a long conversation with the CEO of a publicly-traded company (and one whose consumer products most of you purchase or have purchased). He said that the current regulatory situation is a nightmare, and that executives live in fear of being prosecuted on trumped-up charges.

Yes, make fun of “Kenny Boy” and celebrate that he is, in effect, being given a death sentence — a long, slow death, but death nonetheless. But you are celebrating the end of law in the United States, and if I have to choose between current federal prosecutors and “Kenny Boy,” I will choose “Kenny Boy” every time.

5:31 pm on June 13, 2006
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