Ken Lay

As you probably know by now, Ken Lay (Enron Founder, Chairman) passed away early this morning. There are many who would cheer in the street. I’d like to offer this small group a counter-perspective…

I knew Ken Lay personally. Not intimately, but I met and sat with him a half-dozen times or so at board meetings (not Enron), and he and Linda were at the same table as Traci and I at a couple of not-for-profit gigs in Houston.

I knew him as a good man. He seemed kind, caring, and thoughtful. Personally brilliant, he managed loosely from the start — an employee autonomy that made Enron successful, and was also his undoing. I won’t opine on his guilt or innocence; he was tried and convicted with evidence I could not see. To give you pause for thought, however, just consider (religious or not, consider the meaning):

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Just think about it for a minute. Can everything you’ve ever done in business withstand that sort of scrutiny? Not simply “doing the right thing,” but can it withstand harsh, hostile scrutiny from an entity with unlimited resources, hell-bent on destroying you??

What if that entity could coerce — threaten — tens of witnesses to either testify against you or spend many more years in jail? Would all your supporters hold up?

What if, those who weren’t convicted via plea deals, all your purported “business friends,” those who could present fact and testimony that could make a difference, were threatened as well. Called “unindicted co-conspirators,” and threatened with indictments if they testified? Would they still rally to your defense and support, knowing it won’t simply cost them their jobs, but their freedom??

What if “I discussed with my attorney” meant nothing to those attacking you?? How about “our auditors approved it,” or “my board voted on it with full knowledge??” What if NONE OF THOSE could stand as a defense… could your entire business life withstand that level of scrutiny and accountability??

I’m not sure… it sure does give one pause, though, doesn’t it?

It’s easy to say “we should be held to a higher standard.” Frankly, I agree. But to how high a standard do we manage?

Whatever level today, it needs to be higher tomorrow. This degree of scrutiny, oversight, and transparency isn’t simply “going away,” or temporary. It’s here to stay, and we should be prepared to manage accordingly. We must. It’s the right thing, and we have clear marching orders.



Kevin Berchelmann

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