The Enron Crisis, Ken Lay’s Reputation, and the Media Did It!

May 2, 2006

“I accept full responsibility for everything that happened at Enron. Having said that, I can’t take responsibility for illegal acts that I had no knowledge of.” Comments from Ken Lay on trial in refuting others who have testified he knew of the wrongdoing going on before Enron collapsed.

According to the Morning News, the big, bad media did it again. By reporting about Enron’s financial dealings and unusual partnerships, it brought down an entire corporation, zapped billions of investor dollars into oblivion and put hundreds of people out of work.

That, according to Ken Lay, is what happened to Enron, the company at the center of the largest corporate collapse in U.S. business history.

Lay and another former Enron honcho, Jeff Skilling, are on trial in Houston for fraud in connection with the collapse of the once-revered energy trading company. Lay took the witness stand in his own defense this week and laid a big part of the blame for Enron’s implosion on negative stories published in newspapers — specifically, the Wall Street Journal.

Oh, there were a few other factors along the way that caused problems for Enron, Lay testified. For one, he hired a crook as a chief financial officer. That would be Andrew Fastow, who has pleaded guilty to fraud charges and turned state’s evidence against Lay and Skilling. And, Lay says greedy stock traders sold Enron shares “short,” creating a financial crisis in the company.

But them lyin’ newspapers, they played a role, too, Lay says.

Yep, there’s a believable story to stick to: That anti-business, liberal, populist and sensational rag, The Wall Street Journal, went after this guy’s poor, innocent behemoth of a corporation in a malicious effort to destroy it. That’s almost as credible as Lay’s assertion that the failure of his business hurt him more than the deaths of loved ones. We wonder what the jury makes of a man who grieves more for a business than he does for his family.

Of course, nowhere in his testimony has Lay alleged that what the Journal reported about the questionable structure of many of Enron’s business partnerships was inaccurate.

In other words, it was the truth that damaged Enron. Not bad publicity, not The Wall Street Journal and not the media.

A few comments from the Reputation Doctor for Ken Lay:

Either you take full responsibility as leader of the corporation or you don’t. There is no other option.

Ken Lay wants to have it both ways and he can’t. Leaders take responsibility for their organization in both good times and bad. In my opinion, Ken Lay was totally in the loop regarding fraud within Enron because he personally was leading the strategy of fraud and lies within the company.

True faith in Jesus Christ should have humbled you to take full responsibility for your actions.

As I said in a past blog post, Ken Lay is the son of a preacher and a trustee in his Methodist church. Former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was a deacon in his Baptist Church. Both are held to a higher standard as leaders within their faith for their deceit, lies and unrepentant hearts. Ken Lay still has an opportunity to seek the Lord’s face and repentant of his sins. He can also still be honest with himself first to take full responsibility for Enron’s crimes under his leadership. In doing so, he would be taking the first steps in repairing his reputation by getting the truth out.

The media sought the truth and found the truth and Ken Lay doesn’t like that at all.

Thank God for the media. The media is holding many corporate criminals accountable for their actions in the court of public opinion. In my opinion, Ken Lay and other corporate criminals’ reputations are all in crisis because of their corrupt decision making. No one else made them do it. Ken Lay’s own heart continued to slide on the slippery slope and he hoped he didn’t get caught, but he did. What they don’t like is the media’s ability to find the truth, provide the needed transparency they should have had themselves, and multiple millions around the world with consistent messages of the truth. As a result, the court of public opinion is as important as the court of law – even though most attorneys will never admit it. Remember, your reputation is everything! It is why seasoned reputation management and crisis PR consultants are paid equally to top attorneys in the world.

Remember, do the right thing when your reputation is in crisis and seek the counsel of an experienced reputation management expert. It will be a major challenge, but ultimately the rewards of repairing your reputation will be great. Why? Because Your Reputation Is Everything!™


is the Reputation Doctor® at Reputation Doctor LLC

Mike Paul, The Reputation Doctor®, is considered one of the leading crisis public relations and reputation management experts in the world. You've seen him often in the global news media as a weekly news commentator and expert discussing CEOs, corporations, celebrities, athletes, politicians and others with reputations in crisis. Some of the news outlets include ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, ESPN, NPR, Reuters, BBC, Sky News New York Times, NY Post, NY Daily News, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Guardian, the Telegraph and many others. For interview requests, keynotes speeches, senior counseling or other business opportunities with Mr. Paul, please contact click here.


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