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Off Peak

Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 2003

A One-Sided Conversation with Ken Lay of Enron

By (with thanks and apologies to Bob Newhart)

"Ken Lay, please... Oh, Ken, hello, you answer your own phone these days? ... No, I'm not a telemarketer, or a creditor... OR a reporter. Please don't insult me, Ken. This is Bob, your attorney.

"Not your tax attorney... I'm not your criminal-defense attorney either... No, not a real-estate lawyer. And I'm not the person negotiating your book and movie rights... Definitely not a divorce lawyer. Geez, Ken, how many lawyers do you have?... Dime a dozen, huh? I'm sure their rates have gone up.

"I'm your ethics attorney....Yes, ETHICS....... E...T...H.... Not ethical.

I mean, I am an ethical attorney, but that's just my area of practice....Well, yes, there are some. Anyway, we had a telephone appointment for today, remember? To talk about your possible plea bargain with the Justice Department...

Well, somebody made the appointment. Take my word for it.

"Is now a good time?...You're just setting up your home office? That's great. I work out of a home office as well... What's that?... Down in the basement? No windows?... And strange equipment you've never seen before? What's it look like?

"That's probably your furnace, Ken. Think of it as a little gas-fired steam boiler, like at a power plant....No, I don't suppose you've ever seen one up close.... I doubt it will explode, Ken.

"What are you doing right now?...

Putting up wallpaper...using your Enron stock certificates? ...You say you got the idea from Martha Stewart? ...Yes, she is very bright about those things...

"Which house is that?... You only have one? I'm surprised, I thought you had a dozen or so after I saw the photos in the National Enquirer....What do you mean they're not real?.... Just pictures of other people's houses? Gee, they looked nice, but....what?...the addresses are all for empty lots?

"You mean to tell me you took out mortgages on the houses as if they were already built?... Well, yes, real estate is a good tax deduction, but not if there's no house to back up the loan...I'm sure you intended to build them.

"I'm just pretty certain there's no such thing as virtual real estate...Yes, I know, that's what they said about broadband, too.

"Well, there's a little problem with that way of thinking, Ken... It might be illegal, and certainly it's unethi....Yes, I can hold on a minute.

"You're doing laundry, good for you. With so much time on your hands, I imagine your wife expects you to pitch in around the house...Yes, poor thing.

I can sympathize with her. It must be tough with the creditors calling all the time....Should you use bleach? Are you washing a load of whites?... $100 bills? I don't think that's what they mean by laundering.

"Listen, that's exactly what I'm calling about, Ken. We have to talk about your way of doing business. I've just been reading these memos about your trading operations. Again, it might or might not be illegal, but you certainly seem to have crossed a line here

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