Enron exec speaks out
Vail CO, Colorado
Cindy Kay Olson was one of thousands of employees who lost everything when Enron ” the one-time leader in energy trading ” collapsed due to corporate fraud and a staggering misunderstanding of how the market works.
In Olson’s case, ‘everything’ meant paychecks, pensions and savings; quite a bit, considering Olson had invested 23 years of her life with Enron and didn’t know until the word bankruptcy entered the equation that the company was in real danger of falling apart.
“My take on what happened is very different than other people that have written about Enron in the past,” Olson said.
Having climbed the company’s ladder to become the president of human resources and community relations, Olson got to see more than the average worker did during her tenure with Enron. Olson will be at the Bookworm of Edwards Thursday night to promote her new book, “The Whole Truth, So Help Me God,” an account of her experiences with top-level CEOs and executives and what she said went on behind closed doors at Enron.
“It is definitely a coincidence, with all that’s going on now (financially) and her appearance. … In a weird sort of way it’s great because it does correlate to what’s happening now,” said Stephen Bedford, marketing director for the Bookworm.
‘I was there’
Contrary to public perception, Enron wasn’t all greedy men in suits and sinister swindlers, Olson said. She holds the view that many of those held responsible for the scandal ” some of her best friends at the time like former Enron CEO’s Ken Lay (who died in 2006) and Jeffrey Skilling ” are innocent, despite their indictments for fraud and insider trading.
“I was there. I was living and breathing every minute of it. So I don’t blame Ken Lay, I don’t blame Jeff Skilling,” Olson said. “I think the public has the impression that these guys were evil and corrupt when I think it was more they didn’t understand the risks that were there.”
While the ins and outs of Enron’s fall are complicated, what basically happened is those running the company fudged numbers to make it look like Enron was a good investment when it wasn’t. As the actual value of Enron stock was sinking, investors saw an enticing piece of action too good to be missed ” until the bubble burst.
Saying what she wants
Olson never got to tell what she considers the truth during Senate hearings, and ever since she said she felt as if she was painted as just another executive crony who made out like a bandit while others got the shaft.
“My book … tells the truth, the whole truth. I talk about some of the bad things that were happening in Enron because I never got to tell it when I was in front of all those trials and hearings,” Olson said.
Surprisingly flippant now that she knows no criminal charges will be filed against her because of the Enron scandal, Olson added, “What you’re gong to find in my book are things my attorneys have said I should never have said.”
‘Really find out the truth’
Seven years later, Enron is still the go-to example of corporate greed and mismanagement, but Olson said she wrote the book because she wanted to shed some human light and give some inside examples about what most people consider a classic case of American greed.
How odd, then, that Olson said she sees a repeating pattern with America’s current economic troubles. According to her, the banks have been following the Enron way of business for years, lending mortgages to people who couldn’t pay them back ” and again, the bubble burst.
“I just want them to stop and take a breath and really find out what caused it and not go after everybody and not really find out the truth,” Olson said.
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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