Enron filed for bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of New York in late 2001 and selected Weil, Gotshal & Manges as its bankruptcy counsel. It emerged from bankruptcy in November 2004 after one of the biggest and most complex bankruptcy cases in U.S. history. On September 7 2006, Enron sold Prisma Energy International Inc., its last remaining business, to Ashmore Energy International Ltd. Following the scandal, lawsuits against Enron's directors were notable because the directors settled the suits by paying very significant sums of money personally. The scandal also caused the dissolution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, affecting the wider business world.
In early 2007, Enron changed its name to Enron Creditors Recovery Corporation. to reflect its status as a (largely) asset-less shell corporation. Its current goal is to liquidate all remaining assets of the company. For most of 2007, Enron continued to operate under the name Enron Corp. by filing a Doing Business As, or "dba" certificate in Harris County, Texas.
Enron traces its roots to the Northern Natural Gas Company, which was formed in 1932 in Omaha, Nebraska. It was reorganized in 1979 as the leading subsidiary of a holding company, InterNorth. In 1985, it bought the smaller Houston Natural Gas and changed its name to Enron in the process.
The merged company initially named itself "HNG/InterNorth Inc.", even though InterNorth was the nominal survivor. It built a large headquarters complex in Omaha. However, the departure of ex-InterNorth CEO Samuel Segnar six months after the merger allowed former HNG CEO Kenneth Lay to become CEO of the newly merged company. Lay soon moved Enron's headquarters to Houston and began to thoroughly re-brand the business. Lay originally favored the name "Enteron" (possibly spelled in camelcase as "EnterOn"); but when it was pointed out that the term approximated a Greek word referring to the intestine, it was quickly shortened to "Enron." The final name was decided upon only after business cards, stationery, and other items had been printed reading Enteron, reflecting the confused state of affairs in the company at the time. Enron's infamous "crooked E" logo was designed in the mid-1990s by the late American graphic designer Paul Rand.
Enron was originally involved in transmitting and distributing electricity and gas throughout the United States. The company developed, built, and operated power plants and pipelines while dealing with rules of law and other infrastructures worldwide. Enron owned a large network of natural gas pipelines which stretched ocean to ocean and border to border including Northern Natural Gas, Florida Gas Transmission, Transwestern Pipeline company and a partnership in Northern Border Pipeline from Canada. These were the cash cows that made all of the other Enron companies, ventures and investments possible. They were the only part of Enron that made significant profits. In 1998, Enron moved into the water sector, creating the Azurix Corporation, which it part-floated on the New York Stock Exchange in June 1999. Azurix failed to break into the water utility market, and one of its major concessions, in Buenos Aires, was a large-scale money-loser.
Enron grew wealthy, it claimed, via its pioneering, due largely to marketing and promoting power and communications bandwidth commodities and related derivatives as tradable financial instruments, including exotic items such as weather derivatives. Enron was named "America's Most Innovative Company" by Fortune magazine for six consecutive years, from 1996 to 2001. It was on the Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work for in America" list in 2000, and had offices that were, in hindsight, stunning in their opulence. Enron was hailed by many, including labor and the workforce, as an overall great company, praised for its large long-term pensions, benefits for its workers and extremely effective management until its exposure in corporate fraud. The first analyst to publicly disclose Enron's financial flaws was Daniel Scotto who in August 2001 issued a report entitled "All Stressed up and no place to go" which encouraged investors to sell Enron stocks and bonds at any and all costs.
As was later discovered, many of Enron's recorded assets and profits were inflated, or even wholly fraudulent and nonexistent. Debts and losses were put into entities formed "offshore" that were not included in the firm's financial statements, and other sophisticated and arcane financial transactions between Enron and related companies were used to take unprofitable entities off the company's books.
Its most valuable asset and the largest source of honest income, the 1930s-era Northern Natural Gas, was eventually purchased back by a group of Omaha investors, who moved its headquarters back to Omaha, and is now a unit of Warren Buffett's Mid-American Energy Holdings Corp. NNG was put up as collateral for a $2.5 billion capital infusion by Dynegy Corporation when Dynegy was planning to buy Enron. When Dynegy looked closely at Enron's books, they backed out of the deal and fired their CEO, Chuck Watson. The new chairman and interim CEO, the late Daniel Dienstbier, had been president of NNG and an Enron executive at one time and an acquaintance of Warren Buffett. NNG continues to be profitable today.
It was also an extensive futures trader, including sugar, coffee, grains, hog, and other meat futures. At the time of its bankruptcy filing in December, 2001, Enron was structured into seven distinct business units.
Enron manufactured gas valves, circuit breakers, thermostats, and electrical equipment in Venezuela through INSELA SA, a 50-50 joint venture with General Electric. Enron owned three paper and pulp products companies: Garden State Paper, a newsprint mill; as well as Papiers Stadacona and St. Aurelie Timberlands. Enron held a controlling stake in the Louisiana-based petroleum exploration and production company Mariner Energy.
In November 1999, Enron launched EnronOnline. Conceptualized by the company's Global Finance department under John Siepierski, it was the first web-based transaction system that allowed buyers and sellers to buy, sell, and trade commodity products globally. It allowed users to do business only with Enron. Due to the huge cash needs of Enron Online, and the firm wasting money in other areas such as broadband, Azurix, Enron Energy Services, and shutting down the original pipeline service which generated cash flow, Enron virtually drained itself of cash. The Enron Global Finance department had to keep working up more creative financing moves to keep the company running.
EnronOnline went live on November 29 1999. The site allowed energy users to do business in a previously unseen way. Until this point a trader who wanted to buy an energy contract talked with another energy trader who wanted to sell a contract, and from there, terms were agreed. EnronOnline allowed market participants to see prices on their screen just like a stock ticker, and could do business far more simply.
The main commodities offered on EnronOnline were natural gas and electricity, although there were 500 other products including credit derivatives, bankruptcy swaps, pulp, gas, plastics, paper, steel, metals, freight, and TV commercial time.
EnronOnline was seen as an impressive tool, but because Enron was either buying, selling, or trading in every transaction, the costs increased over time, and the systems were involved in the financial misreporting and other questionable financial behavior that eventually led to Enron's demise. However, EnronOnline spawned several other e-commerce websites including www.DealBench.com DealBench is an acquisition and divestiture tool still operating today. As of 2007, Enron still operates the DealBench code under the name EnronAssets. Other Enron developed technologies include Commodity Logic, ClickPaper and EnronCredit.
As the scandal was revealed, Enron shares dropped from over US$90.00 to just pennies. Enron had been considered a blue chip stock, so this was an unprecedented and disastrous event in the financial world. Enron's plunge occurred after it was revealed that much of its profits and revenue were the result of deals with special purpose entities (limited partnerships which it controlled). The result was that many of Enron's debts and the losses that it suffered were not reported in its financial statements.
Enron filed for bankruptcy on December 2 2001. In addition, the scandal caused the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which at the time was one of the world's top accounting firms. The firm was found guilty of obstruction of justice in 2002 for destroying documents related to the Enron audit and was forced to stop auditing public companies. Although the conviction was thrown out in 2005 by the Supreme Court, the damage to the Andersen name has prevented it from returning as a viable business.
Enron also withdrew a naming rights deal with the Houston Astros Major League Baseball club to have its name associated with their new stadium, which was formerly known as Enron Field (it is now Minute Maid Park.)
In 1999, Enron launched EnronOnline, an Internet-based trading operation, which was used by virtually every energy company in the U.S. President and chief operating officer Jeffrey Skilling began advocating a novel idea: the company didn't really need any "assets." By pushing the company's aggressive investment strategy, he helped make Enron the biggest wholesaler of gas and electricity, with $27 billion traded in a quarter. The firm's figures, however, had to be accepted at face value. Under Skilling, Enron adopted mark to market accounting, in which anticipated future profits from any deal were tabulated as if real today. Thus, Enron could record gains from what over time might turn out losses, as the company's fiscal health became secondary to manipulating its stock price on Wall Street during the Tech boom. But when a company's success is measured by agreeable financial statements emerging from a black box, a term Skilling himself admitted, actual balance sheets prove inconvenient. Indeed, Enron's unscrupulous actions were often gambles to keep the deception going and so push up the stock price, which was posted daily in the company elevator. An advancing number meant a continued infusion of investor capital on which debt-ridden Enron in large part subsisted. Its fall would collapse the house of cards. Under pressure to maintain the illusion, Skilling verbally attacked Wall Street Analyst Richard Grubman, who questioned Enron's unusual accounting practice during a recorded conference call. When Grubman complained that Enron was the only company that could not release a balance sheet along with its earnings statements, Skilling replied "Well, thank you very much, we appreciate that . . . asshole." Though the comment was met with dismay and astonishment by press and public, it became an inside joke among many Enron employees, mocking Grubman for his perceived meddling rather than Skilling's lack of tact. When asked during his trial, Skilling wholeheartedly admitted that industrial dominance and abuse was a global problem: "Oh yes, yes sure, it is.
As executives sold their shares, the price began to drop. Investors were told to continue buying stock or hold steady if they already owned Enron because the stock price would rebound in the near future. Kenneth Lay's strategy for responding to Enron's continuing problems was in his demeanor. As he did many times, Lay would issue a statement or make an appearance to calm investors and assure them that Enron was headed in the right direction.
By August 15, 2001, Enron's stock price had fallen to $42. Many of the investors still trusted Lay and believed that Enron would rule the market. They continued to buy or hold their stock and lost more money every day. As October closed, the stock had fallen to $15. Many saw this as a great opportunity to buy Enron stock because of what Lay had been telling them in the media. Their trust and optimism proved to be greatly misplaced.
Lay has been accused of selling over $70 million worth of stock at this time, which he used to repay cash advances on lines of credit. He sold another $20 million worth of stock in the open market. Also, Lay's wife, Linda, has been accused of selling 500,000 shares of Enron stock totaling $1.2 million on November 28, 2001. The money earned from this sale did not go to the family but rather to charitable organizations, which had already received pledges of contributions from the foundation. Records show that Mrs. Lay placed the sale order sometime between 10:00 and 10:20 AM. News of Enron's problems, including the millions of dollars in losses they had been hiding went public about 10:30 that morning, and the stock price soon fell to below one dollar. Former Enron executive Paula Rieker has been charged with criminal insider trading. Rieker obtained 18,380 Enron shares for $15.51 a share. She sold that stock for $49.77 a share in July 2001, a week before the public was told what she already knew about the $102 million loss.
Enron sold its last business, Prisma Energy, in 2006, leaving it as an asset-less shell. In early 2007, it changed its name to Enron Creditors Recovery Corporation. Its goal is to pay off the old Enron's remaining creditors and wind up Enron's affairs.
Shortly after emerging from bankruptcy in November 2004, Enron's new board of directors sued 11 financial institutions for helping Lay, Fastow, Skilling and others hide Enron's true financial condition. The proceedings were dubbed the "megaclaims litigation." Among the defendants were Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup. As of 2008, Enron has settled with all of the institutions, ending with Citigroup. Enron was able to obtain nearly $20 million dollars to distribute to its creditors as a result of the megaclaims litigation.
As Public Citizen reported, "Because of Enron’s new, unregulated power auction, the company’s 'Wholesale Services' revenues quadrupled—from $12 billion in the first quarter of 2000 to $48.4 billion in the first quarter of 2001.
Before passage of the deregulation law, there had been only one Stage 3 rolling blackout declared. Following passage, California had a total of 38 blackouts defined as Stage 3 rolling blackouts, until federal regulators intervened in June 2001. These blackouts occurred mainly as a result of a poorly designed market system that was manipulated by traders and marketers. Enron traders were revealed as intentionally encouraging the removal of power from the market during California's energy crisis by encouraging suppliers to shut down plants to perform unnecessary maintenance, as documented in recordings made at the time. These acts contributed to the need for rolling blackouts, which adversely affected many businesses dependent upon a reliable supply of electricity, and inconvenienced a large number of retail consumers.
Enron's role in the blackout was made possible by California's price controls and therefore by not adequately deregulating the energy market.
The next tech boom: the U.S. economy sorely needs a breath of fresh air, which a high-tech recovery could provide.(global economy)(Nasdaq is trading at far more realistic valuations)
Jul 01, 2005; In the second half of 2000, when the technology bubble began to deflate and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost one-half of its value...