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Kenneth Lee Lay
Born April 15, 1942
Tyrone, Missouri, United States
Died July 5, 2006 (aged 64)
Snowmass, Colorado, United States
Charge(s) Fraud, false statement
Penalty Potentially 45 years in prison plus monetary fines, but death before sentencing resulted in the vacating of convictions
Status Deceased
Occupation Businessman
Spouse Linda Lay

Kenneth Lee "Ken" Lay (April 15, 1942 – July 5, 2006) was an American businessman, best known for his role in the widely reported corruption scandal that led to the downfall of Enron Corporation. Lay and Enron became synonymous with corporate abuse and accounting fraud when the scandal broke in 2001. Lay was the CEO and chairman of Enron from 1985 until his resignation on January 23, 2003, except for a few months in 2000 when he was chairman and Jeffrey Skilling was CEO.

On July 7, 2004, Lay was indicted by a grand jury on 11 counts of securities fraud and related charges.[1] On January 31, 2006, following four and a half years of preparation by government prosecutors, Lay's and Skilling's trial began in Houston. Lay was found guilty on May 25, 2006, of 10 counts against him; the judge dismissed the 11th. Because each count carried a maximum 5- to 10-year sentence, legal experts said Lay could have faced 20 to 30 years in prison.[2] However, he died while vacationing in Snowmass, Colorado on July 5, 2006, about three and a half months before his scheduled October 23 sentencing.[3] Preliminary autopsy reports state that he died of a heart attack caused by coronary artery disease. As a result of his death, on October 17, 2006, the federal district court judge who presided over the case vacated Lay's conviction.[4]


Early life and career

Lay was born in Tyrone, Missouri, the son of Ruth (née Rees) and Omer Lay.[5] His father was a Baptist preacher and some-time tractor salesman. When Lay was a child, he delivered newspapers and mowed lawns. Early on, he moved to Columbia, Missouri and attended David H. Hickman High School and the University of Missouri where he studied economics. He served as president of the Zeta Phi chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the University of Missouri. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophy in economics from the University of Houston in 1970 and went to work at Exxon Mobil Corp. successor of Humble Oil & Refining upon graduation.

Lay worked in the early 1970s as a federal energy regulator. He then became undersecretary for the Department of the Interior before he returned to the business world as an executive at Florida Gas Transmission. By the time energy was deregulated in the 1980s, Lay was already an energy company executive and he took advantage of the new climate when Omaha-based Internorth bought his company Houston Natural Gas and changed the name to Enron in 1985. The much larger, better capitalized and more diversified Internorth was then used as an asset to propel his efforts at Enron. He also was a member of the board of directors of Eli Lilly and Company.

Lay was one of America's highest-paid CEOs, earning, for example, a $42.4 million compensation package in 1999.[6] In December 2000, Lay was mentioned as a possible candidate for President Bush's Treasury secretary along with J.P. Morgan & Co. head Douglas A. Warner III and a few others.[7] Lay dumped large amounts of his Enron stock in September and October 2001 as its price fell, while encouraging employees to buy more stock, telling them the company would rebound. Lay liquidated more than $300 million in Enron stock from 1989 to 2001, mostly in stock options. As the scandal unfolded, Lay insisted he wanted to "tell his story." But then he reneged on a promise to testify to Congress, taking the Fifth instead. [8]

Lay had been married to his second wife and former secretary, Linda, for 22 years and had two children, three stepchildren and twelve grandchildren.

Articles by Ken Lay

Indictment and trial

On July 7, 2004, Lay was indicted by a grand jury in Houston, Texas, for his role in Enron's collapse. Lay was charged, in a 65-page indictment, with 11 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false and misleading statements. The trial commenced on January 30, 2006, in Houston, despite repeated protests from defense attorneys calling for a change of venue on the grounds that "it was impossible to get a fair trial in Houston" – the epicenter of Enron's collapse. Enron's bankruptcy, the biggest in U.S. history when it was filed in December 2001, cost 20,000 employees their jobs and many of them their life savings. Investors lost billions."[2] Before Lay was put on trial he was estimated to have a gross wealth of approx. 40 million US dollars. It is believed that most of it was spent on legal defense. During his trial, Lay claimed that in 2001 Enron stock made up about 90 percent of his wealth, and that his current net worth (in 2006) was in the negative by $250,000. He insisted that Enron's collapse was due to a "conspiracy" waged by short sellers, rogue executives, and the news media.[9] It was reported that Lay's congenial reputation took a blow as he appeared confrontational and irritable at several points during his testimony.[2] On May 25, 2006, Lay was found guilty on all six counts of conspiracy and fraud by a jury of eight women and four men. In a separate bench trial, Judge Lake ruled Lay was guilty of four counts of fraud and false statements. Sentencing was scheduled to take place on 11 September 2006, but was later rescheduled for 23 October 2006.[10]

A number of books have been written on Lay and Enron including Conspiracy of Fools (2005), Icarus in the Boardroom, The Tao of Enron: Spiritual Lessons from a Fortune 500 Fallout (2002), The Smartest Guys in the Room (2003), 24 Days, and Power Failure. The Smartest Guys in the Room was adapted into a documentary film titled Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, released in 2005.


Lay died on July 5, 2006, while vacationing in Colorado, the Pitkin Sheriff's Department confirmed that officers were called to Lay's house in Old Snowmass, Colorado, near Aspen at 1:41 AM MDT. Lay was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:11 AM MDT. Autopsies indicate that he died of a heart attack brought on by coronary artery disease, and found evidence that he had suffered a previous heart attack.[3]

A private funeral with around 200 in attendance was held in Aspen four days after his death, his body cremated and the ashes buried in a secret location in the mountains.[11][12][13] A memorial was held a week after his death at the First United Methodist Church in Houston, attended by nearly 1,200 guests including former president George H. W. Bush, who did not speak.[14]

Abatement of conviction

On October 17, 2006, since Lay died prior to exhausting his appeals, his conviction was abated.[15][16] Precedent in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court governing the district where Lay was indicted,[17] indicates that abatement had to be automatically granted. When abatement occurs, the law views it as though he had never been indicted, tried and convicted.[18][3] The government opposed Lay's attorneys' motion for abatement, and the Department of Justice issued a statement that it "remains committed to pursuing all available legal remedies and to reclaim for victims the proceeds of crimes committed by Ken Lay."[19][20] Civil suits are expected to continue against Lay's estate. However, according to legal expert Joel Androphy, claimants may not seek punitive damages against a deceased defendant, only compensatory damages.[21]

Timeline of events

Awards and honors

  • Anti-Defamation League – Torch of Liberty Award
  • Beta Theta Pi (Zeta Phi Chapter) – Wall of Fame
  • Beta Theta Pi (National Fraternity) - Oxford Cup
  • Brunel University (London) – Honorary Doctor of Social Sciences
  • Child Advocates – Super Hero Honoree Award
  • Episcopal High School – Campaign Fundraiser Award
  • Gas Daily – Man of the Year Award
  • Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans – Annual Membership Award
  • Houston Area Women’s Center – Honoree
  • Houston Children’s Chorus – Honoree
  • Houston Community Partners – Father of The Year
  • Kenneth Lay Day – Proclaimed by Kathryn J. Whitmire, Mayor of Houston, Texas
  • Kiwanis Club of Houston and the Greater Houston Partnership – International Executive of the Year
  • March of Dimes – Award of Distinction
  • NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet – Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award
  • National Conference of Christians and Jews – Brotherhood Award
  • Oswego State University – Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree
  • Phi Beta Kappa – Outstanding Alumnus Award
  • Private Sector Council – Annual Leadership Award
  • Stanford Business School Alumni Associations – Houston Business Man of the Year
  • Texans For Lawsuit Reform – Award
  • Texas Association of Minority Business Enterprises – Texas Corporate Partnering Award
  • Texas Business Hall of Fame – Inductee
  • Texas Navy Admiral – Commissioned by William P. Clements, Jr., Governor of Texas
  • Texas Society To Prevent Blindness – Man of Vision Award
  • The Brookwood Community – Honoree Award
  • The Rotary Club of Houston – Distinguished Citizen Award
  • The Wall Street Transcript – Chief Executive Officer Award
  • United States Energy Association – United States Energy Award
  • U.S. Navy – Navy Commendation Medal & National Defense Service Medal
  • University of Colorado, College of Business and Administration – Ben K. Miller Memorial, International Business Award
  • University of Houston – Distinguished Alumnus Award
  • University of Houston – Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree
  • University of Missouri – Honorary Doctor of Law Degree; The Hebert J. Davenport Society Benefactor Award
  • Volunteer Houston – Honoree Award
  • The YMCA in Cinco Ranch in unincorporated Harris County, Texas was named after Ken Lay. Following the collapse of Enron and Lay's subsequent accusations of fraud and questionable accounting tactics, the name outside the building was made 70% smaller. Lay later asked for his name to be removed from the YMCA in June 2006. The YMCA is, as of 2006, called the "Katy Family YMCA" after the city of Katy.

See also


  1. ^ Crawford, Kristen (2004-07-12). "Lay surrenders to authorities". CNN Money. Retrieved 2006-05-25.  
  2. ^ a b c Pasha, Shaheen and Jessica Seid (2006-05-25). "Lay and Skilling's day of reckoning". CNN Money. Retrieved 2006-05-25.  
  3. ^ a b c "Death Puts Lay Conviction in Doubt". Los Angeles Times. July 6, 2006.,1,4669506.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage. Retrieved 2006-06-06.  
  4. ^ Lozano, Juan A. (17 October 2006). "Judge vacates conviction of Ken Lay". Associated Press.  
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Kenneth Lay: Bush Pioneer". Texans for Public Justice. Retrieved 2006-06-07.  
  7. ^ OsterDowJones. (Dec. 14, 2000) Who will Bush pick to run Treasury?
  8. ^ "Dan Ackman, "Lay Lays an Egg""., Feb. 2, 2002.  
  9. ^ Jeremy W. Peters and Simon Romero (5 July 2006). "Enron Founder Dies Before Sentencing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-06-06.  
  10. ^ "Enron founder Ken Lay dies". 5 July 2006.  
  11. ^ Moreno, Sylvia (July 13, 2006). "Lay Is Remembered As a 'Straight Arrow'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-07-13.  
  12. ^ "Lay victim of `lynching,' speaker at service says". The Chicago Tribune. July 13, 2006.,1,5900234.story. Retrieved 2006-07-13.  
  13. ^ "Ken Lay's memorial attracts power elite". CNN. July 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-13.  
  14. ^ "Enron's Kenneth Lay Defended at His Memorial Service". Bloomberg. July 12, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-09.  
  15. ^ "Judge Vacates Conviction". The New York Times. October 17, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-17.  
  16. ^ "Experts See Lay's Death Erasing Conviction". The New York Times. July 7, 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-07.  
  17. ^ See United States v. AssetPDF (37.1 KiB), 990 F.2d 208 (5th Cir. 1993); United States v. Estate of ParsonsPDF (146 KiB), 367 F.3d 409 (5th Cir. 2004).
  18. ^ Can't the Feds Get Lay's Money? Slate, as corrected July 7, 2006.
  19. ^ Hays, Kristen (August 16, 2006). "Prosecutors to oppose wiping Lay's record clean". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2006-08-16.  
  20. ^ Associated Press (August 16, 2005). "Prosecutors will oppose clearing Lay's record, filing says". USA today. Retrieved 2006-10-10.  
  21. ^ "Enron founder Ken Lay dies". July 5, 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-06.  

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