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Capitol Hill Shop Steward

The Enron
Of Fraud

As featured in
Labor Party Press

Most likely, the moral of the Enron story
will be that theft on a grand scale will go unpunished ...

If you aren’t tired of the Enron fiasco yet, I predict it’s just a matter of time. Between the senseless Congressional hearings and the elementary school-level news media reporting, it’s hard not to be fed up. As I noted in my last column, I have a theory about Enron: The crime is so big that it cannot be investigated. Because to really investigate Enron would expose the utterly rotten, wasteful, and destructive corporate culture than dominates our society and even our individual lives.

Some of the juiciest Enron stuff is buried or doesn’t get reported at all. For instance, a couple of months ago the Center for Responsive Politics notified the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House that Enron had underreported its lobbying expenditures by at least 50 percent. Although Enron reported spending $825,000 on lobbying in the first six months of last year, the Center discovered that at least 15 outside lobbying firms reported income from Enron totaling at least $1,855,000 over the same period. About a month later, Enron was forced to concede that it had in fact spent about three times more on lobbying during that period than it had first reported.

   A Dictionary of Fraud
A   "Aggressive accounting procedures" = lying in cahoots with the accountant
B "Book-cooking" = very inventive lying
C "Complete confidence meltdown" = everybody is wise to the swindle
D "Debt-for-equity swap" = finding a sucker to give you more money
E "Exaggerated earnings" = just plain lying
F "Fifth amendment = what to do if invited to talk to Congress
G "Good, old-fashioned bunko" = Enron, spelled backwards, almost
H "Hard-drive sanitizing" = computer version of paper shredding
I "Inappropriate relationships" = Enron’s idea of a "relationship"
J "Jaded earnings forecast" = a report that needs to be rewritten
K "Knowingly misled" = Enron’s public relations philosophy
L "Liquidity crisis" = nothing left to steal
M "Misleading related-party footnotes" = lies buried in the fine print
N "Non-cash sales" = bartering to avoid or evade something
O "Off-balance-sheet transactions" = schemes you need to keep covered up
P "Pump-and-dump" = selling high, just before the crime is discovered
Q "Questionable accounting practices" = all of Enron’s accounting practices
R "Rosier-than-reality balance sheets" = all of Enron’s balance sheets
S "Special-purpose entries" = real name for politicians in Enron’s pocket
T "Tax evasion scheme" = only the "little people" pay taxes
U "Unfounded accounting assertions" = more book-cooking
V "Violations of ethics" = same as the Enron mission statement
W "Wish I would have sold out in time" = crying time
X "X-ray vision" = what stockholders really needed
Y "Yes-men" = the Enron Board of Directors
Z "Zero" = total value of most Enron worker 401(K)s

Of course the recipients of Enron’s lobbying largesse are now loathe to go after the company. The Enron debacle proves that theft on a grand scale goes unpunished. And the news that the Arthur Andersen auditing outfit has been indicted — a one-count charge of "obstruction of justice" – has left me wondering just how they could be getting hit before any of the criminal masterminds at Enron. Does this mean if I commit massive shenanigans with my tax return that my poor tax preparer is going to jail before I do? Various "investigations" by several government agencies are supposedly underway, but we have a ways to go before law enforcement breaks a sweat on this one.

There’s a new article, sometimes two or three, on Enron in every newspaper almost every day. But who can read this stuff? I scan the headlines, looking in vain for the one we’ll probably never see—the one that says something like "Top Enron Executives Jailed for Massive Swindle - Bail Denied." In meantime, I’m stuck slugging through the tortured reporting on Enron, day after day. Well, somebody has to do it.


How do I read all those mind-numbing articles? Well, I’m on a mission. I am compiling the definitive dictionary of white-collar crime lingo. "A Lexicon of Filthy Lucre," if you will. In the box, at right, are a few samples I scooped out of our fine news media. All words or phrases were found in newspapers since the Enron scandal erupted.

I dedicate the Enron Dictionary of Fraud to the Republicans and Democrats who aided and abetted the outfit known as Enron, and who have done so little, so far, to see to it that justice is done. Justice meaning, dozens of Enron and Andersen bigwigs being arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to long jail terms, and their assets tracked down, seized, and spread evenly among the countless worker and shareholder victims of this enormous swindle.

And, with tax season fresh on our minds, know that if you paid one cent in federal income taxes last year, you paid more than Enron did in four of five years between 1996 and 2000. I thought about that as I handed over my additional tax payment to the postal worker at 11:59 on April 15. I also hope that you plan on attending the coming Labor Party Convention, July 25-28, in Washington, D.C. Do you have a better idea?

Chris Townsend is political action director of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).

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