Editorial: Who pays for Enrons crimes?

The Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the conviction of the giant accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, on obstruction of justice charges underscores a case of justice denied for 90,000 workers worldwide who lost their jobs when the firm went bankrupt. Chief Justice Rehnquist, who wrote the court’s unanimous ruling, found that the U.S. prosecutors failed to instruct jurors that they must prove “criminal intent” when Andersen execs shredded thousands of Enron internal records as the Houston energy company imploded.

Give us a break! What were those shredders doing if not destroying evidence of Enron’s colossal corporate crime?

Tapes prove that Enron “gamed” the California energy market by schemes with code names such as “Get Shorty,” “Load Shift” and “Ricochet.” Just this one heist cost ratepayers an estimated $30 billion in utility overcharges.

This decision on Andersen dovetails with the court’s recent ruling that Vice President Dick Cheney doesn’t have to reveal secret records of his Energy Policy Task Force meetings. President Bush formed the task force in early 2001 to develop a national energy policy, with Cheney at the helm. Enron was deeply implicated in helping draft the Bush administration energy policy. There is reason to believe that Arthur Andersen was the fall guy for Enron and its CEO, Ken Lay. This raises a question: Why the stall in putting Lay on trial? It suggests a need to protect Bush and Cheney by hiding their close ties to Lay and other oil and gas billionaires.

The art of diversion and deception is central to the Bush-Cheney method of governing. Consider the trial of Pfc. Lynndie England for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Isn’t this too a diversionary ploy, shifting attention from the role of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in these war crimes?

Martha Stewart went to jail for “insider trading.” Yet George W. Bush, as a member of the board of directors at Harken Energy, was guilty of his own insider trading when in 1991 he unloaded Harken stock just before it tanked. The SEC investigated but never charged him.

The bottom line is that under capitalist justice, the innocent pay the price — in this case the 90,000 Arthur Andersen workers and 110,000 Enron employees who lost their jobs and, in some cases, their life savings.