The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, September 29, 2003  

SEC Asks Court to Compel Documents from Enron’s Lay

The Securities and Exchange Commission today found itself forced to go to federal court to get fromer Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay to provide the agency with documents it has requested in the still ongoing investigation of the collapse of the now-bankrupt Houston energy firm, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle (“SEC Seeks Papers From ex-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay,” by David Ivanovich).

As you might expect, Lay is being slimy about it. The Chronicle reports:

Lay has refused to turn over the records, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, trying to determine whether Lay engaged in any fraudulent activities at Enron, has subpoenaed documents from Lay’s tenure at the one-time Houston energy giant.

In a filing today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, SEC officials argued the documents they want to review are corporate records that Lay has no right to withhold.

“It is well settled that a corporation has no Fifth Amendment rights and an individual cannot resist the production of corporate records based on the Fifth Amendment, even where the records might tend to incriminate the individual personally,” the SEC argued.

Lay’s attorneys had tried to extract a promise that any personal information that might be revealed when producing the documents could not later be used to try to incriminate him, SEC officials said.

SEC officials contended that if they were to agree to such an arrangement, and Lay was later charged with a criminal offense, he “could argue such records were used, or furnished a link in a chain of evidence, by the government in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights.”

Oh, okay, maybe he’s just acting like any defendant would when his entire fortune and reputation are on the line.

Sorry, no word on how Mrs. Kenneth Lay’s thrift shop is doing these days.

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