VII. OVERSIGHT BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND MANAGEMENT64
Oversight of the related-party transactions by Enron's Board of Directors and Management failed for many reasons. As a threshold matter, in our opinion the very concept of related-party transactions of this magnitude with the CFO was flawed. The Board put many controls in place, but the controls were not adequate, and they were not adequately implemented. Some senior members of Management did not exercise sufficient oversight, and did not respond adequately when issues arose that required a vigorous response. The Board assigned the Audit and Compliance Committee an expanded duty to review the transactions, but the Committee carried out the reviews only in a cursory way. The Board of Directors was denied important information that might have led it to take action, but the Board also did not fully appreciate the significance of some of the specific information that came before it. Enron's outside auditors supposedly examined Enron's internal controls, but did not identify or bring to the Audit Committee's attention the inadequacies in their implementation.
A. Oversight by the Board of Directors
Enron's Board of Directors played a role in approving and overseeing the related-party transactions. This section examines the involvement of the Board and its Committees, where they were involved, in (1) the Chewco transaction, (2) permitting
64 The portions of this Section describing and evaluating actions of the Board and its Committees are solely the views of Powers and Troubh.
Fastow to proceed with LJM1 and LJM2 despite his conflict of interest, (3) creating the Raptor vehicles, and (4) overseeing the ongoing relationship between Enron and LJM.65
1. The Chewco Transaction
We found no evidence that the Board of Directors (other than Skilling) was aware that an Enron employee, Kopper, was an investor in or manager of Chewco.66 Because substantial Enron loan guarantees were required to permit Chewco to acquire CalPERS' interest in JEDI, the Chewco transaction was brought before the Executive Committee of the Board (by conference call) on November 5, 1997. Fastow made the presentation. According to the minutes of the meeting, Fastow reviewed "the corporate structure of the acquiring company." The minutes and the interviews we conducted do not reveal any disclosure to the Executive Committee of Kopper's role, and they do not indicate that the Executive Committee (or Lay) was asked for or made the finding necessary under Enron's Code of Conduct to permit Kopper to have a financial interest in Chewco. Both Fastow and Kopper participated in the telephonic meeting. Each had an obligation to bring Kopper's role to the Committee's attention. Fastow and Kopper have declined to be interviewed on this subject.
65We have not seen any evidence that any member of the Board of Directors had a financial interest in any of the partnerships that are discussed here.
66 Skilling said he was aware that Kopper had a managerial role in Chewco, but not that Kopper had a financial interest. He said he believes he disclosed this to the Board at some point, but we found no other evidence that he did. We also saw no evidence that the Board, other than possibly Skilling, was aware of Enron's repurchasing Chewco's interest in JEDI or of the associated tax indemnity payment.
2. Creation of LJM1 and LJM2
The Board understood that LJMI and LJM2, both recommended by Management, presented substantially different issues. The Board discussed the advantages and disadvantages of permitting Fastow to manage each of these partnerships. The Board also recognized the need to ensure that Fastow did not profit unfairly at Enron's expense, and adopted substantial controls. Nevertheless, these controls did not accomplish their intended purpose.
LJM1. LJM1 came before the Board on June 28, 1999. The Board believed it was addressing a specific, already-negotiated transaction, rather than a series of future transactions. This was the Rhythms "hedge." It was presented as a transaction that would benefit Enron by reducing income statement volatility resulting from a large investment that could not be sold. The Board understood that (1) the terms were already fixed, (2) Enron would receive an opinion by PricewaterhouseCoopers as to the fairness of the consideration received by Enron, and (3) Fastow would not benefit from changes in the value of Enron stock that Enron contributed to the transaction. The Board saw little need to address controls over already-completed negotiations. Indeed, the Board's resolution specified that Lay and Skilling-neither of whom had a conflict of interest would represent Enron "in the event of a change in the terms of [the Rhythms] transaction from those presented to the Board for its consideration.67
67 In fact, there were subsequent changes in the Rhythms transaction, including the additional put and call options in July 1999 and the change in the LJM I payment from $50 million to $64 million. We found no evidence that either Lay or Skilling was
When it approved LJM1, the Board does not appear to have considered the need to set up a procedure to obtain detailed information about Fastow's compensation from or financial interest in the transactions. This information should have been necessary to ensure that Fastow would not benefit from changes in the value of Enron stock, as Fastow had promised. Even though the Board was informed that "LJM may negotiate with the Company regarding the purchase of additional assets in the Merchant Portfolio," it did not consider the need for safeguards that would protect Enron in transactions between Enron and LJM1. In fact, LJM1 did purchase an interest in Cuiaba from Enron in September 1999.
LJM2. In the case of LJM2, the proposal presented to the Board contemplated creation of an entity with which Enron would conduct a number of transactions. The principal stated advantage of Fastow's involvement in I.JM2 was that it could then purchase assets that Enron wanted to sell more quickly and with lower transaction costs. This was a legitimate potential advantage of LJM2, and it was proper for the Board to consider it.68
Nevertheless, there were very substantial risks arising from Fastow's acknowledged conflict of interest. First, given Fastow's position as Enron's CFO, LJM2 would create a poor public appearance, even if the transactions had been immaculate and
advised of or approved these changes, despite the Board's resolution requiring their approval of any changes.
68 The Board was apparently not informed of the involvement of other Enron employees in LJM2, including Kopper's financial stake and the extent of the role played by other Enron employees under the Services Agreement between Enron and LJM2.
there had been sound controls. The minutes do not reflect discussion of this issue, but our interviews indicate that it was raised. During the rising stock market, analysts and investors generally ignored Fastow's dual roles and his conflict of interest, but when doubts were cast on Enron's transactions with LJM I and LJM2 in connection with Enron's earnings announcement on October 16, 2001, this appearance became a serious problem.
Second, Fastow's position at Enron and his financial incentives and duties arising out of LJM1 and LJM2 could cause transactions to occur on terms unfair to Enron or overly generous to LJM1 and LJM2.69 The Board discussed this issue at length and concluded that the risk could be adequately mitigated. The Directors viewed the prospective LJM2 relationship as providing an additional potential buyer for assets in Enron business units. If LJM2 offered a better price than other buyers on asset purchases or other transactions, Enron would sell to LJM2. This could occur because Fastow's familiarity with the assets might improve his assessment of the risk, or might lower his transaction costs for due diligence. In our interviews, several Directors cited these benefits of permitting Fastow to manage LJM2. If a better price was available elsewhere, Enron could sell to the higher bidder. Based on Fastow's presentation, the Directors envisioned a model in which Enron business units controlled the assets to be sold to
69 The presentation to the Board on LJM I discussed the structure by which Fastow would be compensated, and therefore provided the Board with a basis for forming an expectation about the level of his compensation. The presentation to the Board on LJM2 did not. It provided only that "LJM2 has typical private equity fund fees and promote [sic]," targeted at '3200 + million institutional private equity." When LJM2 was initially approved, it does not appear that there was discussion at the Board level about a much larger fund and the levels of compensation Fastow would receive, although it was discussed later.
LJM2 (or alternative potential buyers) and would be negotiating on behalf of Enron. Because each business unit's financial results were at stake, the Board assumed they had an incentive to insist that the transactions were on the most favorable terms available in the market. This was a plausible assumption, but in practice this incentive proved ineffective in ensuring arm's-length dealings.
Moreover, several Directors stated that they believed Andersen would review the transactions to provide a safeguard. The minutes of the Finance Committee meeting on October 11, 1999 (apparently not attended by representatives of Andersen) identify "the review by Arthur Andersen LLP" as a factor in the Committee's consideration of LJM2. Andersen did in fact (1) provide substantial services with respect to structuring and accounting for many of the transactions, (2) review Enron's financial statement disclosures with respect to the related-party transactions (including representations that "the terms of the transactions were reasonable and no less favorable than the terms of similar arrangements with unrelated third parties"), and (3) confirm Andersen's involvement in representations to the Audit and Compliance Committee at its annual reviews of the LJM transactions. The Board was entitled to rely on Andersen's involvement in these respects. In addition, one would reasonably expect auditors to raise questions to their client-the Audit and Compliance Committee-if confronted with transactions whose economic substance was in doubt, or if controls required by the Board of Directors were not followed, as was the case here.70
70 We are unable to determine why Andersen did not detect the various control failures described below. At its meeting with the Audit and Compliance Committee on May 1, 2000, an Andersen representative identified related-party transactions as an area
Further, the Board adopted, or was informed that Management had adopted, a number of controls to protect Enron's interests. When the LJM2 proposal was brought to the Finance Committee and the Board in October 1999, two specific controls were recommended and adopted:
Additional controls were added, or described as having been added, at later meetings. A year later, on October 6 and 7, 2000, respectively, the Finance Committee and the full Board considered a proposal with respect to a new entity, LJM3.71 Fastow informed the Directors, in a meeting at which Skilling, Causey and Buy were present,
to be given "high priorit[y] due to the inherent risks that were present." Moreover, in the engagement letter between Andersen and Enron dated May 2, 2000, the engagement partner wrote that Andersen's work would "consist of an examination of management's assertion that the system of internal control of Enron as of December 31, 2000, was adequate to provide reasonable assurance as to the reliability of financial statements. . . Because Andersen declined to permit its representatives to be interviewed, we do not know what, if any, steps Andersen took in light of these observations.
71 LJM3 was never created.
that additional controls over transactions between Enron and LJM I and LJM2 had been
put in place. These included:
One Director also proposed that the Finance Committee review the LJM transactions on a quarterly basis. Another Director proposed that the Compensation and Management Development Committee review the compensation received by Fastow from the LJM partnerships and Enron. Both proposals were adopted by the Finance Committee.
Finally, the Finance Committee (in addition to the Audit and Compliance
Committee) was informed on February 12, 200 1, of still more procedures and controls:
At bottom, however, the need for such an extensive set of controls said something fundamental about the wisdom of permitting the CFO to take on this conflict of interest. The two members of the Special Committee participating in this review of the Board's actions believe that a conflict of this significance that could be managed only through so many controls and procedures should not have been approved in the first place.
3. Creation of the Raptor Vehicles
The Board authorized Raptor I in May of 2000. The Board was entitled to rely on assurances it received that Enron's internal accountants and Andersen had fully evaluated and approved the accounting treatment of the transaction, but there was nevertheless an opportunity for the members of the Board to identify flaws and pursue open questions. 72
72 The Board cannot be faulted for lack of oversight over the most troubling Raptor transactions: Raptor III and the Raptor restructuring. With the possible exception of Skilling, who says he recalls being vaguely aware of these particular events, the members of the Board do not appear to have been informed about these transactions. Neither the minutes nor the witnesses we interviewed indicate that Raptor IH was ever brought to the Board or its Committees. This may have been because no Enron stock was issued. Raptor IH also does not appear to have been disclosed at the February 2001 meetings of the Audit and Compliance Committee or the Finance Committee. The list presented at the February 2001 meetings refers generally to "Raptors I, H, IH, IV," but the Finance Committee had reason to believe the transactions referred to as Raptors III and IV were
Raptor I was presented to the Finance Committee on May 1, 2000. It was presented to the Board the following day. The Committee and Board were not given all of the details, but they were given a substantial amount of information. They understood this transaction to be another version of the Rhythms transaction, which they had approved the previous year and believed to have performed successfully. They were informed that the hedging capacity of Raptor I came from the value of Enron's own stock, with which Enron would "seed" the vehicle. They were informed that Enron would purchase a share-settled put on approximately seven million shares of its own stock. Handwritten notes apparently taken by the corporate secretary suggest that the Committee was informed that the structure "[d]oes not transfer economic risk but transfers P&L volatility." At least some members of the Committee understood that this was an accounting-related transaction, not an economic hedge. On a list the Committee (and, it appears, the Board) was shown about the risks posed by the Raptor vehicle, the first risk was of "[a]ccounting scrutiny." The list said that this risk was mitigated by the fact that the "[t]ransaction [was] reviewed by CAO [Causey] and Arthur Anderson [sic]."
We believe that each of these elements should have been the subject of detailed questioning that might have led the Finance Committee or the Board to discover the fundamental flaws in the design and purpose of the transaction. The discussion, if accurately described by the handwritten notes, suggested an absence of economic substance: a hedge that does not transfer economic risk is not a real hedge. While it is often the case that sales to SPEs transfer only limited economic risk, a hedge that does
substantially identical to Raptor 1. Raptor III, as described earlier in this Report, was not presented to or authorized by the Board.
not transfer economic risk is not a meaningful concept. Enron's purchasing a "put" on its own stock from Talon (Raptor r)--a bet against the value of that stock-had no apparent business purpose. The statement that the first risk to be considered was that of "[a]ccounting scrutiny" was a red Rag that should have led to the Board's referring the proposal to the Audit and Compliance Committee for careful assessment of any controversial accounting issues, and should have led that Committee to conduct a probing discussion with Andersen.
The involvement of Enron's internal accountants, and the reported (and actual) involvement of Andersen, gave the Finance Committee and the Board reason to presume that the transaction was proper. Raptor was an extremely complex transaction, presented to the Committee by advocates who conveyed confidence and assurance that the proposal was in Enron's best interests, and that it was in compliance with legal and accounting rules. Nevertheless, this was a proposal that deserved closer and more critical examination.
4. Board Oversight of the Oni!oW2 Relationship with LJM
Two control procedures adopted by the Board (and indeed sound corporate governance) called for specific oversight by Committees of the Board. These were periodic reviews of the transactions and of Fastow's compensation from LJM.73
73Enron's Board of Directors met five times each year in regular meetings, and from time to time in special meetings. The regular meetings typically involved committee meetings as well. The Finance Committee and the Audit and Compliance Committee each generally met for one to two hours the afternoon before the Board meeting.
Committee Review. In addition to the meetings at which LJM I and LJM2 were approved, the Audit and Compliance Committee and the Finance Committee reviewed certain aspects of the LJM transactions. The Audit and Compliance Committee did so by means of annual reviews in February 2000 and February 2001. The Finance Committee did so by means of a report from Fastow on May 1, 2000 and an annual review in February 2001.
The Committee reviews did not effectively supplement Management's oversight (such as it was). Though part of this may be attributed to the Committees, part may not. The Committees were severely hampered by the fact that significant information about the LJM relationship was withheld from them, in at least five respects:
First, in each of the two years in which the February annual review occurred, Causey presented to the Committees a list of transactions with LJM I and LJM2 in the preceding year. The lists were incomplete (though Causey says he did not know this, and in any event a more complete presentation may not have affected the Committee's review): the 1999 list identified eight transactions, when in fact there were ten, and the 2000 list of transactions omitted the "buyback" transactions described earlier. Knowledge of these "buyback" transactions would have raised substantial questions about the nature and purpose of the earlier sales.
Second, Fastow represented to the Finance Committee on May 1, 2000, that LJM2 had a projected internal rate of return on its investments of 17.95%, which was consistent with the returns the Committee members said they anticipated for a "bridge" investor such as LJM2. In contrast, at the annual meeting of LJM2 limited partners on
October 26, 2000, Fastow presented written materials showing that their projected internal rate of return on these investments was 5 1 %. While some of this dramatic increase may have been attributable to transactions after May 1 -in particular the Raptor transactions-there is no indication that Fastow ever corrected the misimpression he gave the Finance Committee about the anticipated profitability of LJM2.
Third, it appears that, at the meeting for the February 2001 review, the Committees were not provided with important information. The presentation included a discussion of the Raptor vehicles that had been created the preceding year. Apparently, however, the Committees were not told that two of the vehicles then owed Enron approximately $175 million more than they had the capacity to pay. This information was contained in a report that was provided daily to Causey and Buy, but it appears that neither of them brought it to either Committee's attention.
Fourth, it does not appear that the Board was informed either that, by March of 2001, this deficit had grown to about $500 million, or that this would have led to a charge against Enron's earnings in that quarter if not addressed prior to March 3 1. Nor does it appear that the Board was informed about restructuring the Raptor vehicles on March 26, 2001, or the transfer of approximately $800 million of Enron stock contracts that was part of that transaction. The restructuring was directed at avoiding a charge to earnings. While these transactions may or may not have required Board action as a technical matter, it is difficult to understand why matters of such significance and sensitivity at Enron would not have been brought to the attention of the Board. Causey and Buy, among others, were aware of the deficit and restructuring. Skilling recalls being only
vaguely aware of these events, but other witnesses have told us that Skilling, then in his first quarter as CEO, was aware of and intensely interested in the restructuring.
Fifth, recent public disclosures show that Andersen held an internal meeting on February 5, 2001, to address serious concerns about Enron's accounting for and oversight of the LJM relationship. The people attending that meeting reportedly decided to suggest that Enron establish a special committee of the Board of Directors to review the fairness of LJM transactions or to provide for other procedures or controls, such as competitive bidding. Enron's Audit and Compliance Committee held a meeting one week later, on February 12, 2001, which was attended by David B. Duncan and Thomas H. Bauer, two of the Andersen partners who (according to the public disclosures) had also been in attendance at the Andersen meeting on February 5. We are told (although the minutes do not reflect) that the Committee also conducted an executive session with the Andersen representatives, in the absence of Enron's management, to inquire if Andersen had any concerns it wished to express. There is no evidence that Andersen raised concerns about LJM.
There is no evidence of any discussion by either Andersen representative about the problems or concerns they apparently had discussed internally just one week earlier. None of the Committee members we interviewed recalls that such concerns were raised, and the minutes make no mention of any discussion of the subject. Rather, according to the minutes and to written presentation materials, Duncan reported that "no material weaknesses had been identified" in Andersen's audit and that Andersen's "[o]pinion
74/ regarding internal control ... [w]ill be unqualified."74 While we have not had access to either Duncan or Bauer, the minutes do not indicate that the Andersen representatives made any comments to the Committee about controls while Causey was reviewing them, or recommended forming a special committee to review the fairness of the LJM transactions, or recommended any other procedures or review.
The Board cannot be faulted for failing to act on information that was withheld, but it can be faulted for the limited scrutiny it gave to the transactions between Enron and the IJM partnerships. The Board had agreed to permit Enron to take on the risks of doing business with its CFO, but had done so on the condition that the Audit and Compliance Committee (and later also the Finance Committee) review Enron's transactions with the LJM partnerships. These reviews were a significant part of the control structure, and should have been more than just another brief item on the agenda.
In fact, the reviews were brief, reportedly lasting ten to fifteen minutes. More to the point, the specific economic terms, and the benefits to LJM I or LJM2 (or to Fastow), were not discussed. There does not appear to have been much, if any, probing with respect to the underlying basis for Causey's representation that the transactions were at arm's-length and that "the process was working effectively." The reviews did provide the Committees with what they believed was an assurance that Causey had in fact looked at the transactions-an entirely appropriate objective for a Board Committee-level review
74 The written materials included "Selected Observations" on financial reporting. "Related party transactions" were one of five areas singled out in this section. Andersen's comments were that "Relationship issues add scrutiny risk to: [j]udgmental structuring and valuation issues [and] [u]nderstanding of transaction completeness" and "Required disclosures reviewed for adequacy."
of ordinary transactions with outside parties.75 But these were not normal transactions. There was little point in relying on Audit and Compliance Committee review as a control over these transactions if that review did not have more depth or substance.76
Review of Fastow's Compensation. Committee-mandated procedures required reviewing Fastow's compensation from LJM I and LJM2. This should have been an important control. As much as any other procedure, it might have provided a warning if the transactions were on terms too generous to LJM I or LJM2. It might have indicated whether the representation that Fastow would not profit from increases in the price of Enron stock was accurate. It might have revealed whether Fastow's gains were inconsistent with the understanding reported by a number of Board members that he would be receiving only modest compensation from LJM, commensurate with the approximately three hours per week he told the Finance Committee in May 2000 he was spending on LJM matters.
75 Or. St. § 60.357(2) (1999) ("a director is entitled to rely on information, opinions, reports or statements including financial statements and other financial data, if prepared or presented by: ... [o]ne or more officers or employees of the corporation whom the director reasonably believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented [and] legal counsel, public accountants or other persons as to matters the director reasonably
believes are within the person's professional or expert competence ).
76 The need for careful scrutiny became even greater in May 2000, when Fastow asserted to the Finance Committee that transactions between Enron and the two LJM entities had provided earnings to Enron during 1999 of $229.5 million. Enron's total net income for the two quarters of 1999 in which the LJM partnerships had been existence was $549 million. The following year, Enron's 2000 Form 10-K disclosed that it had generated some $500 million of revenues in 2000 (virtually all of it going directly to the bottom line) from the Raptor transactions alone, thereby offsetting losses on Enron merchant investments that would otherwise have reduced earnings. These were very substantial contributors to Enron's earnings for each of those periods.
We have seen only very limited information concerning Fastow's compensation from the LJM partnerships. As discussed above in Section IV, we have seen documents indicating that Fastow's family foundation received $4.5 million in May 2000 from the Southampton investment. We also have reviewed some 1999 and 2000 Schedules K-1 for the partnerships that Fastow provided. At a minimum, the K- 1 s indicate that Fastow's partnership capital increased by $15 million in 1999 and $16 million in 2000, for a total of over $31 million, and that he received distributions of $18.7 million in 2000.
The Board's review apparently never occurred until October 2001, after newspaper reports focused attention on Fastow's involvement in LJM1 and LJM2. (The information Fastow provided orally to members of the Board in October 2001 is generally consistent with the figures discussed above.) The only references we have found to procedures for checking whether Fastow's compensation was modest, as the Board had expected, are in the minutes of the October 6, 2000 meeting of the Finance Committee. There, Fastow told the Committee (in Skilling's presence) that Skilling received "a review of [Fastow's] economic interest in [Enron] and the LJM funds," and the Committee then unanimously agreed that the Compensation Committee should review Fastow's compensation from LJM I and LJM2. Although a number of members of the Compensation Committee were present at this Finance Committee meeting, it does not appear that the Compensation Committee thereafter performed a review. Moreover, Skilling said he did not review the actual amount of Fastow's LJM l or LJM2 compensation. He said that, instead, he received a handwritten document (from Fastow)
showing only that Fastow's economic stake in Enron was substantially larger than his economic stake in LJMI and LJM2.77
Some witnesses expressed the view that direct inquiry into Fastow's compensation would have been inappropriate or intrusive, or might have compromised the independence of LJM. We do not understand this reticence, and we disagree. First, the Board apparently did require inquiry into Fastow's compensation, but it either was not done or was done ineffectively. Second, we do not believe that requiring Fastow to provide a copy of his tax return from the partnerships, or similar information, would have been inappropriate. The independence of LJM was not predicated on Fastow's independence from Enron; rather, it was predicated on the existence of a structure within LJM that created limited partner control because Fastow was technically viewed as being controlled by Enron. Thus Enron's scrutinizing Fastow's compensation was not inconsistent with the independence of LJM.
B. Oversight by Management
Management had the primary responsibility for implementing the Board's resolutions and controls. Management failed to do this in several respects. No one
77 Skilling reasoned that Fastow's comparatively larger economic stake in Enron relative to his interest in the LJM partnerships would create an incentive for Fastow to place Enron's interests ahead of those of LJMI and LJM2. This was the objective of the exercise, as Skilling saw it. While we understand this explanation, we do not believe that the reasoning is valid. Even if Fastow's economic interest in Enron were far greater than his interest in IJMI and LJM2, his potential benefits from even one transaction that favored LJM I or LJM2-in which he had a direct and substantial stake-might far outweigh any detriment to him as a holder of stock or options in Enron, on which the transaction could be expected to have minimal financial impact.
accepted primary responsibility for oversight, the controls were not executed properly, and there were apparent structural defects in the controls that no one undertook to remedy or to bring to the Board's attention. In short, no one was minding the store.
The most fundamental management control flaw was the lack of separation between LJM and Enron personnel, and the failure to recognize that the inherent conflict was persistent and unmanageable. Fastow, as CFO, knew what assets Enron's business units wanted to sell, how badly and how soon they wanted to sell them, and whether they had alternative buyers. He was in a position to exert great pressure and influence, directly or indirectly, on Enron personnel who were negotiating with LJM. We have been told of instances in which he used that pressure to try to obtain better terms for LJM, and where people reporting to him instructed business units that LJM would be the buyer of the asset they wished to sell. Pursuant to the Services Agreement between Enron and LJM, Enron employees worked for LJM while still sitting in their Enron offices, side by side with people who were acting on behalf of Enron. Simply put, there was little of the separation and independence required to enable Enron employees to negotiate effectively against ]LJM2.
In many cases, the safeguard requiring that a transaction could be negotiated on behalf of Enron only by employees who did not report to Fastow was ignored. We have identified at least 13 transactions between Enron and LJM2 in which the individuals negotiating on behalf of Enron reported directly or indirectly to Fastow.
This situation led one Fastow subordinate, then-Treasurer Jeff McMahon, to complain to Skilling in March 2000. While McMahon's and Skilling's recollections of
their conversation differ, McMahon's contemporaneous handwritten discussion points, which he says he followed in the meeting, include these notations:
Skilling has said he recalls the conversation focusing only on McMahon's compensation. Even if that is true, it still may have suggested that Fastow's conflict was placing pressure on an Enron employee. The conversation presented an issue that required remedial action: a solution by Management, a report to the Board that its controls were not working properly, or both. Skilling took no action of which we are aware, and shortly thereafter McMahon accepted a transfer within Enron that removed him from contact with LJM. Neither Skilling nor McMahon raised the issue with Lay or the Board.
Conflicts continued. Indeed, the Raptor transactions, which provided the most lucrative returns to LJM2 of any of its transactions with Enron, followed soon after McMahon's meeting with Skilling. The Raptor I transaction was designed by Ben
78 McMahon says this was a reference to his perception that Kopper, who had worked closely with Fastow, had received a very large bonus, while McMahon felt he had been penalized for his resistance with respect to I.J`M.
Glisan-McMahon's successor as Treasurer - who reported to Fastow, and by others in Fastow's Global Finance Group. Another Enron employee responsible for later Raptors was Trushar Patel. He was in the Global Finance Group and married to Anne Yaeger Patel, an Enron employee who assisted Fastow at LJM2. Both Yaeger Patel and Glisan also shared in the Southampton Place partnership windfall, during the same period the Raptor transactions were in progress.
The Board's first and most-relied-on control was review of transactions by the Chief Accounting Officer, Causey, and the Chief Risk Officer, Buy. Neither ignored his responsibility completely, but neither appears to have given the transactions anywhere near the level of scrutiny the Board understood they were giving. Neither imposed a procedure for identifying all LJM I or LJM2 transactions and for assuring that they went through the required procedures. It appears that some of the transactions, including the "buybacks" of assets previously sold to LJMI or LJM2, did not even come to Causey or Buy for review. Although Buy has said he was aware that changes were made to the Raptors during the first quarter of 2001, he also said he was not involved in reviewing those changes. He should have reviewed this transaction, like all other transactions with LJM2.
Even with respect to the transactions that he did review, Causey said he viewed his role as being primarily determining that the appropriate business unit personnel had signed off. Buy said he viewed his role as being primarily to evaluate Enron's risk.79It
79 Buy and a subordinate who assisted him on certain of the transactions have said that in cases where Enron was selling to ]LJM2 an interest in an asset that Enron had acquired, they checked to see that the sale price was consistent with the acquisition price
does not appear that Causey or Buy had the necessary time, or spent the necessary time, to provide an effective check, even though the Board was led to believe they had done so.
Skilling appears to have been almost entirely uninvolved in overseeing the LJM transactions, even though in October 2000 the Finance Committee was told by Fastow apparently in Skilling's presence-that Skilling had undertaken substantial duties.80 Fastow told the Committee that there could be no transactions with the LJM entities without Skilling's approval, and that Skilling was reviewing Fastow's compensation. Skilling described himself to us as having little or no role with respect to the individual LJM transactions, and said he had no detailed understanding of the Raptor transactions (apart from their general purpose). His signature is absent from many LJM Deal Approval Sheets, even though the Finance Committee was told that his approval was required. Skilling said he would sign off on transactions if Causey and Buy had signed off, suggesting he made no independent assessment of the transactions' fairness. This was not sufficient in light of the representations to the Board.
It does not appear that Lay had, or was intended to have, any managerial role in connection with LJM once the entities became operational. His involvement was principally on the same basis as other Directors. By the accounts of both Lay and
This appears to be the one point in the review process at which there was an appropriate examination of the substance of the transactions; in fact, the price of the assets sold by Enron to LJM2 does not appear to have been where the problems arose.
80 The minutes of the October 6, 2000 meeting of the Finance Committee report Fastow saying that "Buy, Causey and Skilling review all transactions between the Company and the LJM funds." The minutes state that Skilling, along with Buy and Causey, "attended the meeting." Skilling told us that he may not have been present for Fastow's remarks.
Skilling, the division of labor between them was that Skilling, as President and COO (later CEO) had full responsibility for domestic operational activities such as these. Skilling said he would keep Lay apprised of major issues, but does not recall discussing LJM matters with him. Likewise, the Enron employees we interviewed did not recall discussing LJM matters with Lay after the entities were created other than at Board and Board Committee meetings, except in two instances after he resumed the position of CEO in August and September of 2001 (the Watkins letter, discussed in Section VIII.C, and the termination of the Raptors, discussed in Section V.E.). Still, during the period while Lay was CEO, he bore ultimate management responsibility.
Still other controls were not properly implemented. The LJM Deal Approval Sheet process was not well-designed, and it was not consistently followed. We have been unable to locate Approval Sheets for some transactions. Other Approval Sheets do not have all the required signatures. The Approval Sheet form contained pre-printed check marks in boxes signifying compliance with a number of controls and disclosure concerns, with the intention that a signature would be added to certify the accuracy of the preprinted check-marks. Some transactions closed before the Approval Sheets were completed. The Approval Sheets did not require any documentation of efforts to find third party, unrelated buyers for Enron assets other than LJM I or LJM2, and it does not appear that such efforts were systematically pursued. Some of the questions on the Approval Sheets were framed with boilerplate conclusions ("Was this transaction done strictly on an arm's-length basis-"), and others were worded in a fashion that set unreasonably low standards or were worded in the negative ("Was Enron advised by any third party that this transaction was not fair, from a financial perspective, to Enron-"). In
practice, it appears the LJM Deal Approval Sheets were a formality that provided little control.
Apart from these failures of execution, perhaps the most basic reason the controls failed was structural. Most of the controls were based on a model in which Enron's business units were in full command of transactions and had the time and motivation to find the highest price for assets they were selling. In some cases, transactions were consistent with this model, but in many of the transactions the assumptions underlying this model did not apply. The Raptor transactions had little economic substance. In effect, they were transfers of economic risk from one Enron pocket to another, apparently to create income that would offset mark-to-market losses on merchant investments on Enron's income statement. The Chief Accounting Officer was not the most effective guardian against transactions of this sort, because the Accounting Department was at or near the root of the transactions. Other transactions were temporary transfers of assets Enron wanted off its balance sheet. It is unclear in some of the cases whether economic risk ever passed from Enron to LJM1 or LJM2. The fundamental Raw in these transactions was not that the price was too low. Instead, as a matter of economic substance, it is not clear that anything was really being bought or sold. Controls that were directed at assuring a fair price to Enron were ineffective to address this problem.
In sum, the controls that were in place were not effectively implemented by Management, and the conflict was so fundamental and pervasive that it overwhelmed the controls as the relationship progressed. The failure of any of Enron's Senior Management to oversee the process, and the failure of Skilling to address the problem of Fastow's influence over the Enron side of transactions on the one occasion when, by
McMahon's account, it did come to his attention, permitted the problem to continue unabated until late 2001.
C. The Watkins Letter
In light of considerable public attention to what has been described as a "whistleblower" letter to Lay by an Enron employee, Sherron Watkins, we set out the facts as we know them here. However, we were not asked to, and we have not, conducted an inquiry into the resulting investigation.
Shortly after Enron announced Skilling's unexpected resignation on August 14, 2001, Watkins sent a one-page anonymous letter to Lay.81 The letter stated that "Enron has been very aggressive in its accounting-most notably the Raptor transactions." The letter raised serious questions concerning the accounting treatment and economic substance of the Raptor transactions (and transactions between Enron and Condor Trust, a subsidiary of Whitewing Associates), identifying several of the matters discussed in this Report. It concluded that "I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals." Lay told us that he viewed the letter as thoughtfully written and alarming.
81 Watkins, through her counsel, declined to be interviewed by us. From other sources, we understand that she is an accountant who spent eight years at Andersen, both in Houston and New York. She joined Enron in October 1993, working for Fastow in the corporate finance area. Over the next eight years, she worked in several different positions, including jobs in Enron's materials and metals operations, Enron International, and broadband. She left Enron as part of a downsizing in the spring of 2001, but returned in June 2001 to work for Fastow on a project of listing and gathering information about assets that Enron may want to consider selling.
Lay gave a copy of the letter to James V. Derrick, Jr., Enron's General Counsel. Lay and Derrick agreed that Enron should retain an outside law firm to conduct an investigation. Derrick told us he believed that Vinson & Elkins ("V&E') was the logical choice because, among other things, it was familiar with Enron and LJM matters. Both Lay and Derrick believed that V&E would be able to conduct an investigation more quickly than another firm, and would be able to follow the road map Watkins had provided. Derrick says that he and Lay both recognized there was a downside to retaining V&E because it had been involved in the Raptor and other LJM transactions. (Watkins subsequently made this point to Lay during the meeting described below and in a supplemental letter she gave to him.) But they concluded that the investigation should be a preliminary one, designed to determine whether there were new facts indicating that a full investigation-involving independent lawyers and accountants-should be performed.
Derrick contacted V&E to determine whether it could, under the legal ethics rules, handle the investigation. He says that V&E considered the issue, and told him that it could take on the matter. Two V&E partners, including the Enron relationship partner and a litigation partner who had not done any prior work for Enron, were assigned to handle the investigation. Derrick and V&E agreed that V&E's review would not include questioning the accounting treatment and advice from Andersen, or a detailed review of individual LJM transactions. Instead, V&E would conduct a "preliminary investigation," which was defined as determining whether the facts raised by Watkins warranted further independent legal or accounting review.
Watkins subsequently identified herself as the author of the letter. On August 22, one week after she sent her letter, she met with Lay in his office for approximately one hour. She brought with her an expanded version of the letter and some supporting documents. Lay recalls that her major focus was Raptor, and she explained her concerns about the transaction to him. Lay believed that she was serious about her views and did not have any ulterior motives. He told her that Enron would investigate the issues she raised.82
V&E began its investigation on August 23 or 24. Over the next two weeks, V&E reviewed documents and conducted interviews. V&E obtained the documents primarily from the General Counsel of Enron Global Finance. We were told that V&E, not Enron, selected the documents that were reviewed. V&E interviewed eight Enron officers, six of whom were at the Executive Vice President level or higher, and two Andersen partners. V&E also had informal discussions with lawyers in the firm who had worked on some of the LJM transactions, as well as in-house counsel at Enron. No former Enron officers or employees were interviewed. We were told that V&E selected the interviewees.
After completing this initial review, on September 10, V&E interviewed Watkins. In addition, V&E provided copies of Watkins' letters (both tile original one-page letter and the supplemental letter that she gave to Lay at the meeting) to Andersen, and had a follow-up meeting with the Andersen partners to discuss their reactions. V&E also conducted follow-up interviews with Fastow and Causey.
82 Andersen documents recently released by a Congressional committee indicate that, on August 20, Watkins contacted a friend in Andersen's Houston office and orally communicated her concerns.
On September 21, the V&E partners met with Lay and Derrick and made an oral presentation of their findings. That presentation closely tracked the substance of what V&E later reported in its October 15, 2001 letter to Derrick. At Lay's and Derrick's request, the V&E lawyers also briefed Robert Jaedicke, the Chairman of the Audit and Compliance Committee, on their findings. The lawyers made a similar presentation to the full Audit and Compliance Committee in early October 2001.
V&E reported in writing on its investigation in a letter to Derrick dated October 15, 2001. The letter described the scope of the undertaking and identified the documents reviewed and the witnesses interviewed. It then identified four primary areas of concern raised by Watkins: (1) the "apparent" conflict of interest due to Fastow's role in LJM; (2) the accounting treatment for the Raptor transactions; (3) the adequacy of the public disclosures of the transactions; and (4) the potential impact on Enron's financial statements. On these issues, V&E observed that Enron's procedures for monitoring LJM transactions "were generally adhered to," and the transactions "were uniformly approved by legal, technical and commercial professionals as well as the Chief Accounting and Risk Officers." V&E also noted the workplace "awkwardness" of having Enron employees working for LJM sitting next to Enron employees.
On the conflict issues, V&E described McMahon's concerns and his discussions with Fastow and Skilling (described above), but noted that McMahon was unable to identify a specific transaction where Enron suffered economic harm. V&E concluded that "none of the individuals interviewed could identify any transaction between Enron and LJM that was not reasonable from Enron's standpoint or that was contrary to Enron's best interests." On the accounting issues, V&E said that both Enron and Andersen
acknowledge "that the accounting treatment on the Condor/Whitewing and Raptor transactions is creative and aggressive, but no one has reason to believe that it is inappropriate from a technical standpoint." V&E concluded that the facts revealed in its preliminary investigation did not warrant a "further widespread investigation by independent counsel or auditors," although they did note that the "bad cosmetics" of the Raptor related-party transactions, coupled with the poor performance of the assets placed in the Raptor vehicles, created "a serious risk of adverse publicity and litigation."
V&E provided a copy of its report to Andersen. V&E also met with Watkins to describe the investigation and go over the report. The lawyers asked Watkins whether she had any additional factual information to pass along, and were told that she did not.
With the benefit of hindsight, and the information set out in this Report, Watkins was right about several of the important concerns she raised. On certain points, she was right about the problem, but had the underlying facts wrong. In other areas, particularly her views about the public perception of the transactions, her predictions were strikingly accurate. Overall, her letter provided a road map to a number of the troubling issues presented by the Raptors.
The result of the V&E review was largely predetermined by the scope and nature of the investigation and the process employed. We identified the most serious problems in the Raptor transactions only after a detailed examination of the relevant transactions and, most importantly, discussions with our accounting advisors-both steps that Enron determined (and V&E accepted) would not be part of V&E's investigation. With the exception of Watkins, V&E spoke only with very senior people at Enron and Andersen.
Those people, with few exceptions, bad substantial professional and personal stakes in the matters under review. The scope and process of the investigation appear to have been structured with less skepticism than was needed to see through these particularly complex transactions.83
83 We note that by the time of Watkins' letter - August 2001 - all of the Raptor transactions were complete with the exception of their termination, which occurred in September 2001.