The Whistleblower #14
Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights Corporateering
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The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower #14 - Mar 28, 2002

Act your age, not your share price. The Enron Corporation has not been one to show much respect for the public process, but it looks like someone in the company's Portland office threw a tantrum over having to comply with a subpoena in a case involving market manipulation in California. The California Attorney General's office says that, along with boxes of internal documents, Enron gave investigators "evidence" boxes containing garbage: "empty pizza boxes, crumpled tissue, used coffee cups, bread crumbs and plastic bowls with crusted chili remnants… mail-order catalogs, personal letters, and lots of useless paper," according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Enron says the trash was inadvertently thrown in with papers destined for recycling, but allowing trash to be included among the materials provided to the AG sure looks like a childish gesture of defiance. One news report indicated that Enron is retaining many more boxes of documents, claiming that the company hasn't sufficiently reviewed them yet. This suggests that the boxes provided to the AG were duly reviewed, and were found to have the proper amount of trash.

No Jeffrey Wigand. Artisan Entertainment has bought the rights to Enron executive Sherron Watkins' story, according to Reuters, and the studio has brought on Lowell Bergman as a consultant. Bergman is known for publicizing the story of tobacco whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand ("The Insider"), a fact that will inevitably prompt comparisons between Wigand and Watkins. But the two insiders' respective stories are markedly different. Wigand sacrificed his career in order to expose inside information that was vital to the public interest; Watkins simply complained to her boss, Ken Lay, and then did nothing to alert the public to the misdeeds going on at her company. Only after the company was kaput and it had become fashionable to criticize Enron, did Watkins talk. If Artisan tries to portray Watkins as a heroic whistleblower of the Wigand variety, it will be a tall tale indeed.

Heads PG&E wins, tails consumers lose. The judge in PG&E's bankruptcy case has signaled that he may let the utility's creditors vote in June on whether they prefer the reorganization plan put forward by PG&E or a competing one submitted by the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E's plan calls for the utility's unregulated parent company to buy up the utility's assets and thus escape from state regulatory oversight. One technicality: that would be illegal under California law, which bans the sale or transfer of the utility's assets. The PUC's plan, on the other hand, is a bailout of the utility that calls for it to use ratepayer over-collection to pay off the company's creditors. Ratepayer advocates and Cal. Assemblyman Fred Keeley have called on the PUC to reduce PG&E rates, but the PUC has maintained the high rates in order to cover the proposed bailout. The PUC is currently engaged in closed-door negotiations with PG&E, ostensibly to hammer out differences; the last time the Commission locked itself in a room with a utility, the result was the $3-5 billion Edison bailout, which is being challenged in federal court. Not surprisingly, the largest stakeholder group has been disfranchised: the ratepayers, who will have to fund PG&E's reorganization under either plan.

Correction: The US Senate Renewable Portfolio Standard proposal referred to in WB #13 was authored by Senator James Jeffords (I-VT), not Senator Leahy (D-VT) as the WB noted. Senator Leahy did, however, support the proposal.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization. For over a decade FTCR and its advocates have exposed and challenged injustices that betray the public trust. The Whistleblower newsletter addresses core issues of the corporate and governmental crises of today and blows the whistle on the brewing fiascos of tomorrow. FTCR does not take a position on candidates for any elected office. For more information about FTCR's work, to DONATE, to join the fight, or to comment, visit our web site at 310-392-0522 xt.309. © 2002 FTCR

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