Senate committee expands inquiry into Enron’s quick demise

Jan. 3 — Senate Democratic leaders Wednesday said they would subpoena documents from the directors and top executives of Enron Corp. in an investigation of why the company collapsed so quickly.

Also, Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, (D-Conn.) said his committee will hold hearings Jan. 24 on whether government agencies could have done more to protect shareholders and businesses hurt by Enron’s dramatic stock price decline. Enron late last year filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the largest in American history

Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Carl Levin, (D-Mich.) will issue the subpoenas and hold separate hearings later in the year.

Levin said, “The collapse of Enron has enormous consequences for Enron stockholders and employees, the overall investing community, and the US economy as a whole. Thorough investigations are needed — and from different perspectives — to determine whether current law was violated and where current law is inadequate to protect the public interest. Our role in Congress is to understand what went wrong and why so we can make sure this does not happen again.”

Several committee leaders in both the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate are interested in the Enron bankruptcy; several hearings have been held and more are expected.

Capitol Hill is also putting more pressure on the administrative branch. The Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an investigation and two senators have urged the Federal Trade Commission to determine if the energy marketer tried to deceive its customers. The FTC does not have the kind of authority to investigate illegal actions that the SEC has.

Also, the White House is considering establishing an interagency task force that could respond to congressional questions on the role of government in regulating Enron’s controversial off-balance-sheet partnerships, US officials say. Agencies represented in the interagency effort might include SEC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Commodities Futures and Exchange Commission, and FTC

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