SAN FRANCISCO, April 8, 2002 — The University of California, the lead plaintiff in the Enron shareholders lawsuit, has filed a consolidated complaint in U.S. District Court, adding nine financial institutions, two law firms and other new individuals to a list of defendants.
The university said in the complaint that the Enron fraud perpetrated by the energy giant and its auditors succeeded because of the active complicity of several prominent banks and law firms.
The university filed the complaint Monday in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Texas in Houston, adding more defendants to a list that already included 29 current and former Enron executives and the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen LLP.
The 485-page amended accuses J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse First Boston, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bank America, Barclays Bank, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers as key players in a series of allegedly fraudulent transactions that ultimately cost shareholders more than $25 billion. At the same time, a number of top bank executives profited personally from the schemes, according to the complaint.
Two law firms were also added to the list of Enron defendants because of their significant and essential involvement in the fraud — Enron’s Houston- based corporate counsel Vinson & Elkins, as well as Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, which Enron used to represent a number of special purpose entities.
“These prestigious banks and law firms used their skills and their professional reputation to help Enron executives shore up the company’s stock price and create a false appearance of financial strength and profitability which fooled the public into investing billions of dollars,” said James E. Holst, the university’s general counsel. “In return, these firms received multi-million-dollar fees, and some of their top executives exploited the situation to cash in personally.”
The amended complaint also documents a total of almost $1.2 billion in insider trading by 28 Enron directors and officers, approximately $171 million more than previously disclosed. Two Enron insiders, Kenneth Lay and Robert Belfer, together sold $144 million more than has been reported.
The complaint alleged that many of the financial institutions helped to set up clandestinely controlled Enron partnerships, used offshore companies to disguise loans, and facilitated the sale of overvalued Enron assets.
For their part, the law firms allegedly issued false legal opinions, helped structure non-arm’s-length transactions, and helped prepare false submissions to the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The complaint said that while bank executives were helping conceal the true state of Enron’s precarious financial condition, securities analysts at the same banks were making false, rosy assessments of Enron to entice investors.
As underwriters in the sales of Enron securities, the banks also misled the public by approving incomplete or incorrect company statements, the university said. J.P. Morgan Chase, for instance, helped Enron raise $2 billion in publicly traded securities that are now almost worthless.
The losses of the plaintiffs in the shareholders class action, who purchased Enron equity and debt securities between October 19, 1998 and November 29, 2001, are estimated at more than $25 billion.
The amended complaint also extends the responsibility of Enron’s auditing firm, Arthur Andersen, to cover the role of 24 Andersen executives and several of the firm’s international entities, including Andersen Worldwide, SC, and affiliates in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, India, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom.
“The defendants’ sophisticated manipulations allowed them to enrich themselves at the expense of millions of Americans who lost billions of their hard-earned dollars invested in Enron for their retirements,” said Holst. “That’s not fair. Our lawsuit seeks to return those funds to their rightful owners and to retirees and working families across the country.”
A copy of the complaint and background materials will be available online at https://ucop.edu/news/enron.