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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Prosecutor: Skilling lied about move

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post

HOUSTON Government prosecutor Sean Berkowitz abruptly wrapped up his cross-examination of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling yesterday, saying Skilling misrepresented his reasons for leaving the troubled energy giant in August 2001.

Berkowitz listed on a courtroom screen 11 reasons Skilling had cited in his testimony for leaving Enron, chief among them to spend time with his family.

Berkowitz then pulled a surprise: Shortly after he left Enron, Skilling had a conversation with an old friend in which Skilling said he was considering taking the job as chief executive at Lucent Technologies, the prosecutor said.

The government alleges that Skilling charged with 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading for his role in the collapse of Enron in December 2001 left the company because he knew it was about to collapse, not because he wanted to take some time off from the high-pressure world of being a corporate executive, as Skilling has testified. The Lucent revelation is meant to underscore that assertion.

Skilling denied that he told friend Dick Foster that he was interested in taking the Lucent job, only that it had been brought up.

Berkowitz asserted that Foster became angry with Skilling and said, "Jeff, I thought this (leaving Enron) was about your family." Foster then called Enron chief executive Kenneth Lay and an Enron board member to tell them the Lucent news and they were "incredulous," Berkowitz said.

Skilling said he did not know about the calls but Foster's blowup over drinks "is part of the reason why Mr. Foster and I are no longer close."

The line of questioning was meant to counter Skilling's asserting that Enron was in sound condition when he left.