Kenneth Lay, a Pentagon official during the Vietnam War, and close friend of the Bush family, played a leading role in the corruption scandal that led to the downfall of Enron Corporation in 2002. He was the CEO and chairman of Enron from 1985 until his resignation on January 23, 2002, and in 2004 was charged, in a 65-page indictment, with 11 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false and misleading statements.
Lay was one of America's highest-paid CEOs, earning a $42.4 million compensation package in 1999. Lay dumped large amounts of his Enron stock in September and October 2001 as its price fell, while encouraging employees to buy more stock, telling them the company would rebound. Lay liquidated more than $300 million in Enron stock from 1998 to 2001, mostly in stock options. As the scandal unfolded, Lay insisted he wanted to "tell his story," but later reneged on a promise to testify to Congress, taking the Fifth instead. Condé Nast Portfolio ranked Lay as the 3rd worst American CEO of all time.
Lay worked in the early 1970s as a federal energy regulator. He then became undersecretary for the Department of the Interior before he returned to the business world as an executive at Florida Gas Transmission.
Omaha-based Internorth bought his company Houston Natural Gas and changed the name to Enron in 1985. The much larger, better capitalized and more diversified Internorth was then used as an asset to propel his efforts at Enron. He also was a member of the board of directors of Eli Lilly and Company and was also a director of Texas Commerce Bank which later was taken over by JPMorgan Chase.
Ken Lay was a close friend of the Bush family. He first established a relationship with Vice President George H. W. Bush, making large campaign contributions to him and heading several critical committees in the Republican Party.
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