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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 10:37 GMT
Timeline: Enron's rise and fall
BBC News Online chronicles the key moments of the spectacular rise and fall of US energy giant Enron.

July 1985
Houston Natural Gas merges with InterNorth, a natural gas company based in Omaha, Nebraska, to form the modern-day Enron. The firm is an interstate and intrastate natural gas pipeline company with 37,000 miles of pipe.

Enron begins trading natural gas commodities. It soon becomes the largest natural gas merchant in North America and the United Kingdom.

Our corporate culture... is driven by smart employees who continually come up with new ways to grow our business

Kenneth Lay, 6 February 2001, after Enron wins Fortune's 'Most innovative company' award

November 1999
Launch of Enron Online, "an internet-based global transaction system which allows Enron's customers to view real-time prices from Enron's traders and transact instantly online". Within two years the platform is averaging 6,000 transactions a day worth about $2.5bn.

December 2000
Chief executive Kenneth Lay steps down, but stays on as chairman. Enron's president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Skilling to take over in February.

28 December 2000
Shares hit a record high of $84.87 - making Enron the country's seventh most valuable company.

The company remains largely impenetrable to outsiders. How exactly does Enron make its money? Details are hard to come by... Analysts don't seem to have a clue

Fortune reporter, Bethany McLean, 5 March 2001

14 August 2001
Jeffrey Skilling resigns after just six months; Mr Lay returns to day-to-day management of the company.

15 August 2001
Enron employee Sherron Watkins sends letter to Kenneth Lay warning of accounting irregularities that could pose a threat to the company.

20 August 2001
Mr Lay exercises Enron share options worth $519,000.

October 2001
Accounting firm Andersen begins destroying documents relating to the Enron audits.

The destruction continues until November when the company receives a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

We have the strongest and deepest talent we have ever had in the organisation, our business is extremely strong, and our growth prospects have never been better

Kenneth Lay, 14 August 2001

15 October 2001
Mr Lay calls Commerce Secretary Don Evans, but officials say the call dealt with a troubled Enron energy project in India and did not cover Enron's financial troubles.

21 August 2001
Mr Lay exercises Enron share options worth just under $1.48m.

16 October 2001
Enron reports losses of $638m run up between July and September and announces a $1.2 billion reduction in shareholder equity.

The reduction in company value relates to partnerships set up and run by chief financial officer Andrew Fastow.

My personal belief is that Enron stock is an incredible bargain at current prices and we will look back a couple of years from now and see the great opportunity that we currently have

Kenneth Lay, reported comments on Enron's intranet chat site, 26 September 2001

22 October 2001
Securities and Exchange Commission opens inquiry into a possible conflict of interest related to the Enron's dealings with the partnerships set up by Mr Fastow.

23 October 2001
In a conference call Mr Lay tries to reassure investors and defends Mr Fastow's work.

24 October 2001
Enron sacks Mr Fastow.

28 October 2001
Enron chief executive Kenneth Lay calls Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to inform him of the financial problems facing the company. A second conversation takes place on 8 November.

Mr O'Neill says he declined to help the company, as he could not detect any ripple effects in financial markets from Enron's troubles.

We have decided to take these [$1bn] charges to clear away issues that have clouded the performance and earnings potential of our core energy businesses

Kenneth Lay, 16 October 2001

29 October 2001
Mr Lay calls Commerce Secretary Don Evans again, asking him whether he could do anything to influence a decision by Moody's Investors Service to downgrade Enron's credit rating.

Mr Evans does not intervene, saying it would not be appropriate to influence a decision by a private credit rating agency

31 October 2001
The SEC inquiry is upgraded to a formal investigation.

8 November 2001
Enron revises its financial statements for the past five years. Instead of the massive profits claimed previously, the firm now says it actually lost $586m.

I cannot imagine Enron's attorneys or accountants would allow it to do something illegal. These challenges do not last for a solid company, and we think Enron is one

Merrill Lynch analyst Donato Eassey, 22 October 2001

9 November 2001
Rival energy trader Dynegy announces it will take over the much larger Enron for more than $8bn in shares.

19 November 2001
Enron says its third-quarter losses are higher than originally stated, and warns it needs to find financing for a $690m debt due by the end of the month.

20 November 2001
Enron's share price drops to its lowest level in 10 years - shedding nearly 23% in one day - as investors worry whether the company can survive its financial troubles.

21 November 2001
Enron secures an extension of its $690m debt payment.

26 November 2001
Enron shares fall a further 15% to $4.01.

28 November 2001
Dynegy pulls out of the takeover deal after Enron's credit rating is downgraded to junk bond status.

Enron shares plunge below $1 - the stock experiences the heaviest single-day trading volume in history for firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq

2 December 2001
Enron files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sues Dynegy for wrongful termination of the merger.

As the collapse unfolds the company bars its employees from selling the company shares locked into their retirement plans.

9 January 2002
The US Justice Department confirms it has begun a criminal investigation of Enron.

10 January 2002
The White House confirms that Enron boss Kenneth Lay lobbied for government support shortly before the company collapsed.

The company's auditor Andersen acknowledges that its employees destroyed some Enron documents.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who received campaign funds from the company for his 2000 Senate race, excludes himself from the investigation - as does the 100-strong team of federal investigators in Houston, where Enron is based.

12 January 2002
The Justice Department names Joshua Hochberg, head of its fraud division, as acting attorney to oversee the criminal investigation into Enron.

15 January 2002
Andersen fires executive David Duncan who was in charge of auditing Enron and places three other employees on administrative leave.

16 January
Enron shares delisted on New York stock market.

23 January
Enron chairman and chief executive Kenneth Lay resigns.

24 January
Congressional hearings into the Enron affair begin

25 January
Clifford Baxter, Enron's former vice chairman and chief strategy officer, commits suicide. He had left the firm abruptly in May 2001, after reportedly clashing with Jeff Skilling over the firm's accounting practices.

27 January
US Vice President Dick Cheney says he is willing to go to court, in order to keep secret details of meetings with Enron officials. He had been asked to disclose documents, amid suspicion that Enron had been able to influence government energy policy.

28 January
Some 400 current and former staff launch a lawsuit against Mr Lay, Mr Skilling, Andersen and others, claiming damages for the money they lost in Enron's employee share ownership scheme.

29 January
Stephen Cooper, from the US restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper, is named as interim chief executive. He is joined by new chief operating and financial officers.

4 February

At the start of a jam-packed week for Congressional hearings, the firm's former chief exectuive and chairman Kenneth Lay refuses to testify because of what his lawyer calls a "prosecutorial climate".

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