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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 18:08 GMT
Enron sued by staff
Jesse Jackson attends a meeting on Enron workers' rights
The workers' plight has attracted political attention
Hundreds of current and former employees of failed energy firm Enron have filed a joint court case, seeking damages for losses they suffered by investing in the company's share plan.

The complaint, which is on behalf of more than 400 staff, names ex-chief executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, ex-finance director Andrew Fastow, auditors Andersen and trustee firm Northern Trust as defendants.

The allegation is that Enron encouraged its employees to invest their savings in its shares, despite the knowledge of senior executives about the firm's real plight.

"Enron executives were profiting from an elaborate shell game, using the hard-earned retirement savings of their loyal employees," said Randy McClanahan, one of the lawyers for the employees.

The case is only one of what is expected to be a series of lawsuits against the firm and its former management and auditors, launched on behalf of shareholders and staff.

Lawyers are currently sifting through documentary evidence, including shredded papers, in order to establish enough evidence to form the basis of court actions.

Savings lost

Many Enron workers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the company's collapse.

Enron's headquarters in Houston
Many staff lost thousands in Enron shares
Under the so-called 401(k) pension plans, some had a substantial portion of their savings tied up in Enron stock, which has become effectively worthless.

Unless the firm is able to agree a restructuring deal, in order to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they will be unable to find buyers for their shares.

The plight of Enron ex-workers has attracted political attention, including a Houston visit from campaigner Jesse Jackson.

Wife's woes

Meanwhile, the family of Mr Lay, who resigned as Enron chief executive last week, has turned to the media to publicise their plight.

In an interview with NBC television, Linda Lay, Mr Lay's wife, said her family had lost its fortune.

"Other than the home we live in, everything else is for sale," she said.

"We are fighting for liquidity. We don't want to go bankrupt."

She also defended her husband as a decent, moral person, who had done nothing wrong.

According to one lawsuit, Mr Lay received $101m from the sale of Enron shares between October 1998 and November 2001.

Mrs Lay argued that her husband had been misunderstood and was the victim of "mass hysteria."


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28 Jan 02 | Business
28 Jan 02 | Politics
14 Jan 02 | Business
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