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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 23:25 GMT
Key Enron witness 'to testify'
Protesters hold up effigy of Kenneth Lay outside World Economic Forum
Lay is reviled by the anti-globalisation movement
Hopes of pinpointing the reasons behind the collapse of Enron have risen with indications that the company's former boss, Kenneth Lay, may testify to Congress.

Lawyers for Mr Lay, Enron's former chief executive and chairman, have hinted that he will not invoke his right to remain silence at a hearing next week, Senator Bryon Dorgan said.

"There's some indication that we will not only have Mr Lay present, but we may also... hear Mr Lay testify," Mr Dorgan said.

Mr Lay, who was on Enron's board from 1996 until last month, is believed to hold vital knowledge of the earnings statements, and complex financial arrangements, which have been widely blamed for bringing the firm to bankruptcy.

But Mr Dorgan warned that Mr Lay could yet assert his rights not to testify.

"He certainly has that opportunity. My hope is that he will not do that," Mr Dorgan said.

But Mr Lay's spokeswoman, Kelly Kimberly, was less upbeat.

"Ken Lay is still weighing his options for how he will handle the hearing on Tuesday," she said.


Mr Lay earlier this week declined at the last minute to be cross-examined by the Senate Commerce Committee, one of a number of panels probing Enron's collapse.

His lawyers said that while Mr Lay had been "looking forward to a meaningful, reasoned question and answer session", comments from committee members suggested they had already made up their minds about his role in the Enron crisis.

Many other former Enron bosses have declined to testify, including former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow, who earned $30m for running the firm's controversial partnerships.

But former chief executive Jeff Skilling on Thursday declared he had been unaware of the partnerships, and ignorant of the firm's "imminent financial peril" when he quit the firm in August.

Mr Skilling blamed Enron's collapse on a rapid loss of market confidence, rather than failures within the firm itself.

"At the time of Enron's collapse the company was solvent... and highly profitable," he said.

Sell-off completed

Also on Friday, investment bank UBS Warburg said it had completed its acquisition of Enron's North American natural gas and power trading business.

The business, which will be renamed UBS Warburg Energy, will begin trading later this month.

The bank added that it will take on none of Enron's liabilities or trading positions.

See also:

07 Feb 02 | Business
Former Enron boss declares innocence
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