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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 10:27 GMT
Enron's ex-staff fight for cash
Jesse Jackson listens to the protests of ex-Enron employees
Jesse Jackson is supporting ex-Enron employees
A group of former Enron employees have appealed to a bankruptcy court to approve severance pay totalling $100m (70m).

The activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and the AFL-CIO labour union are backing the motion.


We want the creditors to be merciful and sensitive to these workers' plight

Rev Jesse Jackson
The workers cited "desperate human need and fundamental fairness", on behalf of 4,500 employees who were made redundant immediately after Enron filed for bankruptcy on 2 December.

The energy giant was once seen as a model employee.

But thousands of staff lost their jobs, pensions and savings when the firm collapsed and its stock was struck off the New York Stock Exchange.

Profitable for some

The anger of ex-employees has been intensified by allegations that some senior executives cashed in their share options before the collapse and netted millions of dollars.

"While a few executives got midnight wire transfers of more than a million dollars, thousands of us cannot afford healthcare and face eviction from our apartments," said Debra Johnson, a former employee.


Everyone is being treated unfairly... bankruptcy is unfair

Rhett Campbell
Houston lawyer
The motion calls for the employee severance cap to be doubled to $30,000.

The new appeal comes hot on the heels of Mr Jackson winning a commitment from Enron's new chief, Stephen Cooper, to pay about 300 laid-off staff $4,500 each.

"All these workers deserve their severance," said Mr Jackson.

"They are not asking for a bailout or a handout... we want the creditors to be merciful and sensitive to these workers' plight."

Life's not fair

But lawyers were sceptical that Enron's former staff will get their demands.

"Enron ought to pay everyone in full, but they can't," said Houston lawyer Rhett Campbell.

"It's probably right that they are being treated unfairly, but everyone is being treated unfairly. Bankruptcy is unfair."

Enron went down with $40bn of debt, and ex-employees will have to fight with creditors such as large banks, trading partners and bondholders to salvage cash.

The motion comes at the end of two intense weeks of congressional committees designed to work out what went wrong at Enron.

But while law makers are determined to apportion blame and ensure the Enron scandal is not repeated at other companies, it is powerless to bring back the lost money.


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18 Jan 02 | Business
10 Jan 02 | Business
15 Feb 02 | Business
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