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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 19:39 GMT 20:39 UK
New Enron sleaze allegations
Enron logo
A senior politician in charge of the US army has been accused of lying on oath to the Senate to cover up corporate sleaze allegations.

Thomas White, Secretary of the Army and former vice-chairman of Enron Energy Services, always denied his division played any part in the rigging of California's electricity market which gained tens of millions of dollars profit for the firm.

Under oath, he declared his side of Enron was selling electricity to businesses and universities - not dealing in it wholesale among the traders.


It's very, very serious for a person who's testified unto oath

Public Citizen president, Joan Claybrook
But, after combing through Enron memos, consumer interest group Public Citizen told BBC Radio 4's File On 4 programme that it has sent documents to Senate that, it claims, prove Mr White's defence is untrue.

Public Citizen president, Joan Claybrook said: "We believe that Thomas White misled the senate committee because he tried to portray himself as an individual who was not involved in energy trading. He kept saying he just dealt with the retail side.

"Smokescreen"

Thomas White
Mr White was on Enron's payroll
"We now feel that he should resign because we think he lied and we want the committee to investigate this.

"I think he will be gone by the end of the year. I don't think he can survive the rebuttal we have sent to the committee.

"It's very, very serious for a person who's testified unto oath."

Ms Claybrook also believes the Bush administration is using the whole issue of Iraq as a smokescreen to cover corporate sleaze.

"The corporate crime wave was dominating the newspapers and on television and they had to change the subject.

"The only option was war. It has sucked all the air out of the media and so it has trumped all these other issues."

Still more damaging for the White House are the current allegations levelled against the vice-president Dick Cheney.

The 'creative' accountancy of Arthur Andersen in Dick Cheney's firm Halliburton is now under official investigation.

Formal investigation

The President of campaign group Judicial Watch, Thomas Fitton, has launched a case arguing that Mr Cheney , as Chief Executive of Halliburton, conspired with the auditors to fiddle the books and keep the shares high. He then sold his shares before the price dropped.

Dick Cheney
Mr Cheney was the chief executive of Halliburton
Speaking to File On 4, Mr Fitton said: "Mr Cheney benefited personally from the monies and these are the monies we think in the course of the litigation are going to be subject to being sent back to our clients and other shareholders."

While Halliburton is under formal investigation, Mr Cheney has refused to discuss his management of the company even with the Congress, and no-one in his office was available for interview about it for File On 4.

A similar sequence of events has brought into question the previous career of Larry Thompson, the US Deputy Attorney General, and the man who now heads the corporate crime taskforce set up by President Bush.

Mr Thompson was a director of Providian - a company which grew rich by offering credit cards to people usually thought a bad risk, often people with low incomes and little education.

Legal action

Mr Thompson's office said the first he knew of any suspicion of malpractice in the company was when the flood of complaints from Providian customers prompted San Francisco's District attorney to investigate in 1999.

The case was taken to court by the city's Managing Attorney for Consumer protection, June Cravett., who found that Providian's credit card tactics systematically squeezed customers.

Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch has now begun legal action against Mr Thompson over the sale of his shares in Providian for more than $4million.

He said the appointment of Mr Thompson to head of the task force against corporate sleaze was one of the worst decisions the president has made with respect to corporate scandal.

He said: "There is no confidence in the administration of justice here because of Mr Thompson's involvement in some of the same allegations that he is supposed to be prosecuting. "

File on 4 made repeated requests for an interview but got no response from Mr Thompson's office.

You can listen to this edition of File on Four on Tuesday, 8 October at 2000BST on Radio 4.


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