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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 01:02 GMT
Enron victims still waiting for justice

It's exactly a year since Enron called in the administrators - the darkest hour for many of the firm's employees, shareholders and creditors.

It was the moment that thousands of feared job cuts became inevitable, the moment international creditors were forced to face the full scale of their losses and the moment when many pension schemes - heavily invested in Enron shares - became worthless.

But 2 December 2002 will be as equally bleak as the previous year for many victims who are still waiting to see justice and to win back some of their lost savings.

Little progress appears to have been made in bringing those responsible for the collapse to justice.

Lengthy legal battles

The list of lawsuits against former Enron executives and other firms associated with the firm has been growing steadily as the months have passed.

But experts say that prosecutors have not even got half way down the road to justice yet.

The road to ruin
16 Oct 2001:
$1bn hole emerges
22 Oct 2001:
SEC inquiry
8 Nov 2001:
Profits restated
2 Dec 2001:
Bankruptcy filing
9 Jan 2002:
Criminal inquiry
21 Aug 2002:
Worker's first guilty plea
2 Oct 2002:
Finance chief charged
6 Nov 2002:
Finance chief pleads not guilty
Most civil lawsuits will not go ahead until after the federal prosecutors have finished their work.

And it has taken almost a year of scouring documents and following a complex money trail for the government to file charges against the former chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow.

Mr Fastow, meanwhile, has chosen to plead not guilty, setting the scene for a long and bitter court battle.

And two major class-action lawsuits - one by shareholders and one by former employees - are not expected to go to trial until late 2003.

For sale

It is also likely to take another year to liquidate the wreckage of Enron itself.

This time last year, Stephen Cooper, the restructuring expert wheeled in to salvage Enron, was determined to recreate the firm as a gas transportation business.

He's since given up and bowed to the inevitable - the firm's name is too tarnished to survive a reinvention.

Instead, Mr Cooper has elected to sell off Enron's remaining assets piece by piece, aiming to wrap up the ghastly business by the end of next year.

Ongoing fall-out

The Enron name became an integral part of American culture faster than most pop stars would even dream of.

Within a few months, it changed from a relatively obscure company trading in little-understood financial futures to one of the best known companies in the US.

The cause of its infamy was an almost unbelievably crooked accounting system that collapsed as quickly as a pack of cards once exposed.

One year later, the Enron affair is finally beginning to fade from the public eye, and the sense of shock is beginning to wear off.

But the fall-out is still likely to drag on for years to come.

Earlier this year, the former chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling, said he expected to spend the next five to 10 years of his life fighting lawsuits.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Gregory
"The scale of the collapse was so enormous"
The BBC's Vanessa Heaney
"Enron's fall from grace shocked the financial world"
The BBC's Dominic di Natalie
"Ambitious businessmen lost their grip on reality"

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16 Oct 02 | Business
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