Ding Dong... oops

Back in May, in this space, I reported that former Enron chief Kenneth Lay had been found guilty of "conspiring to commit one of the biggest frauds in US corporate history," and would be sentenced to up to 164 years in jail. I didn't mince a lot of words, but I didn't waste a lot of emotion, either. Like many people, Lay's actions offended me in just about every way a person can be offended. And I didn't think he was a very nice man.

For some inexplicable reason, I called that little piece "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," maybe because the whole Enron scandal took on kind of Oz-ish proportions after a while. Or maybe just because I was in that kind of mood. Whatever the case, it sentencing just seemed like such a relief. The whole thing just dragged on and on and on and what if he'd been found innocent? I mean, the world would have just ceased making sense.

But he wasn't: him and Jeff Skilling were found guilty and would have been sentenced on September 11. Only now, according to every news agency in the world, (but we'll take it from The Guardian) the witch really is dead:

The former Enron chairman whose name became a byword for boardroom deceit and corruption, Ken Lay, died in an exclusive ski resort yesterday while awaiting sentence for his involvement in America's biggest ever corporate fraud.

Everyone, that is, but Wikipedia, who apparently had a pretty rough day. According to CNN International, the Kenneth Lay entry at Wikipedia, an online user-created encyclopedia, kept changing throughout the day.

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, added news of Lay's death to his online biography shortly after news outlets began reporting it at around 10 a.m. ET (2.p.m GMT).

At 10:06 a.m. Wikipedia's entry for Lay said he died "of an apparent suicide."

At 10:08 it said he died at his Aspen home "of an apparent heart attack or suicide."

Within the same minute, it said the cause of death was "yet to be determined."

At 10:09 a.m. it said "no further details have been officially released" about the death.

Two minutes later, it said: "The guilt of ruining so many lives finally (sic) led him to his suicide."

There's more, but you get the idea. And you can go see the rest of it for yourself.

It's ultradramatic of me but, personally, I think maybe the weight of anger and hatred directed at him just finally caused him to expire. Isn't that a nice thought? Pleasing somehow. Like maybe there is cosmic justice out there, after all. All the lives he helped ruin, the families he sent to dire straits (and I don't actually mean Mark Knopfler and company) and here he was, holed up in a posh resort in Colorado, probably eating foies gras and chuckling into his socks.

Medical science has their own explanation. According to Reuters (who, I guess, deals in fact more than I really need to):

The stress of seeing the company he founded fall apart, the strain of a trial and shame of conviction could have set up a 64-year-old man with coronary artery disease for sudden death, doctors agreed.

Ain't it sad? I don't think so. It is unfashionable in our society to speak ill of the dead. I don't care. In my life, I am surrounded by things I have created. Most of them are awesome. Some of them are not so great. But I've sown and I've reaped and, at this moment, I fully expect to sow and reap some more. But I take responsibility for all that reaping and sowing. It hasn't always been the right thing, but -- when I did it -- my heart was in the right place.

I have a hunch Lay was surrounded by his creations, as well. But I bet they looked different than mine. Bet they look different than yours, too.


Julia Buckley said…
I always end up feeling sorry for people like Lay, but I think it's because I'm way too softhearted. And also because I wasn't one of the people he gypped out of a future. But in a way, dying was the easy way out, so I'm not sure his enemies are happy with this resolution.
You're right: they're not. Some of them would have rather seen him rot then see him rot, if you follow.

Either way, I don't feel sorry for him. He's like one of the bad guys in a Madeline Carter novel. Hell: he inspired some of the bad guys in Madeline Carter novels. But if I'd been writing him, his end would have been quite a bit worse. (I guess that's the part I'm supposed to say "Bwahahaha," so take that as read.)
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