Q: As the whistle-blower at Enron, you must find it strange to continue living in Houston.
The only time it is awkward is when you run into the executives that are part of the guilty group. At least seven people have pleaded guilty, but they don’t go to prison until all their witnessing is done.
Q: So your former boss, Andrew Fastow, and his wife, Lea, are still your neighbors?
Our children play in the same park. Lea is going to prison soon, for 12 months. After she gets out, Andy will eventually go in. The last time I ran into her, she pretended she didn’t see me.
Q: Have you seen Ken Lay, your former C.E.O. whom you once pulled aside to warn about fraud?
No, I have not. He is keeping a pretty low profile. We had the Super Bowl in Houston this year, and he certainly wasn’t spotted at any of the big Super Bowl events. He is persona non grata in the business group that runs Houston. He put a black eye on the city.
Q: Do you think that post-Enron America is a more ethical place?
Not really. We are building more Enrons, but we don’t want to admit it. I fall into Warren Buffett’s camp when he says that C.E.O. pay is the acid test. When C.E.O. pay has been reduced, then I’ll believe that our business leaders have adopted a spirit of corporate reform.
Q: Whom do you consider the biggest offenders?
Wall Street sets the tone for the highest-paid packages. Citigroup paid Sandy Weill almost $45 million for 2003. But the real problem is where there is a disconnect, where shareholder return is low or negative, but the C.E.O. makes out like a bandit.
Q: If the government were to demand a pay ceiling for C.E.O.’s in this country, what should it be?
J.P. Morgan said that C.E.O.’s should not make more than 20 times the average hourly worker. We’re above 500 times right now! The average worker gets, let’s say, $20 an hour.
So the highest C.E.O. salary should be — let’s just say it should be $1 million a year.
Q: What were you earning as an Enron vice president when you left two years ago?
$165,000 a year. It was pretty good.
Q: Did you get any kind of severance when you left Enron?
No. I am making a living on the lecture circuit, and that won’t last forever.
Q: You also co-wrote a book about your experiences at Enron. What would you like to do next?
I want to consult with boards on corporate governance issues.
Q: Are you a Democrat or a Republican?
I am not a registered anything. I vote both parties. I did vote for Bush. My husband did, too. Now we’re A.B.B. — Anyone but Bush. We have lost the moral high ground in this country.
Q: What is the connection between political lapses and business lapses?
Ken Lay’s failure was that he just wanted to hear good news. It’s the same with Bush. He doesn’t want to hear the bad news about Iraq. Leaders have to be able to have their ear attuned to bad news too.
Q: How would you define a good leader?
A good leader is someone who puts others’ needs first. People follow you because they know you are looking after them.
Q: Would you ever work for a corporation again?
About the only corporation I can see hiring me is one that is in a meltdown situation and trying to revamp its reputation.
Q: Have any companies contacted you?
In terms of the bigger corporations, I have had people talk to me about various things, and then the door gets slammed. When it comes down to the final decision, there’s probably one or two people who say: ”Are y’all crazy? She’s a whistle-blower.”