Enron Corp.’s once-proud broadband unit was little more than a mishmash of questionable software, accounting tricks and unkept promises, a U.S. prosecutor said as the trial of five former executives got under way on Tuesday.
“The mission of Enron Broadband Services (EBS) was to pump up the Enron stock price by telling investors they had a solution — a solution to the congested Internet,” federal prosecutor Lisa Monaco told a jury during opening statements.
“The evidence will show these men knew what we would find out later, that Enron was a fraud.”
Five former EBS executives stand charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud. Three — former EBS co-Chief Executive Joe Hirko and ex-subordinates Rex Shelby and Scott Yeager — also are accused of money laundering and insider trading.
Monaco charged that EBS, with the blessing of indicted former corporate CEO Jeffrey Skilling, fashioned an image for the public and stock analysts that its executives secretly knew did not exist.
A month before a Jan. 20, 2000, analysts meeting in Houston in which Skilling and EBS executives promoted the unit, Monaco said a distressed EBS worker e-mailed Yeager and other colleagues about concerns over the developing Broadband Operating System (BOS).
“I don’t care about that lipstick and rouge you paint that bitch up with, she’s still just dead meat lying on the sofa, threatening to steal the show,” Monaco quoted the worker, Bill Collins, as saying.
Yeager’s attorney, Tony Canales, said Collins was”unbelievable.”
“I will show you e-mails from him where he’s being devious, where he’s being a scoundrel,” said Canales, who promised jurors he would upend Collins in cross-examination.
Per Ramfjord, Hirko’s attorney who spoke after Monaco, told jurors Monaco portrayed only half the story and the other half — the defense — would show EBS was like many other Internet start-ups: It had big goals, lost lots of money and ultimately failed because of the market, not fraud.