HOUSTON, April 24 (UPI) -- Kenneth L. Lay, founder of collapsed energy giant Enron Corp., told Houston jurors Monday the company died in what amounted to a perfect financial storm.
Lay is charged with fraud and conspiracy in one of the world's biggest corporate meltdowns and could face life in prison if convicted.
Lay said Enron fell because of hedge fund manipulations, a post-Sept 11 climate of fear and -- most of all -- the machinations of its chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, the New York Times reported.
"It all begins with the deceit of Andy Fastow and probably not more than one or two other people," said Lay, referring to former Enron officials who have already pleaded guilty in exchange for lenient sentences and cooperating with the federal investigation of Enron.
Prosecutors aim to show that Lay put a misleadingly optimistic spin on Enron's mounting financial woes in 2001 and urged employees to buy stock as an "incredible bargain" at the same time he knew the corporation was falling apart.
Monday's testimony was part of a plan by Lay's lawyers to portray their client as an inveterately optimistic executive and fantastically generous community leader with somewhat diminished financial savvy, despite his Ph.D. in economics.