HOUSTON, April 25 (UPI) -- Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay told Houston jurors who could send him to prison for life that the business press caused his company's collapse.
Charged with fraud in the energy giant's 2001 failure, Lay, 64, and former chief executive Jeffery K. Skilling have both testified in their own defense.
In the second day of direct examination, Lay said news stories about Enron and its former financial head, Andrew Fastow, had the effect of "absolutely destroying the confidence of shareholders."
The Wall Street Journal, for example, published several stories in October 2001 about Enron's off-balance-sheet partnerships and how they were used as hedges against loss.
"We thought the Wall Street Journal was on a witch hunt against Andy Fastow and maybe Enron but certainly Andy Fastow," Lay said, adding that after the Journal articles other outlets followed suit, and Enron shares plummeted, the Washington Post said Tuesday.
Fastow has pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Lay faces six counts of fraud and is on trial with Skilling, who faces 28 counts of fraud. If convicted of all charges, Lay and Skilling face prison terms and substantial fines. Both also are named in shareholder civil suits.