For all the
stuff I've seen about Enron, nothing has shocked me more than what I'm about to describe.
You may already had read that the Florida state pension fund took a bath on Enron stock. The fund owned 7.6 million shares of Enron stock totalling roughly $300 million.
But according to this editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, "nearly a third of the state's 7.6-million shares were bought after Oct. 22."
If you look at this chart of Enron's stock decline last year, you'll see that October was the month that Enron stock went into complete free-fall. On October 16th, Enron announced a $1.2 billion decrease in company value. On October 22nd, the SEC announced an investigation of the company. And the next day, October 23rd (unbeknownst to the public, at least) Andersen kicked the document shredding into overdrive. Though the formal bankruptcy came later, October was the month that Enron fell through the floor.
Ok, sure, they say 'buy on the dips.' But is there any reasonable explanation why a pension fund would invest $100 million in Enron as it was heading into its death spiral? I can't imagine what that explanation would be.
This AP article portrays it as a case of hindsight being 20/20 and the persistent power of misplaced trust in Enron. But I'm not sure that's credible. Nor does the Florida AG, who is considering filing a RICO suit.
Who's responsible? That's not clear. But there are some intriguing clues.
One of the three trustees of the Florida pension fund is Governor Jeb Bush. But there is as yet no evidence that he acted as anything more than a passive overseer. The actual decision-making was coming from the private company managing the state's money.
That company was Alliance Capital, the biggest institutional holder of Enron stock. Until last August a member of Enron's Board, Frank Savage, was a high-level Alliance executive. (Specifically, he was the chairman of Alliance Capital International, a division of Alliance Capital Management.) Savage left Alliance Capital on August 8th, a week before Jeff Skilling resigned as CEO of Enron.
(Savage's political contributions heavily favor Democrats.)
U.S.-based institutional client sales and marketing for Alliance Capital is directed by Roger Hertog, a major funder of conservative causes, a major contributor to the Republican party, and apparently also a friend of Ken Lay.