Here are just a couple examples of why the quickly unfolding Enron investigation may lead in unpredictable and uncontrollable directions.
It turns out that Enron execs weren’t the only ones who called Treasury Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Peter Fisher on the company’s behalf as the energy trading collosus swirled into oblivion. Former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin did too.
(As a side note, it seems worth noting that the administration was quite eager to get out news of Rubin’s call. But their eagerness doesn’t make it less true.)
Meanwhile, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt is in a bind because he once represented Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm which at the very least woefully botched Enron’s books, and now appears to have destroyed many crucial documents.
The revelation about Pitt makes this earlier post seem not so sarcastic.
It’s still possible that this is just a cataclysmic bankruptcy for which a few malfeasant executives will pay a stiff price. Or more likely it will turn out to be a conventional political scandal, in which a handful of politicians are dragged down in the whirlpool of Enron’s collapse.
But those pooh-poohing the notion that this could be a major scandal of any sort overlook the less than likely, but yet real, possibility that this could develop into a meta-scandal – a cascade of revelations which gain traction not because of specific or discrete criminality but because the sheer magnitude of the event delegitimizes the whole framework of interaction between government and corporations at the highest levels.
Because Enron was part of a peculiar Texan form of wildcatter capitalism, and this Texan administration is closely tied to it, a scandal even of such proportions could still cut in a decidedly partisan direction. It’s no accident, for instance, that Harvey Pitt finds himself in this situation, as opposed to … say, former SEC head Arthur Levitt. So probably it just hits the GOP.
But who knows?