Enron Could Owe State $2.8 Billion

By Published On: February 5, 2005

Enron could owe Californians between $1.668 billion and $2.789 billion, according to testimony filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week by FERC staff and the ?California Parties.? The huge amounts claimed could be seen as posturing by the parties because any payouts could be closer to between $334 million and $558 million since the former energy trader remains in bankruptcy. Enron’s assets available for distribution are valued at about 20 cents on the dollar. In a worst-case scenario, Californians could end up empty-handed because they would have to get in line with other unsecured creditors in bankruptcy court. FERC Office of Administrative Litigation (OAL) financial analyst Randolph Barlow declared that Enron?s total profit from allegedly gaming California?s energy market between January 1979 and June 2003 is between $1.668 billion and $1.87 billion. In a January 31 filing, Barlow said that the final numbers were calculated after reviewing Enron?s internal documents kept in five different accounting systems. Other FERC staff in the OAL also filed testimony regarding Enron?s alleged manipulation during the energy crisis, including a finding by expert witness Craig Deters that the $32 million required by regulators to be ?disgorged? by Enron last summer was only a ?fraction? of Enron?s profits for the period. Deters added that Enron?s trading devices were ?absolutely? fraudulent schemes. The schemes included ?Get Shorty? (short selling), ?Death Star?(overscheduling and then getting paid to relieve congestion), and ?Ricochet? (also called ?megawatt laundering,? where in-state power was sent out of state and resold back). The California parties, led by Southern California Edison, testified that they were unsatisfied with total amounts in potential refunds presented by FERC staff analysis. ?It?s not a specific instance? of Enron?s accounting reflected by FERC staff, but ?an undercounting of the rip-off,? said Tom Dresslar, spokesperson for the state attorney general. Edison director of market monitoring and analysis Gary Stern filed testimony that claimed Enron owed the parties $2.789 billion. He used a marketwide remedy that would require the California Independent System Operator to reprice all sales from May to October 2000. Stern asked that if regulators reject his initial analysis, Enron be liable for profits from wholesale transactions between January 1997 and December 2001. Enron is reviewing the testimony, according to a spokesperson. Its response is due to FERC May 15, with a hearing set for June 13. Meanwhile, no trial date has yet been identified for former Enron chair Ken Lay and former chief executive officer Jeff Skilling in U.S. District Court in Houston.

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