April 20, 2006 in Business

Skilling angry over taped excerpts

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

HOUSTON — Former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling clearly was angry as prosecutor Sean Berkowitz played tape-recorded excerpts of a conversation Skilling had with some investors.

“So you’re not going to play three pages of VAR (discussion)?” he asked Wednesday at his federal fraud and conspiracy trial, referring to an acronym Enron Corp. used to describe the limit of financial risk the company routinely assigned to its energy-trading operations.

Berkowitz ignored him and waited for an audio clip to be played for jurors.

Skilling glared at him.

A few of the jurors smiled but most, as is their custom, watched without reaction.

“Very frustrating,” Skilling, who has accused prosecutors of misrepresenting evidence, said as he walked from the courtroom during a break.

In his third day of cross-examination, and seventh day on the stand in his own defense, Skilling again struggled to contain his temper as questions focused on whether Enron was a risky trading company, whether he orchestrated the move of parts of a financially struggling retail division to the highly profitable wholesale trading unit to conceal losses, and on the circumstances regarding his resignation in August 2001, four months before Enron imploded into bankruptcy.

Berkowitz reminded Skilling repeatedly during the cross-examination that his own lawyer would have an opportunity to question him again.

“Can I explain or do I answer yes or no?” a disapproving Skilling said to the prosecutor at one point Wednesday during a discussion about Enron’s earnings.

“You can explain on re-direct,” Berkowitz told him.

Skilling got his chance at mid-afternoon Wednesday when Berkowitz wrapped up 2 1/2 days of often combative questioning.

His exchanges with the prosecutor Wednesday were typical of their confrontations previously when Skilling was quizzed about accusations that Enron’s financial statements were fudged at his direction and deliberately gave incorrect or misleading information to analysts and investors.

“We have so many disagreements, I know you’re not going to take me at my word on anything,” Berkowitz said, prefacing a question that suggested Skilling should accept something the prosecutor stated as fact.

“He’s absolutely terrified of asking him a question he can answer,” Skilling’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said of the government lawyer outside the courtroom.

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