Skilling made $15m short-selling rival

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The Independent Online

Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive of the collapsed energy giant Enron, made $15m (£8m) from bets against the share price of a rival energy company, it was revealed at his fraud trial yesterday.

Speaking during his fourth day on the witness stand, Mr Skilling sought to explain why he persistently sold Enron stock in the weeks after he left the company in August 2001.

Among the 28 counts of fraud and conspiracy are charges that he engaged in insider trading by selling stock when he knew Enron was a house of cards on the verge of collapse. Several of his Enron share sales were intended to raise funds for bets against its rival AES, he told the jury in Houston. He estimated he had made $15m from short-selling AES stock over three weeks.

Mr Skilling's admission came during a day when he had shown flashes of his famous temper, lashing out against federal prosecutors for "rewriting history" over Enron's collapse.

Enron was brought down, he contends, by a loss of confidence among creditors that was triggered by hedge funds betting on a decline in its share price. He said short sellers would infiltrate analyst meetings to make damaging insinuations - a practice that led him to call one an "asshole" on a telephone conference call.

Mr Skilling said he poured his Enron-based wealth into property and cars. On a pair of Land Rovers he has parked in his garage, he raised laughter by saying: "They don't work. That's why you buy English cars, there is always something to work on."