Wakeham may face Senate questions on Enron

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The Independent US

Lord Wakeham, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, may be called to give evidence to the United States Senate committees investigating the £55bn collapse of Enron, the American energy corporation.

Mr Wakeham, a former Tory Cabinet minister, was a non-executive director of the firm, which became one of the biggest bankruptcies in corporate history last year.

Enron was America's seventh largest company when it collapsed at the end of last November, after amassing £10bn debts and becoming shrouded in allegations of financial irregularities.

American sources revealed Enron executives cashed in £750m worth of shares between 1999 and 2001, leaving employees to lose their life savings in the wake of the collapse. Lord Wakeham, who has both share holdings and a reported £80,000 a year salary from the firm, had not sold any.

One of the most prolific sellers was Kenneth Lay, the Texas-based company chairman, who was a central contributor to George Bush's election campaign. He reportedly made $101m (£69m) from shares between 1999 and 2001.

There are other high-placed Enron executives now placed under suspicion who are supporters of the President.

Lord Wakeham was a member of Enron's audit and compliance committee, whose responsibility it was to see that proper procedures were put in place, including legal advice and auditing. The role of the accountants, Arthur Andersen, who carried out Enron's auditing, is very likely to be a central focus of congressional inquiries as they search for any hint of criminal activity.

Lawyers for Enron, which filed for bankruptcy on 2 December last year, have stated the share sales were entirely proper and the directors had not had special inside information. Lord Wakeham, who was with the director of the company for eight years has not made a public statement regarding his involvement in Enron and he has not yet been asked to appear at any Senate hearings.