WASHINGTON -- Kenneth Lay, the presidential pal who built Enron into a darling of Wall Street only to see it collapse in scandal, exercised his constitutional rights Tuesday and refused to testify to Congress.
"I am deeply troubled about asserting these rights," Lay said. "It may be perceived by some that I have something to hide."
But he said his attorneys had advised him not to testify. "I cannot disregard my counsel's instruction," he said.
In a brief statement, Lay expressed a "profound sadness" about what had happened to Enron. Before being called to the witness table, Lay sat glumly as he was criticized by senator after senator for maintaining his silence.
Lawmakers said they had a wide array of questions for Lay about the Enron bankruptcy and its devastating impact on millions of American investors and thousands of company employees.
"I thought you would think it was important to answer those questions, too," said Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. "Apparently you didn't think it was the least you could do."
Said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., "Trust was broken in this case. We need to put the pieces together to find out what happened."
"Obviously Mr. Lay, the anger here is palpable," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
William Powers, an Enron director and dean of the University of Texas Law School, who led an internal company investigation, said in prepared testimony that Lay approved partnership arrangements by senior executives.
Lay "bears significant responsibility for those flawed decisions, as well as for Enron's failure to implement sufficiently rigorous procedural controls to prevent the abuses," Powers said.
Lay was the most visible symbol of Enron Corp., which was ranked as the nation's seventh-largest company before it crumbled into bankruptcy on Dec. 2.
He joins five other men -- including Enron's former chief financial officer -- who have cited the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify in Congress' deepening inquiry.
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