Kenneth Lay – 1942-2006
Lay was an American success story, rising from a poor Missouri family to build a Texas oil pipeline company into a new kind of business, an energy broker called Enron. The meteoric rise of this firm made Lay one of the nation’s top-paid executives ($42.4 million earned in 1999) and an influential political figure; however, as a massive accounting scandal came to light in 2001—revealing that Enron’s soaring profits were pure fiction—Lay’s Enron became shorthand for corporate greed and conscienceless corruption. Lay pleaded ignorance of wrongdoing throughout his company, but was nevertheless indicted on July 7, 2004 on 11 counts of securities fraud and related charges. Convicted on 10 counts on May 25, 2006, he died—of an apparent heart attack—on July 5, 2006, somewhat more than three months before his scheduled sentencing.