HOUSTON - Former Enron Corp. employee George Maddox, who lost his retirement savings when the energy giant collapsed, says he has been forced to spend his golden years making ends meet by mowing pastures and living in a run-down East Texas farmhouse.
Maddox served 30 years as a plant manager with the company and was long retired as Enron began spiraling out of control before its bankruptcy Dec. 2, 2001. With all his retirement savings tied up in 14,000 shares of Enron stock, then worth more than $1.3 million, Maddox, 78, says, "There was no way I thought it would go belly up."
Ten years after what was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history at the time, Maddox and other former workers of the Houston-based company remain angry about the scheming and deceit that led to its spectacular downfall. But most have tried to move on as best they can.
Lisa Feener worked as a manager of marketing services from 1989 until being laid off just before the bankruptcy. She still has some fond memories of the company, which she said treated its employees fairly and gave back to the community. Feener, 49, has saved a collection of Enron memorabilia, including small plaques and awards marking the completion of projects and photo albums depicting happier times.
"Every single person, even the people who we don't think have paid enough have paid," said Feener, of the Houston area, who returned to Enron from 2002 through 2007, helping to sell the company's assets. She has done freelance marketing work the last few years.
Once the nation's seventh-largest company, Enron plunged into bankruptcy proceedings after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable. The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value, and more than $2 billion in pension plans.
Several top executives, including ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling, landed in prison for their roles in a scheme to manipulate the company's earnings and stock price by lying to employees and investors about Enron's financial health. They were accused of using accounting tricks and complex financial structures to hide losses and create an illusion of success.
Some former employees say that beyond the loss of their jobs and retirement savings, they are upset that many people still think the vast majority of Enron workers were part of the greed and dishonesty that brought down the company.
Maddox's anger is directed particularly at three of the 24 Enron executives who were convicted in the scandal: Skilling; founder Kenneth Lay; and Andrew Fastow, the ex-chief financial officer and architect behind financial schemes that doomed the company.
Skilling remains in prison awaiting resentencing after an appeals court overturned his 24-year sentence and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn his convictions. Lay's convictions were vacated after he died of heart disease following his 2006 trial.
Fastow is serving the remainder of a six-year prison term in home confinement in Houston and is set to be released Dec. 17.