Capitol Hill Demands Explanations from Enron

Capitol Hill is demanding explanations on the dramatic collapse of Enron Corp. One committee has set a hearing and another has requested records and interviews.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Dec. 18 seeking answers on how Enron, in a few short weeks, went from Wall Street darling to making the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. The committee "will hold a hearing to examine issues surrounding the collapse of Enron," the panel's chairman, South Carolina Democratic Sen. Ernest Hollings, said in a statement.

Enron was once ranked No. 7 on the Fortune 500 list of large corporations. It filed for bankruptcy protection on Dec. 2 after its stock price and credit rating cratered, undermined by a complex financial strategy that unraveled when investors and customers began to question it.

The House of Representatives Financial Services Committee held the first congressional hearing on Enron on Wednesday. It plans to hold more hearings next year. On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it has asked accounting firm Andersen to hand over records from its work as long-time auditor for Enron.

The committee is seeking to interview David Duncan, Andersen's partner-in-charge of the Enron account, and Jeffrey Skilling, former Enron chief executive, according to a statement by committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana and Rep. James Greenwood of Pennsylvania, the head of the panel's oversight subcommittee. Tauzin's committee also plans public hearings early next year on Enron, a spokesman for the panel said. Tauzin and Greenwood said they asked Andersen "to turn over records from Enron audits and provide committee staff interviews with Andersen personnel" by Dec. 21. They said they sought interviews with Duncan and Skilling by the same date. The two Republican congressmen said in a letter released to Reuters that they met last week with Andersen representatives and requested records pertaining to Enron for the years 1997 to 2001. Like a request made of Enron on Monday by the same committee, the Andersen request specified numerous types of documents as being of interest, including financial statement adjustment records and correspondence between Andersen and Enron management or Enron's audit and compliance committee.