In 1994 Enron asked me to act for them in the negotiation of a Production Sharing Agreement in the Yemen.
At that time Enron was a phenomenon in the energy business. Originally a domestic gas utility in the United States, they had exploded onto the international scene with the promise of revolutionising international energy markets.
Opinion in the industry was divided. Some thought that they were brilliant entrepreneurs and innovators who, in the words of a wide-eyed acquaintance, “would make a shedload of money”. Others thought they were unscrupulous opportunists.
At that time I could not afford to be too choosy about my clients, and I had little hesitation in agreeing to act for them. It would at least be interesting to see this phenomenon from the inside.
My first day with them was scheduled for a Monday. As I was putting on my suit I heard on the news that the civil war in the Yemen had sprung back to life, with tanks roaming through the oil fields.
I rang Enron, who confirmed that the project was shelved until the political situation stabilised.
In 2001 the truth about Enron emerged when it collapsed with huge debts. The whole enterprise was a house of cards, using false accounts and special purpose entities to flatter their returns and disguise the true situation. The revelations also destroyed Enron’s auditors, Arthur Anderson.
The finance director Jeff Skilling was convicted of fraud and sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. The chief executive Kenneth Lay was sentenced to forty-five years, but died before the gates closed on him.
Since I never started at Enron, they never appeared on my client list. Nobody else in the industry admits having worked for them, either.