MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Houston today, just blocks from where the big lighted "E" once stood, two former Enron executives walked into federal court. Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are on trial for their roles in Enron's mammoth financial fraud. A jury was seated today, with the judge saying, this will be one of the most interesting and important cases ever tried.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
We're going to hear a lot about Lay and Skilling over the coming months. But Enron's collapse affected tens of thousands of people. Some have had a hard time putting their careers and lives back together. Others have done pretty well.
NORRIS: We spoke with two former Enron workers today. Both have landed on their feet. They're running their own businesses and not spending a lot of time looking back. Evan Betzer worked in Enron's broadband division. He and another Enron colleague have now founded Stoneworth Financial, an investment banking firm that specializes in mergers and acquisitions. Betzer says he's not going to spend too much time keeping up on the Lay and Skilling trial.
Mr. EVAN BETZER (Former Enron employee): I feel like this type of news can really, for a former Enron person, you can get really wrapped up in it. I spent a lot of time in the early going days pouring over every bit of it in the paper, etc., but since then I think really have tried to not get too wrapped with it.
NORRIS: I've read that a larger percentage than usual of former Enron employees have started businesses of their own. They decided to hang their own shingle rather than work for someone else. Do you think that might be a matter of trust there, that some of these employees were afraid to work for someone else and decided to set off on their own?
Mr. BETZER: I think actually it has to do with the type of person that Enron recruited. It attracted Type A personalities from other parts of the country to Houston. And in particular, Enron liked to look for entrepreneurial people, people with an entrepreneurial flair. So I think that might actually explain part of the reason why so many former Enron people have started businesses.
And I think there's a second reason as well, which is that at the time when Enron went bankrupt, the opportunity cost of us starting our own business was very low. Which is to say, if we didn't start our own business, then we'd have to go out and get hired by somebody else. At the time with the dominoes falling in energy trading, etcetera, there were just, you know, more and more jobs being taken off the market on a monthly basis. So what'd you have to lose from starting your own thing? And Houston is a low cost of living place. So you can have a pretty low burn. You can go out there and start something new.
NORRIS: Like Evan Betzer, Lois Black has set out on her own. She was a secretary in Enron's legal department. Her new business is called Tea Parties To Go. She hosts fantasy tea parties for young girls. And she says Enron's demise turned out to be one of the best things that's ever happened to her.
Ms. LOIS BLACK (Former Enron employee): I'm having more fun. I love my job. I don't dread going into work and I make children happy, and I make myself happy. And I have instant feedback in that you know right away that you're doing a good job because the kids are happy.
NORRIS: So you might not have started this business, Tea Parties To Go, if not for the collapse of Enron?
Ms. BLACK: Well, I've always wanted to have a tea room but didn't want to really spend that much money for the build out and everything. So this is the next best thing, is to take the tea party to the children's home. And I was going to do it when I retired, but I kind of got early retirement, if you will.
NORRIS: Do you follow the news with all the Enron executives, or do you find that it's easier to distance yourself from this? It's in your past?
Ms. BLACK: Well I, it's easier to distance myself in that it's my past and I just don't get anything out of hanging onto to that. You know and it's not my job to administer this justice. It's the jury's job and I'm sure they'll do a wonderful job. And I'll hear what, what the results is and, you know, it is what it is.
NORRIS: Do you have an opinion on what should happen to those that are now facing trial?
Ms. BLACK: Well I think, you know, they have ruined a lot of lives as far as, I am in my sixties and should be retired at this point but I will have to continue to work because I lost about 75 percent of my retirement in Enron stock. But I felt that everything will work out and I think they should have some kind of punishment. I don't know what it would be, but they should have prevented this from happening. I think there was a little greed going on there.
NORRIS: A little greed?
Ms. BLACK: I'm just trying to be tactful.
NORRIS: Ms. Black thank you so much for talking to us. All the best to you.
Ms. BLACK: My pleasure.
NORRIS: That's former Enron legal secretary Lois Black. We also heard from Evan Betzer, formerly of Enron's broadband division.
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