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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ken Lay as Lightning Rod

Ken Lay continues to roil deep emotions from both sides, as the aftershocks of his death attest.  Larry Ribstein reports that "The level of vituperation I have received in response to my defense of Lay (also here) has been really remarkable, and wholly unprecedented in the history of this blog."  And as Stephen Bainbridge reported here, some of Lay's critics have called his death a just punishment for his crimes.

At Lay's funeral, however, his friends and family vented their own emotions.  CNBC reports that the service was "seething with anger."  According to the Houston Chronicle, Rev. William Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, compared Lay to James Byrd, the man who was dragged to death from the back of a truck eight years ago.  "Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was, but I'm angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching," said Lawson.  Lawson also compared Lay to  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Jesus, leaders who Lawson said were vilified in life but vindicated by history.

As I noted last week, Lay was not the real Enron villian, but neither is he a martyr.  It is natural for his family and friends to get caught up in the emotion of his death, as it is natural for those who lost their life savings in the Enron collapse to similarly succumb.  But I hope that as time moves on, cooler heads will provide the proper assessment of Lay's life and death.

Posted by Matt Bodie on July 13, 2006 at 09:27 AM in Corporate | Permalink

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