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Senate panel votes to issue subpoena for Lay



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Commerce Committee voted Tuesday morning to issue a subpoena to compel former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay to appear before the committee.

Republicans and Democrats on the panel Tuesday unanimously supported the efforts to subpoena Lay, who backed out of his planned testimony before a Senate subcommittee Monday because of what his attorney predicted would be a "prosecutorial proceeding."

Lay is likely to appear before the panel next week.

Lawmakers want Lay to testify about the collapse of the Houston,Texas-based energy trading company. But Lay refused to show up for two Monday congressional hearings. As a result, the Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing was canceled, but the House Financial Services Committee proceeded with an afternoon subcommittee hearing.

"When you juxtapose what happened to the people at the top and what happened to the people at the bottom it makes you sick," said U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, during Tuesday's Senate committee hearing.

Dorgan mentioned an Enron employee whose retirement fund shrank from $330,000 to a little more than $1,000 and an executive who parlayed a $25,000 investment into $4 million within 60 days.

Along with the Senate Commerce Committee, other congressional panels will be dealing Tuesday with issues involving Enron.

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The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is meeting to discuss the impact of the Enron bankruptcy on 401(k) plans.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations subcommittee meets. William C. Powers Jr., author of a critical internal report on Enron, will testify before the subcommittee. Powers, a member of Enron's board of directors and dean of the University of Texas Law School, also appeared Monday before a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.

Arthur Andersen CEO Joseph Berardino is scheduled to make an appearance before the Capital Markets subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee. His firm was formerly Enron's auditor.

The House Financial Services Committee said it did not subpoena Lay to appear Tuesday because his attorney said he didn't know how to reach his client.

Earl Silbert, Lay's attorney, said his client is not trying to evade congressional subpoenas and that Lay is willing to appear before Congress at a later date. He said he had spoken with the committee's chief counsel, Terry Haines, on Monday afternoon.

"Yes, I did tell him I didn't know where Mr. Lay is because I don't know where Mr. Lay is every hour of the day," Silbert said. "I don't know where Mr. Lay is at every moment."

Silbert said a subpoena was never issued, and he can't advise his client about a matter that hasn't happened. He said he spoke with Haines about Lay appearing on February 12 or February 13 but has yet to get a formal request for his client to appear.

The lawyer said it would be "unreasonable" for Lay to appear Tuesday because "he's not here in Washington." He said the former Enron chief left Washington late Sunday or early Monday for Houston. Lay was in Houston on Tuesday.

The committee had hoped to force Lay to appear Tuesday to testify about Enron's bankruptcy, said Peggy Peterson, the committee's spokeswoman.

She took issue with Silbert over why the subpoena wasn't issued Monday.

"The reason why it wasn't issued is because [Silbert] said he is unaware of the whereabouts of his client," Peterson said.



 
 
 
 



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