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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Skilling Says Enron Hearings 'Tyranny'

WASHINGTON -- As Congress squeezed former Enron Corp. president Jeffrey Skilling on Friday for more facts on the company's historic collapse, Skilling used a television interview to take another swipe at U.S. lawmakers.

Escalating his war of words with the nation's elected representatives, Skilling accused Congress of playing "judge and jury" in its probe of his role in the Enron debacle.

"The United States Congress has decided that I am guilty until proven innocent," Skilling said in the interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I don't think the Congress was acting as a fact-finding entity, trying to figure out what happened," he said, comparing the process to "tyranny.''

"It's an election year, and during an election year, I guess you would expect something like that to happen, but I think that Congress is acting as judge and jury," Skilling said.

As Skilling counterpunched, California Democratic Representative Henry Waxman sent him a letter asking for responses to 17 questions about Enron's broadband services, electricity markets, off-the-books partnerships and political activity.

Waxman asked Skilling to respond to the questions by March 7. A letter sent to Skilling on Thursday by four other lawmakers, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Representative Billy Tauzin, set the same deadline.

Ten congressional committees are probing the corporate scandal at Enron that led to the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, destroyed thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investor equity and shook investor confidence.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe and the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating the downfall of what was once the United States' seventh-largest firm.

Skilling, who resigned unexpectedly from Enron last August just over three months before it fell apart, said his workaholic tendencies had taken a toll on his personal life, and he left, he said, because "I was tired."

The former Enron executive said when he left he believed the company was "in great shape" and that he was subsequently shocked at its collapse.

Skilling has testified before Congress, but some other former top officers have appeared and refused to testify, citing their Fifth Amendment right.

Continuing his approach of openly confronting questioners, Skilling told King on CNN he had some regrets.

"Would I have done some things differently? I think -- I think we all would do -- we would do a number of things differently," he said. King did not ask exactly which things Skilling would have changed.

Asked if he was angry with Enron internal whistle-blower Sherron Watkins, Skilling said: "I'm not angry at all. I think Sherron is absolutely entitled to her opinion. ... I think some of the things that she said about her opinion of what I was thinking, I think, were incorrect."

A few Enron managers have told Congress they tried to warn Skilling and former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay last year of accounting problems with a web of off-the-books ventures that ultimately unraveled and brought down the company.

Watkins has told Congress she warned Lay but was too intimidated to take her concerns to Skilling.

Skilling's lawyer suggested in a televised interview Friday night that Watkins' testimony was motivated by a lucrative book deal.

Skilling appeared Friday night on "Larry King Live'' on CNN along with his lawyer, Bruce Hiler.

"I think she's discovered what she's going to do,'' Hiler said on the program. "She has a lucrative book deal.''

Watkins has become a star witness before two congressional committees and she has compared Skilling and other Enron executives to "swindlers,'' accusing them of "duping'' Lay.

Watkins has reportedly been in negotiations with Mimi Swartz, a writer at Texas Monthly magazine, to share in a contract for a book about Enron. (Reuters, NYT)