The Wall Street Journal reports that James A. Brown, the ex-Merrill Lynch man the newspaper says is the 'banker who potentially faces the most jail time' over Enron, will stand trial for his involvement in a relatively small Enron deal and one that he wasn't keen on doing in the first instance.
Brown was never seemingly keen on the Enron Nigerian barge deal which eventually was to cause him so many problems. His initial thoughts were to steer well clear, and, before a key meeting, he is said to have written 10 reasons on a copy of the deal document, detailing why his firm should not get involved. He was mainly concerned with the 'reputational risk' to Merrill Lynch if it could be said that the deal had been executed merely to enable Enron manipulate revenues.
In the end, however, Brown is said to have caved and went along with the deal. He now faces a court battle after being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is also accused of having lied to a US grand jury and faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges. And all because he didn't stand firm and go with his gut.
There are far bigger fish caught up in the Enron affair and certainly more people who appear to have strayed further than Brown allegedly seems to have done. But the law doesn't work in degrees. Either it is broken or it is not. Brown will have his day in court and will have a fair trial and an opportunity to clear his name. We wish him well. But there is a salutary lesson here and there but for the grace of God................
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