SACRAMENTO — Enron executives have been cooperating with a Senate committee investigating the state’s energy crisis, under threat of a Senate vote to find them in contempt of a legislative subpoena, the committee’s chairman said Wednesday.
Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, said Senate investigators have gone to Houston to review documents there, and plan a trip to Enron’s Portland, Ore., office, which is the energy trader’s west coast hub.
Investigators have unearthed evidence that energy companies, which pushed deregulation as way to lower consumers’ costs, knew the state’s experiment with deregulation would result in a volatile electricity market, Dunn said.
The now-bankrupt energy giant led the push for the state to deregulate its energy market in 1996, which was “perhaps the greatest fraud ever perpetrated against consumers,” Dunn said.
He spoke at a Capitol news conference with consumers groups who called on state and federal lawmaker to tighten regulations to prevent future business failures such as Enron’s.
Energy companies wouldn’t have pushed for deregulation, Dunn said, unless it would benefit their profits and “that instead of competition driving prices down, there was no real competition and prices would go up.”
Dunn’s committee has readied subpoenas for three former Enron employees, including former CEO Jeffrey Skilling. Those subpoenas have not been served, Dunn’s staff said, because they are working with the former employees to arrange voluntary testimony.
The Senate Select Committee to Investigate Price Manipulation in the Wholesale Energy Market delayed Wednesday’s deposition of Jeff Dasavich, a former governmental affairs employee who worked in Enron’s San Francisco office. Dunn said he was still gathering documents for that deposition and expected it to take place within two weeks.
The committee also plans to depose former executive vice president Steven Kean.
The committee, convinced that Enron has destroyed financial documents under legislative subpoena, voted in February to seek criminal charges against the company for concealing evidence and conspiracy.
Committee members also voted then to ask the full Senate to find Enron in contempt of two legislative subpoenas — one issued in June seeking documents related to California’s energy market and the other for testimony about destruction of documents.
Since then, the energy company’s officials have been cooperating with investigators, Dunn said.
Dunn said he was in talks with Skilling’s attorney and expected to depose the former CEO in Texas. The committee could complete its investigation in two months, he said.