ENRON TAPES – The ENRON Tapes and "Grandma Millie"

For the past three months, I’ve been working more or less full time as a research assistant for an expert witness contracted by Snohomish County P.U.D. No. 1 to testify on their behalf before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a dispute between them and Enron.

The details of the case are available on the FERC web site, as part of case No. EL03-180-000, and can be found by visiting this URL ( http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/fercgensearch.asp )

and doing a search for: EL03-180*

The documents in question that I helped research and prepare are available at this URL:

http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/nvcommon/NVViewer.asp?Doc=10152323:0 (note: this is a 10 megabyte PDF file that will load into a Java based viewer on the FERC website – the lawyers filed this as scanned photoimages of the original documents)

These are redacted (sections relating to personal matters immaterial to the case have been removed) transcripts of 82 audio files that the team of researchers I worked with identified as particularly relevant to this case – this is out of 2600 hours of audiotape salvaged by the FBI and stored in a warehouse for several years, until Snohomish managed to pry them out of the hands of Ashcroft’s Justice Department and get them transfered to digital format (the document cited below tells the story of this in detail). My sense is that, while we skimmed off the cream of these tapes, there’s still a lot more that could be uncovered.

I have to be careful about what I say, given that the case in question is still pending, and that I’ve signed confidentiality agreements designed to protect the privacy of the individuals heard on these tapes – but: the documents above are public. And CBS News has broken the story big time…

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/01/eveningnews/main620626.shtml

including posting copies of the Yoder-Hall Memo (an internal Enron document put together by their lawyers) that outline the nature of the games played by Enron traders to manipulate prices and California’s energy trading system in search of profit at the expense of California ratepayers (of which I was one, seeing my utility bill soar from $120/mo. to $600/mo. before I started turning everything off in a desperate attempt to keep it down).

As the CBS News report so vividly demonstrates, the employees at Enron’s West Power trading desk were arrogant, crude, and often utterly indifferent to the effects that their machinations and the California energy crisis were having on ratepayers… the Grandma Millie tape, in particular, is one of the most appalling. CBS News, given their limited time, can only give you the barest flavor of how utterly venal these folks were.

Here’s the full excerpt, sourced from the FERC website (this is Exhibit SNO-224, on page 331-339 of the FERC’s dynamically generated 11.3 megabyte PDF) – this is been Bob Badeer (a trader at Enron’s West Power desk in Portland, CA, where all these tapes were recorded) and Kevin McGowan (in Enron’s central office in Houston, TX, as he mentions in the transcript):

KEVIN: So,

BOB: [laughing]

KEVIN: So the rumor’s true? They’re fuckin’ takin’ all the money back from you guys? All those money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?

BOB: Yeah, grandma Millie, man. But she’s the one who couldn’t figure out how to fuckin’ vote on the butterfly ballot.

KEVIN: Yeah, now she wants her fuckin’ money back for all the power you’ve charged right up – jammed right up her ass for fuckin’ 250 dollars a megawatt hour.

[laughter]

BOB: You know – you know – you know, grandma Millie, she’s the one that Al Gore’s fightin’ for, you know? You’re not going to –

[laughing]

BOB: Grandma Millie –

another great excerpt (this tape is full of ’em):

KEVIN: Fuckin’ stock market and Enron, everything else, Jesus.

BOB: Oh, Enron! Oh! Oh, dude.

KEVIN: Not kidding.

BOB: Kid, it even hurts, I don’t – I guess it could hurt worse, but it doesn’t you know, holy shit, its’ that – that thing got smoked.

KEVIN: Oh, god – I can’t handle it any more.

BOB: I can’t either man.

… seriously pathetic, dude. They are moaning and groaning like you wouldn’t believe.

and, of course, here’s a great example of their attitude re: California consumers…

KEVIN: There was a guy he was yesterday, he’s – he’s some consultant for some fuckin’ other business we’re supposed to be starting or whatever.

BOB: Right.

KEVIN: He came in, he – and I wasn’t – I didn’t even meet the guy. I was sittin’ here, he was talking to George McLellan and George’s desk, he’s like, yeah, you know, I’m in California now and my small consulting business, my energy costs have gone from 100 to 500 dollars a month. It’s unbelievable, I don’t know what to do. I just turned from my desk, I just looked at him, I said, ‘MOVE.’

[laughter]

KEVIN: The guy was like horrified. I go, look, don’t take it the wrong way: ‘Move; it isn’t getting’ fixed any time soon,’

BOB: You know man, it’s unbelievable, it’s like at that – that’s the – that’s the best thing that [inaudible] about it. That’s so beautiful.

[laughter]

KEVIN: Oh best thing that could happen is fuckin’ an earthquake, let that thing float out to the Pacific and put ‘em fuckin’ candles.

BOB: I know. Those guys – just cut ‘em off.

KEVIN: They’re so fucked and they’re so, like totally

BOB: They are so fucked.

You have to hear it to really get it. Two good ole’ boys chucklin’ to each other about how fucked over California is. Just unbelieveable.

And note the politics – as CBS News reports, these guys were gung-ho capitalists and ecstatic about the idea of a Bush Administration and the possibility of Ken Lay having a major voice in national energy policy. And, as the excerpt above demonstrates, many of them had nothing but contempt for Al Gore. Kevin even says that everyone in his office is betting on Bush to win (except him – he’s doing the contrarian thing).

More later… much more, as I have more time to sort through the files on the FERC website.

Thomas Leavitt