Committee interested in Enron lawyer

Salon's story on an attorney who questioned the company's partnerships sparks a congressional follow-up.

Published January 30, 2002 11:26PM (EST)

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Tuesday that as part of its inquiry into the fall of Enron it would follow up on information first published in Salon about an Enron attorney who attempted to warn the company about problems surrounding its shell partnerships.

The Jan. 18 story detailed how one Enron attorney, Jordan Mintz, hired an outside firm to take a fresh look at the questionable shell partnerships set up by then chief financial officer Andrew Fastow.

Mintz did this without the knowledge of his boss, Enron chief counsel James Derrick Jr. After reviewing the partnerships, where Enron apparently hid debt, to say the least, the respected New York firm, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, recommended that Enron stop setting up the shell partnerships. Mintz soon began sending memos advising against the formation of any further shell partnerships. No others were formed. In October, Fastow was fired.

The Jan. 29 letter was sent to Derrick by committee chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman James Greenwood, R-Penn. Its purpose was "to request certain information relating to a reported review last year of Enron's related-party transactions by an outside law firm at the request of an Enron attorney," which the committee credited to "published reports."

"We'd be interested in interviewing Mr. Mintz," says a source close to the committee investigation. Investigators have spoken with Mintz's attorney about questioning him, the source says.

The committee requested a number of materials from Derrick: a copy of the Fried Frank report or analysis provided to Mintz or Enron; a copy of any memoranda or e-mails Mintz wrote as a result of the Fried Frank report; and any responses Enron officers or employees made to the Mintz information.

A spokeswoman for Enron did not return a call for comment. Mintz declined to comment as well, citing attorney-client privilege.

On Feb. 6, the committee will hold another hearing on Enron and its relationship with its former accountant, Andersen LLP.

By Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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