Whistle-blower to UT students: Expect ethics
Austin American-Statesman – February 9, 2003
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By Claudia Grisales Watkins' shoes? "I'd like to think
Watkins said many company so," she said.
As Enron fell, Sherron Watkins insiders didn't see the "time
rose. bomb" ticking at Enron because of It was Watkins' story, along with
a culture of intimidation imposed that of the corporate scandals of
The tale of how the whistle- by former Chief Executive Officer 2002, that encouraged Shane
blower warned Enron Corp. Jeff Skilling and former Chief McNamee to major in business.
executives of a brewing corporate Financial Officer Andrew Fastow,
failure was recounted Saturday at who now faces criminal charges "This was something that I
a business ethics symposium for related to the Enron collapse. thought about going into to help
the University of Texas. It was Watkins' story struck a chord for eliminate this type of (business)
Watkins' first visit to her alma UT business students. manipulation," the UT freshman
mater since Enron's dramatic fall said.
began in October 2001. "It could potentially be one of us
in the same situation" one day, Watkins said that while Enron
And as her no-nonsense said Sean Paul, a junior who "really represents the poster child
reputation had preceded her, the helped organize the symposium. for corporate abusive powers,"
former Enron vice president didn't the company's failures are also
mince words about the once high- Watkins' role as a whistle-blower symptomatic of broader
flying Houston energy trader. was quickly solidified as she problems: from overcompensated
testified before Congress last chief executives to questionable
"The culture was horrific, spring. Since then, Watkins has reports issued by Wall Street
probably all the way to the end," resigned, has been named one of analysts to lax federal regulations
Watkins told a group of more Time Magazine's 2002 people of that have allowed corporate
than 300 students and guests the year, has embarked on a malfeasance to run amok.
who braved cold weather to speaking tour and has a book due
attend the UT McCombs School of out in March, titled "Power Watkins has quickly transformed
Business symposium at the Austin Failure." her role from Enron storyteller to
Convention Center. corporate activist. Watkins, who
For Julie Lindsey, a first-year received undergraduate and
Watkins alerted then-Chairman business student, Watkins' story graduate business degrees from
Kenneth Lay in an August 2001 is inspiring. "She has showed UT in 1981 and 1982, encouraged
letter that the company could find people that business is not just business students to raise the
itself facing a wave of accounting about money-grubbing; it's also ethical bar.
scandals over an apparent effort about people that want to do the
to hide losses through right thing," Lindsey said. "With ethics, it's about the small
questionable off-balance-sheet little steps. We have to be more
partnerships. Two months later, Would Lindsey have done the intolerant" of the missteps, she
the company could no longer hide same thing if she were in said. "We need to expect more
those losses. from our business leaders."