Thomas White’s $13 Million Deal


A lifelong Army veteran with no corporate experience takes a job at an upstart energy company, earns tens of millions of dollars in questionable stock sales before the company goes belly up and lands a powerful position working in the administration of the President of the United States.

Such is the story of Army Secretary Thomas White, the former vice chairman of Enron, who proved to the nation Friday that his tenure at the disgraced energy company paid off well when he sold his Florida mansion for a staggering $13.9 million. Meanwhile, thousands of Enron investors lost billions of dollars and employees of the company lost their life savings when the company imploded a year ago in a wave of accounting scandals.

But White, like other Enron executives, has repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the company’s financial machinations, despite the fact that the unit he ran, Enron Energy Services, inflated the value of its energy contracts–according to dozens of former employees–and has been directly linked to the California energy crisis. Had the true value of EES’ contracts been known to investors, White would not be the wealthy man that he is today and might very well be living in a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C.

Now White is getting ready to lead hundreds of thousands of the country’s soldiers into a war with Iraq. This is a man that clearly should not be managing a multibillion military budget. Nor should he be serving in the administration of the President. Even though White testified about his work at Enron before a senate committee hearing last July, there are numerous questions about his sale of Enron stock shortly before the company collapsed that have yet to be answered. The sale of his home–where antiwar activists have recently staged protests–will only fuel speculation that White did indeed use inside information to unload the bulk of his Enron stock before the company filed what was then the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. At best, the Securities and Exchange Commission should revisit that issue.

White bought the beachfront property in 2000 for $6.5 million. He tore down an adjacent 2,000 square-foot home and built a 15,145 square-foot mansion and invested $10.5 million of his own money into the construction, which was completed last month.

In May of 2001, White was tapped by President Bush to serve as Secretary of the Army. He sold some of his Enron shares, but not all of it as required by law. In October 2001, while the nation was still reeling from the September 11 terrorist attacks and ground troops were dismantling the Taliban government in Afghanistan, White made dozens of phone calls to his former Enron colleagues. He testified before the Senate committee that he was “concerned” about his old friends, but after those phone calls White unloaded the rest of his stock. Between May and October of 2001, White sold 405,710 shares for $14 million. Meanwhile, Enron’s lower-level employees were restricted from selling their own shares. It’s common knowledge that White financed his Naples home with proceeds from the sale of Enron stock. But if White was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to complete his mansion and needed to know whether he should dump his shares of Enron than that is clearly a violation of the Securities and Exchange Act, which is criminal.

Senate Democrats must reopen this issue and demand that White explain whether the construction of his mansion coincided with his sale of Enron stock and whether the proceeds from the October sale helped to fund the project.

President Bush said in his State of the Union speech Tuesday that he would be tough on the corporate executives who commit white-collar crimes. The President should start with his own administration, particularly Secretary White.

Bush may have the only presidential administration in history that has been accused of misdeeds while working in the corporate sector and have treated the most vicious corporate scandals with a mere slap on the wrist. But that’s what you get when you have a bunch of ex-CEO’s running the country.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com


JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism