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Carl Kanowsky: Pilate, Enron and annals of history

It's The Law

Posted: April 6, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 6, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 


So Pontius Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”

“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal,” they retorted.

“Then, take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.

“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied.

Then Pilate called together the leading religious leaders and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict.

“You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt,” he said. “I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere, and a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours.”

This compilation from the Gospels of John, Luke and Matthew taken from the New Living Translation Bible provides the chronology of Pilate’s initial involvement with Jesus, his verdict and how he washed his hands of the thorny problem. Pilate assumed that if he denied responsibility then responsibility would not attach to him. History, as we know, proved him wrong.

Many people assert that if they were faced with similar circumstances, they would stand up and do the right thing, and not bring out the wash basin.

But some cannot stand up to the pressure from the crowd demanding their acquiescence. A good example is the Enron scandal.

Enron had been a wildly successful energy company. At its height, it had a stock market value of $60 billion. It was one of the largest energy companies in the world. It was led by a triumvirate of Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow, with the seemingly able assistance of Arthur Andersen, one of the Big Five accounting firms.

During the go-go days of the late ’90s, it looked like these folks were brilliant, or as they called themselves, “the smartest guys in the room.”

According to Wikipedia, Enron’s revenues increased by more than 750 percent, rising from $13.3 billion in 1996 to $100.8 billion in 2000. For just the first nine months of 2001, Enron reported $138.7 billion in revenues, which placed the company at the sixth position on the Fortune Global 500.

But it was all a house of cards that came tumbling down in December 2001, when Enron filed for what was then the largest bankruptcy ever.

In an interesting twist, the guys responsible for the scandal were the ones crucified, unlike Pilate, whose name became synonymous with spineless characters. Skilling and Fastow received 24 years and 10 years, respectively, in prison for their participation. Lay was convicted of all six counts for which he had been tried, and he faced a total sentence of up to 45 years in prison. However, he died before he could be sentenced. Arthur Andersen, which had billed Enron more than $50 million for one year’s worth of work, imploded, never to be heard from again (except in its appeal of its criminal conviction).

Like Pilate, these guys succumbed to temptation. And they believed they could avoid culpability simply by washing their hands of the mess, proclaiming that they were blameless. History has proven them sadly mistaken.

Pilate and Enron teach a very valuable lesson. Washing your hands, burying your head in the sand or turning a blind eye to mayhem and mischief will, eventually, cause you nothing but grief.

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by e-mail at cjk@kanowskylaw.com. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

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