Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi: To Prevent Another Enron, We Must Give Workers the Same Rights as Executives

April 11, 2002

House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement this morning at a news conference on pension reform, which is being debated on the House floor today.

Thank you for coming here today. I am so pleased to be joined by my distinguished colleagues, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel, and the ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, George Miller, both of whom have been champions of pension security for many years.

Today on the House floor we will debate the issue of protecting employee pensions. The Republicans have proposed a terrible bill called the Pension Security Act that claims to respond to the Enron crisis but in reality does no such thing.

To prevent another Enron from occurring, we must give workers the same rights as executives. They should have the same information to be able to control their own investments.

No more corporate lockdowns for workers while executives sell their company stock.

As The New York Times reported yesterday, the Republican bill responds to the concerns of the business lobby and ignores workers.

These workers will be vulnerable to the same abuses that caused employees at Enron to lose more than $1 billion in retirement funds while corporate executives made tens of millions of dollars.

Their bill actually weakens current law to protect employee pensions and opens new loopholes.

The last thing we should be doing in the wake of the Enron scandal is rolling back the protections that now exist. We need to strengthen them.

That means giving workers control of their investments, accurate investment advice, representation on pension boards to protect their interests, and notification when executives are dumping company stock.

It also means holding plans accountable through tougher criminal penalties for misconduct and the ability of employees to collect damages when they are misled. The Republican bill fails on all of these counts, while the Democratic bill passes with flying colors.

In August 2001, just months before the bottom fell out on Enron, Ken Lay e-mailed his employees to tell them that the growth prospects for Enron stock had “never been more certain.” The following month he projected 800 percent growth in the value of Enron stock over the next 10 years.
A few weeks later, the stock was worth less than a dollar. Meanwhile, Ken Lay and other executives spent the first seven months of 2001 making tens of millions of dollars in profit by selling off Enron stock.

Under the Republican bill, future Enrons could still occur.

The Democratic alternative will give employees control over their retirement savings and require honest, accurate and timely information for employees.

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