Ken Lay: Not Such a Bad CEO After All?

22 January 2008 at 11:19 pm 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

Jim Brickley combs through the mess of Enron trial materials to examine the behavior and performance of Missouri’s own Ken Lay. His findings may surprise you:

Internal documents released through the Enron litigation allow for a more detailed examination of the activities of top executives than is typically possible. This clinical study of Enron’s Ken Lay highlights the difference between popular opinion on the role and knowledge of CEOs with that suggested by economic theory and evidence. In contrast to popular opinion, the evidence is consistent with the following three hypotheses: 1) Lay performed a role at Enron that is consistent with existing economic theory and evidence, 2) he performed this role with reasonable diligence, and 3) while he was relatively well informed about Enron at a high level, it is unlikely that he would have had detailed information on many of Enron’s transactions — including deals with Fastow’s partnerships. News analysts assert that a positive feature of Lay’s legacy is that CEOs are now spending more time monitoring the details of financial reports and internal controls. This study suggests that the opportunity costs of this change in CEO behavior are higher than these analysts suggest.

On a related note, here is an interview with Gene Fama (via Don Boudreaux) covering principal-agent issues and CEO compensation, as well as efficient-markets theory.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Corporate Governance, Theory of the Firm. Tags: .

“Let’s Write a Paper” Data Sharing, When It Might Really Matter

1 Comment Add your own

  • […] to Enron trial materials to understand the behavior and performance of Ken Lay. He found that 1) Lay performed a role at Enron that is consistent with existing economic theory and evidence, 2) h… (Ken Lay, many may not know, was born in a relatively poor Misosuri family and is a graduate of the […]

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