Audiotapes made public Tuesday indicate at least 1,500 conversations in which traders employed by energy giant Enron Corp. engaged in or discussed violations of federal regulations, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staffer said.
Those tapes, including some collected by a Washington state utility, may have "only scratched the surface" of potentially illegal activity by Enron during the West Coast energy crunch of 2000-2001, the FERC staffer said in testimony released Tuesday.
The new tapes contain enough information that there is "sufficient public benefit to be garnered from further review" of the transcripts, testified Patrick Crowley, a FERC economist. The new tapes are a victory for the Snohomish County, Wash., Public Utility District, which hopes to prove that a contract it agreed to with Enron is fraudulent.
On one tape released Tuesday, an Enron trader is heard talking with an official from Redding. The official, identified only as "Paul," tells since-convicted trader John Forney that he wants to "double-check that we have something on the table for if and when congestion hits."
"John: 'OK, what do you want to call this project -- we have to have a catchy name for that?'
"Paul: 'Project -- ah -- I was going to say project loop -- but I don't want that to go out in the world.'
"John: 'How about something friendly like Death Star?'
"Paul (laughter): 'How about reduce the debt -- debt star -- because we are trying to reduce our debt here.' "
Death Star was the name of one of Enron's tactics.