Betting on Enron

Enron made millions in profits by inventing new things to trade. How about making some cash off of excess broadband capacity? Or teaming up with Blockbuster to create video on demand for consumers? It didn’t matter that the technology didn’t actually exist -- they just claimed future profits anyway.

Intrade is in the business of futures markets as well -- the futures of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. (Through Intrade, you can also trade on other "event futures" such as whether or not Hamas will recognize Israel, or whether the U.S. will announce the closure of Guantanamo.) A look to those trading in the outcome of the Enron trial reveals a grim scenario for the dynamic duo:


On Friday, when court was not in session, the trading at Intrade showed a more than 60 percent chance that Lay would be convicted of at least four of the seven counts of fraud and conspiracy against him. For Skilling, trading showed about a 75 percent chance he would be convicted on more than half the 31 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors pending against him.
You’d think Skilling and Lay would respect this kind of ingenious futures trading. But, for some reason, they just can’t seem to appreciate the application of their creative business principles: "I think it's abhorrent, betting on people's lives," Skilling lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said. Added Michael Ramsey, Lay's lawyer: "It should probably be illegal."

I would like to put some money on whether or not these lawyers understand the concept of irony.

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