The Enron whistle-blower who wasn't

She insisted she was within her rights to describe herself as an executive, even though her title was several grades below what Enron considered to be an executive position. She claims that because she headed up a contract briefing team, she controlled more than $1 million in salaries and overall budget. Therefore, she considered herself an executive.

'I am Enron'

But her boss, Solmonson, says Brewer had no control over budget or salaries and that she herself, as a senior director, would not be considered an executive. Further, Brewer's work had nothing to do with management. "What my group did was very much a clerical function," says Solmonson, "an important clerical function, but it was clerical."

Gossett, Brewer's boss during her last months at the company, scoffs at the notion that she was an executive. He was a director at Enron, he says, and that didn't qualify him as an executive. "There was no way she was an executive, not even with a little 'e,' " he adds. "If she was an executive, she was in charge of nothing."

When it comes to giving specifics about her whistle-blowing, Brewer contradicts herself. In her book, subtitled A Whistleblower's Story, she recounts her failed efforts to alert her immediate superiors to questionable actions. She also says that just before she left the company in November 2000, she called the employee-assistance help line to complain about criminal activity at Enron. She says she was rebuffed there, but instead of taking her complaints to the chief compliance officer at Enron, or regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Justice Department, she accepted a severance package and left.

In her speeches, Brewer dons a different mantle, presenting herself as one of the collaborators in fraudulent activity at Enron and asking her audience for forgiveness.

In the NYSE-hosted presentation, Brewer says that when she was at Enron, she didn't realize that, "I would somehow be responsible in some form or another for the potential downfall of our capital markets, for which I am deeply saddened." In a separate presentation, also on her website, she adds, "I am no different than the other executives at Enron. … Every one of us is all of us."

It's a theme she repeated in an interview with USA TODAY. "I'm no different from Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling in that we all became complacent because of stock options," she says. (In the late 1990s, stock options were available to employees on a companywide basis, not just to executives.) "I am Enron. The horrible side of me came out. I got to see I wasn't the best person inside the company."

In addition to giving speeches, Brewer runs The Integrity Institute, based in Washington state. The company has three full-time employees.

Nobel recognition

As part of the Nobel Peace Center exhibition of freedom of expression in Oslo, Brewer is featured alongside such luminaries as peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and author Salman Rushdie. Two other honorees — Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh — were murdered because of their work.

Bente Erichsen, director of the Nobel Peace Center, expressed surprise at USA TODAY's inability to verify Brewer's claims about Enron, before adding, "She's not a big part of the exhibition. We haven't censored her story. We're just relating it as she tells it."

Gossett, Brewer's last boss at Enron, says the important part of this saga isn't that she exaggerated her role at Enron. It's her success at becoming a star on the corporate ethics speaking circuit. "It's almost comical," he says, "how everyone let some opportunist come out and snow every single one of them."

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