Enron Executive Found Dead

ByABC News

H O U S T O N, Jan. 25, 2002 -- Former high-ranking Enron executive J. Clifford Baxter was found shot dead today in suburban Houston, leaving a suicide note referring to the Enron scandal, ABCNEWS has learned.

Police in Sugar Land confirmed the death of the 43-year-old Baxter, a former Enron vice chairman who had also served as chief strategy officer for the now-bankrupt energy company and was familiar with many of its inner workings.

Baxter's Mercedes-Benz was discovered early this morning, stopped in the middle of a road. Inside, Baxter had a bullet wound to the head and a revolver at his side. Police confirmed that a suicide note was found with his body.

Although it has not been released, law enforcement sources indicated to ABCNEWS that in the note, Baxter wrote that he could not stand the pain of the Enron scandal.

"We feel it was a suicide but we are taking all precautions necessary," said a police spokesman.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Cliff Baxter," said an Enron statement released today. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Baxter was married and had two children.

Mentioned in Whistleblower's Memo

Baxter first joined Enron in 1991, and resigned as vice chairman of the company on May 2, 2001.

"Over the past 10 years, Cliff has made a tremendous contribution to Enron's evolution, particularly as a member of the team that built Enron's wholesale business," said Jeff Skilling, then Enron's CEO, in a statement released by the company at the time.

The release said Baxter had resigned to spend more time with family.

But Baxter had also apparently been upset with Enron's bookeeping tactics. He was mentioned in a whistleblowing memo that another Enron vice president, Sherron Watkins, sent to Enron CEO Kenneth Lay in August. Lay had just replaced Skilling at the company's helm.

"Cliff Baxter complained mightily to Skilling and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions with LJM," wrote Watkins in her memo, which was publicly released earlier this month.

LJM refers to a pair of investment partnerships operated by Enron, two of many which the company apparently used to pump up its earnings and to hide losses.

Read the Enron Whistleblower's Memo

The partnerships are at the heart of the federal investigations surrounding Enron. The company spiraled into bankruptcy last fall, after announcing in October that it had overstated earnings and was worth $1.2 billion less than previous financial reports had indicated.

Two company sources have told ABCNEWS that Baxter had recently been depressed and concerned about the possibility of being questioned about the activities of his friends and former colleagues at Enron.

Baxter Named in Lawsuit; Received Subpoena

Baxter was also one of 10 senior Enron officials accused of insider trading in a lawsuit filed by shareholders last November.

The suit claims he sold a total of 577,000 shares of stock for a total of $35.2 million.

Baxter, along with 48 other individuals, received a subpoena earlier this month from the The Senate Government Affairs Subcommittee on Permanent Oversight and Investigation.

The subcommittee is one of several congressional bodies investigating Enron or holding hearings about the failed energy company and its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen.

The Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other government agencies are also conducting inquiries about Enron's business practices.

Additionally, the Bush administration today announced it was ordering a federal review to determine whether Enron and Arthur Andersen meet federal ethics standards and should be allowed to keep $70 million in government contracts awarded to the two companies.

ABCNEWS' Linda Douglass, Ramona Schindelheim, Pierre Thomas and Mike Von Fremd contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events