Inside Enron, CEO Stephen Cooper

ByABC News via GMA logo
February 19, 2002, 9:58 PM

H O U S T O N, Feb. 20 -- Enron may be bankrupt, but it's still open for business. It's a messy mix of jittery workers, moving boxes and empty offices but 20,000 people still get regular paychecks from the company, and 2,500 of those employees are in Houston.

And many of those inside Enron say it can actually survive. One of its stronger supporters is the company's temporary CEO, Steven Cooper.

ABCNEWS' Claire Shipman spoke with Cooper in an exclusive interview for Good Morning America.

Asked about Enron's chances, Cooper said he thinks the company's odds are good and he expects that Enron will return to the basics it started with.

"It's not as if this is a slam-dunk and it is not as if this is going to be without stressful moments," Cooper said, from his offices in the glittering Enron building's opulent 50th floor, where the old bosses have been thrown out of their plush suites. "It may be boring, it may not have the sex appeal of a trading operation, but it's a hell of a good business by way of predictability and cash flow."

The Crime Is That This Happened

Of the investigations swirling around the company both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are looking into the firm and its longtime auditor, Arthur Andersen Cooper called it unacceptable that some former top executives said they didn't realize the company was in serious trouble right before it went bankrupt.

"It seems to me that the top executives were responsible for knowing what was going on," Cooper told Shipman. "If you're accounting for knowing what's going on and you don't, it's omission, and if you knew what was going on and you did nothing about it, it's commission. Either one is unacceptable," he said.

Cooper stressed that the special limited partnerships that hid the company's finances will not be part of the new Enron. But he said he doesn't know if crimes were committed at Enron.

"I know the crime is that this happened. The crime is that all of these people have been hurt and what may have been a company that could have grown nicely and steadily," said Cooper, adding: "The crime is that somebody turbo-charged it to the point where it just poof blew up."