OLD Media Moves

Conflict of interest among biz journalists at the Enron trial?

March 10, 2006

In the March 20, 2006, issue of Fortune, there is a letter to the editor on p. 18 from Daniel Petrocelli, a New Jersey attorney who represents Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling in the current trial going on in Houston.

Daniel PetrocelliIn his letter, Petrocelli criticizes the magazine for allowing writers Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, who wrote a book about the Enron collapse called “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” cover the trial, arguing that “no one has cashed in as handsomely from the public’s rush to judgment of Mr. Skillind and Mr. Lay — and of other innocent men — as these two.”

Petrocelli continues, “It is ironic that so much of Elkind and McLean’s criticism of Enron has been based on their claimed outrage about a confict of interest at Enron. These two have an obvious financial interest in having the trial — or at least the public’s perception of the trial — turn out consistent with the one-sided and ultimately cartoonish depiction of Enron and my client in their book and in the so-called documentary to which they have lent their names and other support.”

At the end of the letter, Fortune replied with this Editor’s Note: “Peter Elkind and Bethany McLean are journalists of the highest reputation, as well known for their integrity as they are for their knowledge of Enron. While they have certainly chronicled the failings of the company and its management, they have neither a rooting interest nor a financial interest in the outcome of the trial.”

The issue is not yet available online. I got mine in the mail today. Elkind and McLean have been writing a blog about the trial. The latest installment, which talks about Petrocelli’s cross-examination of former CFO Andy Fastow, is here.

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