Legions of people awaited Thursday's guilty verdict in the Enron fraud trial, and probably none more anxiously than Enron's victims. And you don't have to go far in Houston to find them.
Some 20,000 people lost their jobs when Enron collapsed; Laurie Mayer is among them.
“I was with Enron a little over three, three-and-a-half years,” she said. “Lost my 401(k) pension, totalling a little over $100,000 at the time.”
It’s an unfortunate story, and here in Houston, unfortunately common. Connie Castillo was another Enron worker who lost her future.
“I think I'm still angry,” she said. “Yes, bitter, yes. I don't have the time left to put in the work years to replace what I lost.”
And that's just the start. Enron's shareholders lost billions of dollars, practically in a heartbeat. Some 20,000 creditors are still trying to collect what they can out of the $70 billion they were owed.
At Enron's audit firm, Arthur Andersen, 28,000 people lost their jobs after the firm was indicted. And here in Houston, the damage goes even deeper. The collapse of Enron hit this city right in the heart: the charities and non-profit organizations that came to depend on Enron.
Peter Marzio is director of Houston's Museum of Fine Arts where Enron donated nearly $1 million in its heyday.
“The company really put money into different organizations, and, it was really leading,” said Marzio.
But Marzio says Enron's importance went beyond money.
“It was more their involvement in the different institutions and their getting other people to get on board,” he said. “It was that kind of leadership position rather than just the money that was the big difference.”
After Enron's collapse, the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross had to slash its annual budget by 25 percent -- from $12 milion to $9 million -- and cut paid staff.
“And it wasn't until last year, when this economy started to come back here in Houston, that you saw contributions, not only to the Red Cross, but to all charities including the United Way, begin to go back up,” said Davis Henderson, CEO of the American Red Cross Houston chapter.
Four and a half years later, Houston has largely moved on from the Enron collapse. But moving on is not the same as recovering. And the aftershocks can still be felt one person at a time.