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News > Companies
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Enron: Ex-vice chairman dead
graphic January 25, 2002: 2:06 p.m. ET

Suicide note found with body of J. Clifford Baxter, former Enron vice chairman
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  • Enron executives and directors sold $1.3B in stock - Jan. 22, 2002
  • Federal Government to investigate Enron pension plans - Dec. 5, 2001
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  • Panel cites widespread destruction of documents - January 25, 2002
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    NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Texas police confirmed Friday that former Enron Corp. Vice Chairman John Clifford Baxter was found dead of an apparent suicide.

    Authorities in Sugar Land, Texas found Baxter's body, with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, early Friday morning. Police discovered the body inside a vehicle parked between two medians on a highway. A suicide note was also found at the scene, police spokesperson Pat Whitty said.

    "There was no sign of foul play," Whitty said. "Inside his wallet was an I.D. indicating he was an employee of Enron."

    The text of the suicide note was unknown and at this time there is no indication that Baxter's death is connected to the collapse of Enron.

    The company released a one-sentence statement reacting to Baxter's death.

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

    On Dec. 2 Enron filed the largest bankruptcy in United States history. The former energy giant is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Baxter, 43, was one of the Enron's officers and executives who netted massive profits cashing in on company stock options. Baxter netted nearly $22 million by selling more than 600,000 Enron shares on the open market since October 1998. The sales included nearly 490,000 shares Baxter bought at bargain prices, according to data from Thomson Financial.

    Baxter documents subpoenaed

    Congressional investigators had wanted to speak to Baxter regarding his involvement in the Enron saga, a Congressional source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

    Enron whistleblower executive Sherron Watkins, in her letter to Enron CEO Ken Lay, named Baxter. The Watkins letter was one of the first indications of accounting problems at Enron.

    "Cliff Baxter complained mightily to [former Enron CEO Jeffrey] Skilling and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions with LJM," Watkins wrote.

    LJM is one of the off-the-book partnerships which Houston-based Enron allegedly used to hide debt.

    An Enron employee, who had worked with Baxter, told CNNfn that the former vice chairman was part of Skilling's inner group along with Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow.

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    It was the Watkins letter that spurred Congressional investigators' interest in Baxter, a second Congressional source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

    In fact, Congressional investigators had been in contact with Baxter's lawyer and had talked to the attorney as late as Friday morning, the source told CNN. Both the Congressional investigators and the attorney were unaware of Baxter's death at the time, the source said.

    The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), had subpoenaed documents from Baxter as part of a slew of subpoenas sent out January 11th, Levin's spokeswoman said.

    Baxter had yet to comply with the subpoenas, but the former Enron executive had until Feb. 1 to do so, the spokeswoman said. The Subcommittee had wanted to interview Baxter but had not decided whether to ask the former executive to testify at any hearings held later this year, the spokeswoman said.

    But Baxter was named in a lawsuit from Amalgamated Bank in December which sought to freeze the assets of senior executives at Enron. The bank alleged that the executives artificially inflated the price of Enron's stock. According to the lawsuit, Baxter sold 577,436 shares to net $35.2 million.

    The Enron employee, who had worked closely with Baxter, said he last spoke to the former executive last Monday and sensed no signs of depression or panic. The employee, who declined to speak for the record, said they discussed Enron matters, including the shareholder lawsuit that names Baxter.

    "[He] did not seem unduly upset about that suit," the employee told CNNfn.

    Baxter joined Enron in 1991 and was chairman and CEO of Enron North America before he assumed the role of vice chairman in October 2000. On May 2, 2001, exactly seven months before the company filed for bankruptcy, Baxter resigned from Enron but continued to work with the company as a consultant.

    The former executive, a native of Amityville, N.Y., received a bachelors degree from New York University and his M.B.A. from Columbia University in 1987. graphic

      RELATED STORIES

    Enron executives and directors sold $1.3B in stock - Jan. 22, 2002

    Federal Government to investigate Enron pension plans - Dec. 5, 2001

      RELATED LINKS

    Panel cites widespread destruction of documents - January 25, 2002





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    Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.

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