Michael Lynch's reporting on Enron continues to be ... remarkable. His latest piece on the subject discusses, among other things, the Enron employees who watched their retirement savings held in Enron 401(k) plans evaporate, while they were helpless to sell the stock due to an administrative lockdown, allegedly related to a change in plan administrators. But, Lynch claims:
- This story is as phony as an Enron financial statement. Any retirees who lost everything committed two sins of investing: They put all their eggs in one basket and then didn't watch it. Outside of a 10-trading-day period from October 26 to November 12 when accounts were frozen so Enron could change plan administrators, all employees were free to sell any Enron stock they purchased for the 401(k) account. (Attorneys suing on behalf of investors say the freeze actually started on October 17.) Any employee over 50 -- which includes most retirees -- could have sold even the stock the company put in their accounts for free.
Note the weasel wording. As Lynch's own more detailed report on the 401(k) plans points out, employees under 50 could not sell all their Enron stock --- Enron's matching contributions, 50% of employee contributions up to 6% of the full salary, were given exclusively in Enron stock which could not be sold by younger employees. Also, the actual duration of the lockdown is in some dispute.
There's something else worth noting though. One of the arguments against social security privatization is the risk that a few improvident decisions could leave retirees penniless. Advocates of social security privatization --- who have included, in the past, Michael Lynch --- argue that this is a kind of nanny-ism, and that real people are mature enough to handle these decisions and risks. Well, not in this case...