A little over a month after being released from prison for his involvement in one of the grandest corporate scandals in history, Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive of collapsed U.S. energy giant Enron is reportedly eyeing the blockchain sector, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
The report adds that Skilling has met with ex-Enron executives as well as software developers and blockchain and cryptocurrency specialists. Per sources, the early-stage project is basically a digital platform which will connect investors to energy projects.
One of the former Enron executives who has already pledged his support for the project is Lou Pai. According to NPR, Pai made approximately $270 million after cashing Enron’s stocks prior to the collapse of the energy giant.
Skilling’s Blockchain Project Covered Under a Hood of Secrecy
The exact nature of Skilling’s blockchain project remains mysterious though as the people he has met have inked nondisclosure agreements.
Skilling reportedly developed the idea in 2015 while serving time at a Montgomery correctional facility in Alabama. He is said to have been worried that by the time of his release someone else would have come up with it.
Though little is known about Skilling’s blockchain idea, except that it is targeting the energy sectors, the report comes at a time when this particular industry has embraced blockchain technology in a variety of areas. This includes trading, quality control, and tracking.
Is Skilling Looking to Improve on an Old Enron Idea?
Though the accounting scandal eroded all the credibility Enron had accumulated over the years, Skilling can claim some credit for innovation. During some of his time at the helm, Enron was viewed as one of the most innovative firms on earth.
It was the first firm to create an online trading platform that allowed the buying and selling of commodities worldwide. This was the EnronOnline platform. According to BBC, in just two years commodities worth approximately $880 billion had been traded on EnronOnline.
The platform saw Enron named as “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Fortune Magazine for six years in a row.
Useless fact of the day: From 1995 to 2000, Fortune called Enron "The Most Innovative Company in Corporate America" #UFOTD
— Rose Edmunds (@RoseEdmunds) August 2, 2014
Additionally, the Financial Times gave the ‘Boldest Successful Investment Decision’ award to Enron for the pioneering online trading commodities platform. The platform did not, however, survive Enron’s accounting scandal.
Should Skilling Get the Benefit of the Doubt?
Among all those involved in the Enron scandal, Skilling got the harshest punishment. Thirteen years ago he was convicted of insider trading, fraud and conspiracy and sentenced to a 24-year sentence which was later cut by 10 years.
As a result of that history, news of Skilling’s blockchain venture have been met with cynicism. Bloomberg columnist, Matt Levine, sarcastically stated it was the ‘perfect business plan’ in a satirical piece:
Imagine getting out of prison and not immediately launching a blockchain startup. Gah, the thing is, I have no criticisms, it is a perfect business plan, there has never been a better combination of person and idea and timing than this.
Levine then went on to imagine a conversation between Skilling and a prospective investor, to hilarious effect.
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling (he's out of jail!) is looking to build a digital platform in the energy business with blockchain as a solution.
— Chris Harvey (@ChrisHarveyEsq) March 25, 2019