As news broke over the weekend that a former Enron lawyer has been hired at FERC as a trial attorney specializing in technical rate matters, a Commission spokesperson on Monday urged skeptics to “look at the facts,” and not to attach a “stigma affecting someone’s career just because of the simple fact they worked at Enron.”

FERC spokesperson Bryan Lee noted that Mary Hain began work at FERC on Monday, returning to a position she held previously in the Commission’s administrative litigation section from 1991-96.

“This was a hire made at the discretion of the office director, William Froehlich,” Lee said. “I would encourage people to look into the facts about what Ms. Hain did at Enron. Bill Froehlich looked into her role as a regulatory attorney (making filings to FERC for Enron). She had no role in the trading floor, and as her sworn depositions to FERC and the CFTC indicate, she was excluded from meetings with trading floor personnel. Her testimony helped lay the ground work for guilty pleas by several Enron traders.”

Lee said that the “mere fact that she worked for Enron and may have been present on the trading floor in Portland doesn’t mean she has committed any crimes.”

The Los Angeles Times reported on Hain’s hiring at FERC in its Saturday editions. Hain’s “apparent indifference to corruption seems like a very poor qualification as a regulator,” Robert McCullough, a former Portland General Electric executive and energy consultant told the Times. McCullough testified several times before Congress and California legislature on Enron’s wholesale market schemes.

Hain’s hiring did not require approval from the commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and it was first made public by Clearing Up, an energy trade publication in the Pacific Northwest.

The Times article said that the hiring “has stirred long-held sentiments among some consumer activists that the energy commission wasn’t sufficiently bothered by misconduct in the Western marketplace.” But a San Diego-based consumer advocate said the hiring might benefit the agency’s regulatory efforts.

Hain, 47, reportedly worked most recently as an attorney in the Tampa, FL, area, and previously worked at FERC in the early 1990s. The Times reported that FERC officials “vigorously defended” the hiring, noting that Hain cooperated with investigators on the Enron scandals and was never accused of misconduct.

Froehlich was quoted in the article as saying he had “every faith and confidence” in Hain’s integrity. Froehlich had been Hain’s boss when she previously worked at the federal commission before she joined Enron in the late 1990s through 2001.

Critics are pointing to memos Hain allegedly wrote while at Enron that were used as part of the federal investigations of the company’s trading activities in the West. McCullough alleged that in her role at Enron she had knowledge of the company’s trading strategies that proved harmful to consumers throughout the West.

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