DALLAS – U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, whose wife sits on Enron's board and audit committee, says he knew nothing about the energy company's precarious financial state in the months before it filed for bankruptcy, according to published reports.
Gramm and his wife, Wendy Gramm, lost more than $600,000 in the Enron collapse. Wendy Gramm has been named in a lawsuit by investors against Enron executives and directors.
The senator told The Dallas Morning News in Wednesday's editions that he did not know of Enron's impending collapse because he and his wife do not discuss her business activities.
"We talk about my taking out the garbage and Texas A&M football," he said in an article on the Houston Chronicle's Web site.
One of Congress' biggest recipients of Enron campaign donations, Gramm has decided to remove himself from congressional hearings focusing on what went wrong at the company. But he will take part in more general inquiries into accounting standards, investor protection issues and other matters, spokesman Larry Neal said.
Gramm defended his wife against the criticisms that have been aimed at the energy company.
"When all the facts are known, people will find she did nothing wrong," Gramm said.
The shareholder lawsuits allege that Enron's directors and senior executives sold $1.1 billion in Enron shares between 1998 and 2001 with inside knowledge that the company was in financial trouble.
Wendy Gramm likely will be called to testify before one of many congressional panels looking into the Enron debacle.
Some critics say her husband may have trouble drawing a line between Enron issues and general issues.
"He should recuse himself, given that his wife is on the board and his wife, potentially, could be in serious trouble," said Tyson Slocum of consumer activist Ralph Nader's Public Citizen.