June 3, 2002 — The senior vice president and treasurer of El Paso Corp. was found dead Sunday in what looks like an apparent suicide.
The company said it will release more information as it becomes available on the death of longtime employee Charles Dana Rice, the Associated Press reported.
“Dana was a member of the El Paso family for 25 years and was a personal friend,” said William A. Wise, chairman, president, and CEO. “Dana was a tireless worker, a valued contributor, and will be missed both as a business associate and as a friend. Our hearts and prayers are with his wife and their family.”
El Paso Corp. last week announced plans to scale back its trading group by 300 jobs and form a more basic company strategy. As part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) investigation into possible energy market manipulation in the western U.S., El Paso had admitted to making some “round trip” energy trades.
Round trip trades, although not illegal, are one of several types of trades which FERC is investigating for the possibility that these trades may have boosted energy prices artificially.
FERC began investigating possible market manipulation when it was learned that Enron had a well-established list of commonly used trades that had such colorful names as “get shorty,” “wheel out,” “Death Star,” “fat boy” and “ricochet”.
If Rice’s death is also ruled a suicide, it will be the second to have happened amidst a shake-up of the energy industry that has caused layoffs, firings, resignations and scores of investigations.
Former Enron vice chairman J. Clifford Baxter’s Jan. 25 death was ruled a suicide by the Harris County, Texas, coroner. Baxter had been named in lawsuits and House investigators wanted to speak with him on the recently bankrupt Enron’s trading practices.
As part of the fallout, credit rating agencies have downgraded several companies, making it more difficult for energy merchants to borrow money.
Dynegy Inc., Reliant Resources Inc. and CMS Energy have all acknowledged using round trip trades. Last month, the chairman and chief executives of Dynegy and CMS both resigned.
Responding to the news of Rice’s death, El Paso’s stock dropped $3.75 to $21.90 by Monday afternoon, more than 14 percent, Reuters Business News reported.