Houston Former Enron Corp. chairman Kenneth Lay took responsibility for the company's demise but blamed any criminal acts on underlings in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times.
"I take full responsibility for what happened at Enron," Lay said in his first unrestricted interview since the company declared bankruptcy amid myriad accounting scandals in December 2001. "But saying that, I know in my mind that I did nothing criminal."
In an article posted on the Times' Web site Saturday, Lay also said he believed his first-name relationship with President Bush would prove to be a liability as prosecutors reportedly weigh criminal charges against the former chairman.
Lay, a major fund-raiser in Bush's 2000 campaign, is considered in prosecutors' cross hairs because he is the last well-known Enron figure to have escaped charges so far.
Former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling is under indictment, and former finance chief Andrew Fastow pleaded guilty and accepted a 10-year prison term in exchange for his cooperation.
Lay placed most of the blame for the scandal on Fastow, who prosecutors say was the main architect of several Byzantine schemes that eventually were called into question.
Sources involved in the investigation said the main accusation against Lay was that he promoted Enron stock to employees and others even as he was selling as its share price began to tumble in late 2001.