Enron files for bankruptcy On this day in 2001, the Enron Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history. An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Houston Natural Gas and Internorth. Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, Enron rose as high as number seven on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 500 U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001. As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans. Over the next several years, the name “Enron” became synonymous with large-scale corporate fraud and corruption, as an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department revealed that Enron had inflated its earnings by hiding debts and losses in subsidiary partnerships. The government subsequently accused Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling, who served as Enron’s CEO from February to August 2001, of conspiring to cover up their company’s financial weaknesses from investors. The investigation also brought down accounting giant Arthur Andersen, whose auditors were found guilty of deliberately destroying documents incriminating to Enron. In July 2004, a Houston court indicted Skilling on 35 counts including fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. Lay was charged with 11 similar crimes. The trial began on January 30, 2006, in Houston. A number of former Enron employees appeared on the stand, including Andrew Fastow, Enron’s ex-CFO, who early on pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and agreed to testify against his former bosses. Over the course of the trial, the defiant Skilling–who unloaded almost $60 million worth of Enron stock shortly after his resignation but refused to admit he knew of the company’s impending collapse–emerged as the figure many identified most personally with the scandal. In May 2006, Skilling was convicted of 19 of 35 counts, while Lay was found guilty on 10 counts of fraud and conspiracy. When Lay died from heart disease just two months later, a Houston judge vacated the counts against him. That October, the 52-year-old Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison. 1823 Monroe introduces bold new foreign policy On this day in 1823, President James Monroe delivers his annual message to Congress and calls for a bold new approach to American foreign policy that eventually became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Monroe told Congress, and the world’s empires, that “the American continents are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for further colonization by any European powers.” This policy was invoked and adapted by subsequent presidents to advance American economic and political interests in the Western Hemisphere. Monroe’s declaration, which was drafted by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams–who would succeed Monroe as president in 1824–was aimed at preventing attempts by other nations to colonize territory on the North and South American continents that had not yet been claimed by Europeans. Although the U.S. population was at the time concentrated east of the Mississippi River, expansion into the western half of the continent was foremost in the minds of many American politicians, including Monroe and his predecessor Thomas Jefferson. Monroe and Adams were also concerned that the British, French and Russians would attempt to annex regions once held by the Spanish (such as the Southwest, Central and South America and the Northern Pacific)–places over which the U.S. itself hoped to extend control. Monroe did not actively seek to add territory to the United States, but some of his successors, including James Polk and Theodore Roosevelt, used the Monroe Doctrine to justify the annexation of new lands into the Union. Under its auspices, President James Polk took the land (via the Mexican-American War in 1846-48) that now makes up Texas. Later, Theodore Roosevelt tailored Monroe’s philosophy to establish a strong American presence in Central America, the Philippines and the Caribbean. 1845 Polk affirms Monroe Doctrine Making his first annual address to Congress, President James K. Polk belligerently reasserts the 1823 Monroe Doctrine and calls for aggressive American expansion into the West. Polk’s aggressive expansionist program created the outline of the modern American nation. The Monroe Doctrine was the creation of Polk’s predecessor, James Monroe, who argued that all European influence should be removed from the neighborhood of the United States for reasons of national security. As a result, throughout the first half of the 19th century, Americans had worked to undermine European claims on the continent, often by peacefully annexing European territories. Polk’s extension of the Monroe Doctrine, however, carried a far more aggressive agenda, which reflected his willingness to use force to create a nation stretching across the continent. Polk felt that such expansion was part of America’s “manifest destiny.” Polk’s vision of America’s future included making the Rio Grande River the southern border of Texas, the acquisition of California, and an end to sharing control of Oregon territory with the British. Always slightly paranoid about the Europeans, Polk worried that France would insist on maintaining a balance of power in North America and that Great Britain would try to keep the U.S. from acquiring Texas and California. In fact, neither nation was very aggressive about resisting American expansionism, and Great Britain peacefully surrendered its claim to the Oregon territory south of the 49th parallel in 1846. Polk’s ambition to take the Mexican-controlled California and the rest of the Southwest away from Mexico proved more difficult to realize. Six months after his speech to Congress, Polk’s decision to send troops to the Rio Grande in Texas led to war with Mexico. Despite Polk’s fears, neither France nor Great Britain leapt to the aid of the Mexicans in the war, leaving the U.S. free to act as it wished. When the Americans emerged victorious in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave Polk precisely what he wanted: the vast northern provinces of the Mexican empire that would one day become the states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. This land was the final piece of the puzzle needed to create the territory of today’s United States.