Kenneth Lay was born into a poor family in Tyrone, Missouri, in 1942. He attended the University of Missouri and received a doctorate in economics from the University of Houston in 1970. Lay became introduced to the oil industry when he went to work as an economist for the Exxon Corporation in 1965. In the early 1970s, Lay worked as an energy regulator, first for the Power Commission and then as the undersecretary for energy issues at the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1974, he returned to the private energy industry. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, he held executive positions in several oil and natural gas companies. In 1985, he formed the Enron Corporation from a merger of Houston Natural Gas and the natural gas company Inter-North. In 1986, he assumed the position of chief executive officer of Enron. Enron's success was unprecedented. The company became a powerful electricity and natural gas utilities company, employing over 21,000 people and trading in the markets of over 800 energy service products. Lay is an important figure in energy dynamics not only for Enron's success but also because of the company's collapse. In 2001, Enron's stock declined dramatically when it was revealed that fraudulent accounting practices had inflated the company's wealth. The company went bankrupt, and thousands of employees lost their pension benefits and stock options. Lay and several of his associates were put on trial for the collapse of Enron. During the proceedings, Enron's abuses of California's deregulated energy market were revealed. In 2006, Lay was found guilty on six charges of financial crimes. He would not live to receive sentencing; he died of congestive heart failure on July 5, 2006. The story of Ken Lay and the Enron Corporation is a notable occurrence in energy dynamics because it describes the problems that may occur in a deregulated energy market. Lay's (and his associates') actions resulted in rolling blackouts in California, the loss of pensions and retirement funds for thousands of workers, and overall public distrust of energy providers.

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