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Enron Corp. laid off about 4,000 employees Monday and told others to take the day off, virtually emptying its headquarters a day after filing for Chapter 11 protection in one of the biggest corporate bankruptcies in U.S. history. Enron, which also sued rival Dynegy Inc. for $10 billion on Sunday, was hit from a countersuit Monday from Dynegy. Enron, once the world’s biggest buyer and seller of energy, imploded in recent weeks after acknowledging it engaged in questionable accounting practices and overstated its profits by more than half a billion dollars over the past four years. Most of Monday’s 4,000 job cuts were at Enron’s Houston headquarters. The remaining 3,500 or so employees in the 50-story mirrored glass tower were sent home to await further instructions, said spokeswoman Karen Denne. The cuts amounted to nearly 3 percent of downtown Houston’s work force of about 150,000. “The whole thing, it’s a nightmare,” Joann Matson, a human resources coordinator who was among those let go, said as she carted her belongings to a car. “I blame Enron for this. The employees did a good job. This is in no way a reflection of us,” said Tammie Huthmacher, 27, who is six months pregnant with her second child. “I’m very angry. I loved my job. I loved everyone I worked with.” Enron called four large meetings to tell the employees to pack their belongings. Matson said the company offered each laid-off worker a $4,500 severance package pending a ruling from a bankruptcy court, but she wondered if they would ever see the money, considering Enron’s financial condition. Like many other employees, Matson also lost a bundle because of the plunge of Enron’s stock. “It’s three weeks before Christmas, and I have nothing,” said Matson, whose $70,000 in stock options have evaporated. Enron stock was up 13 cents to 39 cents a share Monday. A year ago, Enron traded near $85. Several Houston police officers — on foot, horseback and in patrol cars — watched the exodus of workers. Several employees reported they were given 30 minutes to clear out. Before the layoffs started, Enron had 21,000 employees, 7,500 of them in Houston. Enron’s Houston rival Dynegy had agreed to rescue the company last month, but the $8.4 billion takeover deal fell through as Wall Street lowered Enron’s credit rating to junk status. Enron filed for bankruptcy Sunday and sued Dynegy for breach of contract. Dynegy chairman and chief executive Chuck Watson called Enron’s lawsuit “frivolous and disingenuous.” Dynegy is countersuing to protect an Enron pipeline; Dynegy claims the pipeline belongs to it because the takeover deal fell through. In the bankruptcy filing, Enron listed just under $50 billion in assets and $31.1 billion in liabilities. Enron said it was talking with several financial institutions to secure credit to keep on operating. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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