El Paso Drops Following Death Of Vice President

Corporate America was last night mourning another casualty after the senior vice-president and treasurer of El Paso Corporation, the US gas company and energy trader, apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Police in Houston, Texas, found the body of the 47 year old Charles Dana Rice on Sunday after being called to his home.

Yesterday’s announcement sparked a fall of fourteen percent in shares in El Paso, which has been undergoing painful restructuring after being rocked by the collapse in confidence in the US energy sector caused by the failure of Enron, the energy trading group.

Last Friday El Paso, which was fined for manipulating power supplies in California last year, was forced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to deny involvement in so called “wash” or “round trip” energy transactions, which were designed to boost revenues artificially.

The company is planning to shed half its energy traders and is cutting its investment in the division to concentrate on its core natural gas business. It has also moved off book debt back onto its balance sheet. Market watchers made a link with Enron, whose former vice chairman, Cliff Baxter, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in January.

El Paso said that there was no reason for Mr Rice’s death to affect its shares as it had.

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