Hometown boy to sleuth Enron case

Alston & Bird partner Neal Batson has been chosen to pick apart what must be the highest-profile bankruptcy the country has ever seen.

United States Trustee Carolyn Schwartz nominated Batson, 61, Wednesday to handle the Enron bankruptcy, and his nomination was expected to be approved by noon May 24.

It goes without saying that this won't be your typical bankruptcy case. And Batson isn't your typical bankruptcy attorney. He will have subpoena power in the case, as well as the ability to take depositions and may, if the judge thinks the case warrants it, have prosecutorial power. Batson also inherits the task of investigating Enron's so-called "off-balance sheet" transactions, which allegedly hid the company's enormous debt.

The Vanderbilt Law School grad isn't a stranger to mega-scandalous bankruptcies. He served as examiner in the high-profile demolition of the Dallas-based real estate syndicate Southmark Corporation in 1989, a case that helped solidify Reagan-era vocabulary words such as "junk bonds" in the national consciousness. That case has some eerie similarities to Enron's, what with the company's executives enjoying free-spending lives in stadium-sized mansions only to have billions of dollars of claims leveled against it.

Batson was chosen after an extensive search for someone who had the credentials but lacked any potential for conflicts of interest with the case, a difficult task considering the length and number of Enron's tentacles.

Batson has lived in Atlanta since 1966 and also has served as a president and chairman of the American College of Bankruptcy and is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.??

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