Corporate audio and videotapes tell the inside story of the scandal involving one company's manipulation of California's energy supply and its, and how its executives wrung a billion dollars out of the resulting crisis.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, a multidimensional study of one of the biggest business scandals in American history. The chronicle takes a look at one of the greatest corporate disasters in history, in which top executives from the 7th largest company in this country walked away with over one billion dollars, leaving investors and employees with nothing. The film features insider accounts and rare corporate audio and video tapes that reveal colossal personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy. The human drama that unfolds within Enron's walls resembles a Greek tragedy and produces a domino effect that could shape the face of our economy and ethical code for years to come. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Among the protesters who disrupt the meeting with Jeff Skilling at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club is Marla Ruzicka, who was killed on 16 April 2005 in Iraq by a suicide bomber. She founded CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict) which worked to help the victims of the war in Iraq and she was a former Global Exchange activist. See more »
[Enron Executive Officer Ken Lay holds a meeting of investors after shady financial dealings of the company have recently been revealed]
We're down to questions, and I've got a few of 'em here... I would like to know if you are on crack... If so, that would explain a lot, if not, you may want to start because it's going to be a long time before we trust you again.
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Special thanks includes "all the `Deep Throats' - you know who you are!" See more »
"Ask why" was the mantra of one of the most remarkable companies in the history of modern society: Enron. And not one, not even the venerable accounting firm of Arthur Anderson, asked that question. So the little energy company that could amassed billions of dollars through deceptive accounting practices, mainly by stating profit based on future earnings (HFV=hypothetical future value) and shipping losses to offshore shell companies.
Alex Gibney's absorbing documentary, based on the book co-authored by the first prominent whistle blower and Enron executive, Bethany McLean, begins with the tragic concept of the pervasive fatal flaw, hubris, and applies it meticulously to the tragic figures Ken Lay, Andrew Skilling, and Andrew Fastow. Tragic in the sense that those talented executives allowed the company to fall while they lined their pockets with the assets of its 20, 000 employees, countless investors, and the state of California, which suffered mammoth losses due to its new energy deregulation and manipulation of that energy by Enron.
The documentary succeeds in explaining the crimes while lacing the story with just enough drama to make suspenseful the outcome we all know before we view the film: Fastow is doing time, Lay and Skilling await trial, former employees work past their retirement ages because their pensions have been gobbled up by the crimes, and California now regulates its energy but still suffers from massive deficit.
The documentary fails when it manipulates its audience with background songs that dramatize the obvious ironies, e.g.' "Son of a Preacher Man" plays during Lay's biography. Such skewering is almost impossible to avoid once a documentarian picks up a camera and selects the images; what he doesn't have to do is underscore the ironyThe players will do it all on their own. It also seems to hold back on the cozy relationship between Lay and the Bush family. Perhaps another time.
Meanwhile, this documentary is compelling viewing of a tragedy about a company, as one of the talking heads describes, that was "a house of cards . . . built over a pool of gasoline." It is enjoyable to see it figuratively torched like the House of Wax.
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