Enron dives from the seventh largest US company to bankruptcy in less than a year in this tale told chronologically. The emphasis is on human drama, from suicide to 20,000 people sacked: the personalities of Ken Lay (with Falwellesque rectitude), Jeff Skilling (he of big ideas), Lou Pai (gone with $250 M), and Andy Fastow (the dark prince) dominate. Along the way, we watch Enron game California's deregulated electricity market, get a free pass from Arthur Andersen (which okays the dubious mark-to-market accounting), use greed to manipulate banks and brokerages (Merrill Lynch fires the analyst who questions Enron's rise), and hear from both Presidents Bush what great guys these are.Written by
Among the protesters who disrupt the meeting with Jeff Skilling at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club is Marla Ruzicka. The former Global Exchange activist founded CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict), which worked to help the victims of the war in Iraq. She died in Iraq on April 16, 2005, the victim of a suicide bombing. See more »
Oh I can't help myself. You know what the difference between the state of California and Titanic? And this is being webcast, and I know I'm going to regret this - at least when the Titanic went down, the lights were on.
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I agree with previous posts: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" is right up there with the biggest horror films of our time. And this one is scarier because it's real.
It's hard to say what boggles the mind most: the complicity of Arthur Andersen, the banks, and the traders in this elaborate scheme of making a failing company look profitable; the fact that the executives cashed out their stock at high prices and froze the employees' stock accessibility until it was worth nothing; the derisive laughter of the traders over the Enron-caused blackouts in California ("let them fall into the ocean - let them use candles); that Lu Pi, a guy who ran a failing Enron company, left that company with $250 million in his pocket; or the fact that Ken Lay died before they could convict him of anything. Take your pick, it's all disgusting.
When one of the California power companies called Enron and said there was a fire in the plant, the trader chuckled and said, "Burn, baby, burn." That sums up Enron's, the banks, the traders', and Arthur Andersen's attitude toward the common man - burn, baby, burn. Let's hope that's what Ken Lay is doing right now.
This is a great documentary even if you don't understand business. The only part I didn't quite get were these dummy corporations that Flatow started up to hide Enron's losses which were then invested in by the banks. That was a little complicated, but you'd think someone would have realized that the CFO of Enron running companies that were supposedly selling to Enron was a conflict of interest. Funny, no bank picked it up. They won't give you a mortgage, but they'll pay a fortune to a dummy corporation.
Probably my favorite part was the mark to market accounting system employed by Enron and signed off on by Arthur Andersen. I have no understanding of a reliable accounting firm allowing such a thing. In other words, if I have a book proposal, I can report a profit of, say, $30,000 on the book even though it isn't sold and I haven't seen a dime. And one wonders how they cooked their books. With help, that's how.
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