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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.
This documentary is neither as detailed nor as insightful as the book, but it does a great job of providing an insightful and reasonably detailed account of the Enron saga. Overall, it is not of any incremental value for the people who have read the book. However, if you can't go through 464 pages, this does a great job of enlightening you on the drama that Enron was.
What resonates most from this searing film is how circumstantially pathological the chief villains are in this true corporate morality story. While the infamous Ken Lay comes across as the corrupt figurehead we have already come to know through news reports, it's really Enron CFO Andy Fastow (dubbed appropriately "The Sorcerer's Apprentice") and especially President and COO Jeff Skilling, who are mercilessly exposed here. Skilling is portrayed as a brilliant leader and a corporate Darwinist, whose favorite book is Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene", which he apparently translated into a bloodless performance review policy that worked like a genetic algorithm for people. Employees were rated on a 1-5 scale based on the amount of money one made for the company. Skilling mandated that between 10-15% of employees had to be rated as 5's (worst). And to get a rating of 5 meant that one was immediately fired. This review process was dubbed "rank and yank". Such was a typical example of his survivalist thinking.
The corruption spread throughout the company, as Enron was responsible for, among other things, gaming the Northern California "rolling blackouts" in 2001, whereby the company profited as huge parts of the state were plunged into darkness. Citizens were threatened by a deregulation plan that essentially enabled a number of immoral Enron traders (led by Tim Belden) to place calls that drove up energy-market prices and took advantage of power-plant shutdowns. Of course, the Bush family dynasty does not come across unscathed in the Enron story and justifiably so according to their inextricable ties to Lay. Gibney effectively uses video footage from testimony at congressional hearings, as well as interviews with disillusioned former employees such as Mike Muckleroy and whistle-blower Sherron Watkins (who uses some effective pop culture references like "Body Heat" and Jonestown to get her points across).
There are some amusing vignettes and images that tie some of the disparate elements together with excessive glibness. The documentary is best when it sticks to the facts, for this is one inarguable case where fact is truly stranger than fiction. Extras are plentiful on the 2006 DVD. Gibney provides an informative albeit verbose commentary track, and four deleted scenes, about twenty minutes in total, are included that become redundant with the film's portrayal of corporate malfeasance. There is also a fourteen-minute making-of featurette, as well as a "Where Are They Now?" snippet on the principals and three separate conversations with McLean and Elkind on how they got the story, how they validated their findings, and their enthusiastic reaction to the film. Other bonus materials include Gibney reading from scripts of skits performed at Enron and a Firesign Theater sketch about Enron's demise, as well as Fortune Magazine articles written by McLean and Elkind and a gallery of editorial cartoons.
The film describes the formation of Enron under the leadership of the ignominious Ken Lay. Jeffrey Fastow is Ken's disciple and he hires one of his own. He is graduate student, Andrew Fastow, who helps him facilitate Enron's practice of hiding debt in smaller companies. Fastow later becomes CEO of the company. The film also mentions the Lu Pei interlude, which resulted in 250 million dollars exiting the company for Pei's private consumption. The film also describes Kenneth Lay's position as CEO until his resignation in 2002. In addition, the film describes Enron's "power play" to manipulate electrical energy prices in California, Enron's relationship with the Bush family, Enron's fixation with imaginary profits, Enron's relationship with Arthur Anderson ,and Enron's "rank n' yank" system of eliminating "bad" employees. If what I've described sounds like an overview of a non-documentary film, then I've communicated effectively. With only narration, interviews, and commentary, Peter Coyote and Alex Gibney create a documentary which transcends its genre into a legal thriller of comparison to Michael Clayton. While such a comparison may seem unjust, and it probably is, this film's source material allows it to unfold unlike most documentaries. Skilling's fixation with Enron's continued success, embodied with his declaration "I am Enron", to Lu Pei's swindling of corporate money, and the brutal end create a documentary with a distinctive narrative structure. The film even displays conclusion by stating the end to its villain-protagonists and the harm that they caused to their underlings.
Additionally, the film provides analysis of Enron's policies through consultation of business associates of Enron. It deftly compares the ability of Lay and the others to swindle such large amounts of money to Milgram's experiment on the limit of human obedience. The effect all this has is to show the ability of the human mind to find loopholes in the most sophisticated of systems. It also deeply bothers the audience, at least it did me. Any thought a viewer has of the virtues of corporate America will vanish after watching this film. Furthermore, when the film describes Enron's role in the end of Gray Davis' governorship and the Bush family's role in deregulating the business environment, it does so without appearing derogatory.
Few documentaries are as adroitly crafted as this one is. Through interviews, TV clips, and narration, Gibney has created an imaginative and compelling documentary. At times I felt as if this film wasn't the documentary it claims to be. It never lets you rest as it gives example after example of the infinity of corruption. Maybe by watching it, you'll be one of the smartest guys in the room. Lay, Skilling, Pei, and Fastow would have no problem acing an ethics course or at least getting a good grade.
What's really interesting is the intricacy of Enron's actions around the world, and how it pulled off all its shenanigans (aided, of course, by Kenny Boy's contributions to George W. Bush's first presidential campaign). Among Enron's more vicious acts was its manipulation of California's electricity in summer, 2001, and how Arnold Schwarzenegger let the company off the hook. Not to mention that Enron's collapse was accompanied by Lay's draining of the employees' retirement.
Enron's downfall - followed over the next year by the implosions of Adelphia, WorldCom and Tyco - just goes to show the dangers of letting corporations run rampant. The whole way through, the documentary manages to be funny, just at the sight of what Enron was doing, abetted by Arthur Andersen.
All in all, I definitely recommend "E:TSGITR".
PS: In "Bowling for Columbine", Michael Moore proposed a TV show called "Corporate Cops" (based on "Cops!"), in which people like Ken Lay would get strip-searched.
Some ex-Enron workers venture poetic but unmerited speculations about their corrupter associates, conjuring hypothetical images of their former friends now reflecting back on their transgressions and experiencing ethical remorse. We are subjected to clichés about their having to face their own "shadows" and whatnot, all of it speculative, and in spite of any evidence that they ever experienced a moral twinge or regretted anything other than getting caught.
There's also an insidious "slippery slope" message, some philosophical waxing upon the blurriness of ethical lines, and depictions of compulsive personalities, all of which introduce unwarranted moral ambiguity. Bethany McLean, one of the investigative journalists, surprisingly lays overmuch of the blame on Andrew Fastow, declaring that the fraud started with him (!) even though Fastow is elsewhere shown to have been recruited into a company already corrupt from the top down. There is some subtle attempt at containment here. This film skewers the culprits one moment, but then shrinks from the implications.
The WORST example is a naive question given undue emphasis by being left "provocatively" open-ended. The narrator, Peter Coyote, asks, "What motivated the corrupt traders? Was it their million dollar bonuses? Or was it docile complicity?" (I'm paraphrasing here) A no-brainer answer you might think, but then - I kid you not - the documentary suggests the second possibility and launches into the fascinating but entirely irrelevant Milgram experiment, in which reluctant subjects are persuaded by an authority figure to voluntarily electrocute others. But Enron traders were a uniformly sanguine lot, evidenced by testimonials and taped conversations displaying naked greed and delight (generous clips of which are included in the documentary). Yet we are supposed to imagine they were the victims of obedience training?
It's a bit much...
Maybe two or three of the commentators don't pussyfoot around, and through them "The Smartest Guys" successfully conveys the perils of the free market and deregulation; but these lessons get watered down by wistful undertones and feigned ambiguity. Post-Enron, the communist charge that capitalists are "cannibals" now seems undeniably apt. Yet we forever flatter ourselves, rehearsing the cant of the free market ideology, according to which the profit motive encourages 1) innovation and 2) hard work. Granted. But what the pundits and economists invariably overlook is that the profit motive also encourages 3) robbery. Adam Smith's *other* "invisible hand," if you will ...hidden behind the back and gripping a knife! Enron calls for an inquiry into the nature of capitalism, not an explanation based upon specific personalities. Human nature is what it is, and there will always be people ready and willing to cut throats when given motivation and opportunity. To misquote the NRA: People don't kill people.. incentives do.
Final criticism: a bit of shabby hypocrisy. One of the Enron execs is portrayed as having sleazy encounters with strippers; the viewer is then dutifully treated to lots of footage of nude strippers... ha!
Now to the film itself. It takes almost two hours to chart the history of Enron, from the beginning in the mid 80's to its sudden collapse in 2001. There are interviews with everyone involved with the company from accountants to regular employees, and like all Ponzi schemes, people might have had their doubts and suspicions, but nobody wanted to upset the money train especially if they are on that train. And like all Ponzi schemes Enron came to a sudden abrupt end when there was no way to hide the fact that all of the money and the profits were not real.
Also very interesting is the gladiator/macho corporate culture described, largely caused by COO Jeff Skilling waking up one day, realizing he was a nerd, and wanting to throw off that nerd persona. He lost weight, worked out, got Lasik done on his eyes, and began to organize adventure trips for himself and an inner circle of Enron executives, some of which involved actual bodily danger. He instituted an Enron employee ranking system in which employees were ranked from 1-5 and those in the lowest ranks were automatically terminated. It was the Billionaire Boys Club minus the murder and involving a much bigger club.
Of course, now the scandal looks almost quaint compared to what we've been living with since 2008.In 2005, when this film was made, such an implosion by a company that had been named "most innovative company" for six consecutive years by CEOs, 1996-2001, the last year being the year of Enron's collapse, was still quite the spectacle. The irony is that if Enron had collapsed in 2011 instead of 2001, I doubt anybody would have gone to jail. Heck, it might not have even been newsworthy except in Texas! Also, the company might have even received a federal bailout.
The highlight of the film for me - a video "Christmas card" to Ken Lay made by Enron execs in which they do a comedy sketch about "creative accounting" which turns out to be EXACTLY what the company was doing that hid their problems.
Alex Gibney co-wrote, co-produced and directed this work which, though occasionally complex, is compelling viewing and a lesson to us all on corporate greed and regulatory failure. Interviews with key observers and extracts from Congressional hearings are linked by a narration from Peter Coyote. The heroines of the story are Bethany McLean, the financial journalist who first questioned the valuation of Enron, and Sherron Watkins, the senior manager who blew the whistle on the company. The villains are a long list of men headed by Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay and Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling. Maybe there is a gender lesson here as well - as many financial and political ones.
Working for an American multinational myself I am always interested and critical of the business model of making more and more money and keeping the stock increasing in value being the only way to survive. So I have watched films like this and like The Corporation with interest and appreciate the way that they sell a complex issue in easy to understand ways. With the Enron film it is all the more interesting because it is a prime example of how it all fell down and how easy it is to con the market which, regardless of the legality of the accounting method used, is basically what they did! The film tells the story well and it is a tale that never struggles to fascinate. Lesser hands could have fudged the telling but the team here structure it well and use footage from Enron and C-Span to really good effect. In fact I did wonder how much this film cost to make because the vast majority of it is stock footage and a handful of interviews.
Although they lay things out well, the film doesn't manage to avoid nailing its colours to the mast; which is a shame because the story is compelling enough and damning enough to work without resorting to cheap digs, funny footage and so on. Sadly it does use this not to the point of distraction but just to the point where I wondered if the makers didn't think that the facts would be strong enough to make the audience get the point without the extra bit of hammering. The film also stretches to bring in Bush and his cronies as if they were also to blame; it doesn't labour this point but what little it does is stretched again it could have done less and allowed the audience to draw its own conclusions.
Overall this is not a perfect documentary because it is a bit biased and based on commentary from subjects all on one side of the fence. However it is well structured and easy to follow, stripping away the feared complexity of the tale and telling it in a fascinating and engaging way. A cautionary tale that I doubt that those that needed to learn from have learnt from. Well worth a look and yet another good documentary making it into cinemas.
Warning though: your blood will be boiling by the end of it.
Taken from the book of the same name by Peter Elkind and Bethany McLean, this film details the rise of the Houston-based energy giant and how it manipulated its finances to hide the fact that it was a house of cards ready to collapse for several years before it did. Even more than that, however, the film shows us just how Lay and his boys, with the always-reliable help of his deregulator-in-chief George W. Bush, manipulated energy prices and the energy grid in California to produce the rolling blackouts that caused electrical costs to skyrocket, thus putting the world's seventh biggest economy in a $38 billion hole from which it has yet to re-emerge.
Gibney, with able assistance from narrator Peter Coyote (remembered as the mysterious "Keys" in E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL), wisely interviews those Enron employees who knew what was going on inside the bowels of their company but were powerless to do anything, and thus makes them sympathetic. But he also gives us those phone calls in which Enron traders chuckled profanely about the pain and suffering their shutting off of power plants caused Californians during one of the hottest summers on record, something that'll definitely cause one's blood to boil.
If we need any reminder of how important ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM is, it comes from one of those unemployed Enron employees who warns us that what happened to them and their company would happen again. Need I say more?
Alex Gibney's documentary is a crime procedural. It's fashioned in a way in which it primarily entertains, what with very familiar songs over the soundtrack with tongue-in-cheek relevance and the subject of the biggest white collar confidence scheme in history. Regardless of a viewer's politics, this will make you relish the image of what must be happening to these guys in prison. It's about how ENRON grew to be one of the largest corporations with what was fundamentally a scheme to rob Peter to pay Paul, and ultimately ransacked the retirement funds of its employees just to prolong the inevitable.
There's a notion that ENRON was a group of decent businessmen gone bad. The movie make the case that it was a con game almost from the start, much to the tune of a Mamet script. At the time CEOs Ken Lay and Skilling claimed that they were running the best energy company in the entire world, they had to know that it had been bust and of no value for years, had exaggerated its profits and covered up its losses by the simplistically clever bookkeeping practices so corrupt that their accounting firm was ruined.
They evidently bragged constantly about being exceptionally smart and clever, but Skilling and Lay were the opposite of cautious. When a market analyst makes an inquiry into ENRON's statements during a conference call, Skilling can't answer and just settles for cursing the guy out, which, if someone with such sense and facility could just try to conceive, causes a lot of gossip and unwanted heat. One approach was to create fictitious offshore corporate names and move their deficits to those accounts, which were off the books. They are named with wild and thoughtless haste, one of them being "M. Yass."
In what did ENRON deal, really? That is what I wasn't sure of till I saw this. I read at one point that they were a natural gas company. But then they were in the electricity market. This film depicts them as they essentially created a market in energy, laid bets on it and stage- managed it. They moved on, even genuinely taking into consideration trading weather. What was this company's product, I ask? The answer turns out to be keeping a high share price no matter what. We find out that its traders, mostly young white guys who gradually gain a lot of control and become high-stakes high-tech gamblers, lost the whole business in bad trades, and concealed their deficit by burying the news and creating counterfeit profit reports that propelled the share price even higher!
In a sense, this documentary depicts the sort of slick, stunning, witty con games for which we love to see fictitious feature films about them is itself a great insight into why we love those feature films, Ocean's Eleven, Heist, Entrapment, The Great Train Robbery. Why? An early justification is that the thieves are likable and their victims are somehow deserving. Untrue. In ENRON's case, most of California were the victims! But why do we chuckle at the slickness of it? It actually happened!
The movie is amassed of a plethora of footage, from testimony at congressional hearings, and interviews with disillusioned ENRON people. It's at its best when it sticks to factual footage, least when it goes for visual effects and representative inserts which give it more of the feel of a Discovery Channel special.
Bethany McLean played a role in exposing the scandal, and she is so cute and poised, with such a soft, tender voice and a doe-like disposition. I chuckle when I imagine how innocent she must have sounded when she asked a simple question about ENRON's quarterly statements, and suddenly their whole "house of cards" started tumbling.
Most appalling is how ENRON contemptuously concocted the fake California energy crisis. Doesn't it sound so fun to say this after hearing about it: "But there never was a shortage of power in California." Using recordings of traders calling California power plants, we alarmingly listen in on them shutting down for "repairs." They pushed the price of electricity up ninefold. Twists don't stop there. Wait till you see how Skilling futilely tried to slither away before the company went kaput.
It's silly that there hasn't been more rage over these swindles and crises. The cost was immeasurable, not just in deaths caused by the blackouts, but in the amount of money for which Californians sued to regain what they paid in overcharges during the fake crisis. If ENRON were instead Al Qaeda, or Hammas, if terrorists had staged blackouts and power failures all throughout the enormous state, reflect on how we'd look upon these same scandals. Nevertheless the crisis, made doable by deregulation persuaded by ENRON's lobbyists, is still being laid at the door of too much regulation.
At first glance it may seem as though the first method should prove more efficient. After all, eggs are produced by individual hens, so why not directly select the best? Why select at the group level, when even the best groups may have some individual duds? The results, though, told a completely different story. The first method caused egg productivity to sharply decline, even though the most productive hens were chosen each at every generation. The second method, in contrast, caused egg productivity to increase 160 percent in six generations, an astonishing response as artificial selection experiments go.
What happened? In short, the first method favoured the nastiest hens who achieved their productivity by suppressing the productivity of other hens. After six generations, Muir had produced a nation of psychopath chickens, who plucked and murdered each other with their greedy, incessant attacks. In other words, traits that are "for the good of the group" are not always locally advantageous within the group and require a process of group-level selection to evolve.
It's the same story in "Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room", a documentary about a nest of continuously promoted corporate psychopaths who fiscally rape shareholders and competitors, before their hatchery completely self-destructs. Unfortunately, like most of these stories, "The Smartest Guys In The Room" never pushes beyond CEOs, managers and complicit middle men (though they are deservedly attacked) to point fingers at what are really systemic problems.
In a book titled "Systemantics", John Gall describes the nature of systems, and how they often eventually become living, breathing entities. Not only do they develop a sort of collective consciousness (or intelligence network), but they also develop the desire for growth, and mechanisms of self-preservation.
Of course a system can take many forms (a country, an organisation, a religion etc), but in each case they house similar methods of self-preservation. In the case of a country, Patriotism is the mechanism of self-preservation. In an organisation, it is allegiance to a cause. In a religion, it is faith. In all cases, the adherents are bound within a collective organisational consciousness.
Eventually the ego-like qualities of this organisational consciousness cause each system to lust for even greater power. Greater power in turn requires more personnel, which requires even larger budgets, which in turn leads to a never ending spiral of growth. To justify this growth, these systems have no choice but to abandon the original purpose for which they were created. Thus, a moderate original goal must be replaced with a lofty objective embalmed in complex terminology that is designed to sound virtuous (in Enron's case, betting on off shore oil to keep shareholders happy). The elimination of evil, anarchy, crime, and war are just some buzzwords used to cover a drive for acquiring or maintaining power. In all cases, the objective requires growth.
This documentary damns Enron, but government bureaucracies play Enron's game as well. In the case of countries (today, of the largest 100 economies on the planet, 51 are corporations and not countries), the lack of profits which would keep a private company in check does not serve as a restriction for a system that can extract taxes as needed from a captive regional or global population. Even if commercial activity declines as a result of excessive taxation, the tax supported systems continue to grow (and often currencies are then expanded worldwide in a global competition of debasement). And as taxes increase, so too must patriotism by a corresponding amount to avoid insurrection. In some cases, the practical justification for a tax supported system disappears all together, leaving behind nothing but the naked lust for power. With its own language, its own culture, and its own survival mechanisms, the system then feels that complete domination is the only objective worthy of its inflated sense of Self. End result: the world falls under the control of tax supported psycho chickens who have the strength, and the motive, to rob almost every person on the planet...until they don't, and we laugh at them with documentaries like this.
8/10 - Worth one viewing.
how do you sell futures in the weather ???? w.c. fields said it best, there's a sucker born every minute.
these guys were so smart they outsmarted themselves. they were so ingrained with their greed and evil schemes of fraud and theft, they lost sight of the truth and began believing their own lies, like a true psycho-sociopath.
the damage they wrought is incalculable in terms of reputations and lives ruined, retirements shattered and indeed lives lost from the MAN MADE power 'shortages' during fatal heat waves in California. the cold bloodedness of the enron traders making quips about 'aunt Millie' suffering without electricity to run the air conditioner shows the extent some people will go to make money.
'mark' to market. logging profits that haven't happened yet. apparently someone in the SEC didn't read the story about 'dont count your chickens before they hatch'.
the ONLY time people, the O-N-L-Y time you MAKE MONEY in the market is when you SELL the instrument and turn it into CASH. anything else is just wishes and dreams and fantasy on paper. numbers on PAPER. the enron gang cleverly worked around that axiom and look at all the people who fell for it and will in another 15 or 20 years when the lesson has been forgotten and the tendency towards greed again kicks in on a nice big scale.
The funny thing is that we were look at the growth in the share price of a company, or their reported earnings, there is one thing we don't actually see, and that is inflation. There are other ways of increase profits without actually increasing the earnings or the customer base, and that is to cuts costs. One can actually grow profits (and even earnings) without actually increasing the customer base, and that is one of the massive cons of the market. There is much that I could say about this issue, however I think I will simply focus of the Enron fraud in this instance.
Enron, like many modern corporations, is effectively a farce. It only exists to make money and its only reported goals are profit growth and its success if measured by the value of the company. However a company's value is a vary dubious quantifier as there is a lot that cannot be measured. A company's value can be measured by the value of its assets and by its actual earnings (which is quantifiable because that can be measured), however one can also add an intangible factor called 'goodwill', which is the reputed reputation of the company, and then there is future earnings. Future earnings, as the name implies, are earnings that may come in in the future, but because they are in the future they are merely speculative. However what Enron did was to base its current value on these future earnings though a method called mark to market accounting. The problem is that if these earnings don't arise then the value of the company comes into question.
However, what Enron did was that they kept on creating these wonderful ideas and deals (such as bandwidth trading, which never eventuated, or video on demand, which also did not eventuate as the technology was not sufficient to allow at at that time), and when they began to dry up, they began to manipulate the market itself. This is thus the cause of the California rolling blackouts. It was not that deregulation did not work, it is that deregulation was being exploited to drive up the price of electricity. Power plants were being shut down, and blackouts and brownouts created to create the appearance that there was not enough power, and in response the price of electricity was being forced up. I remember that at the time we were simply watching it as the failure of deregulation, however as it turned out it was a lot more sinister than that.
What is interesting though is that this documentary reminded me a lot of the Wolf of Wall Street, however this had a much stronger focus on the human cost and the actions of the people at the top of the tree, were as the other film was more glamorising what was in effect a crocked and greedy individual.
At it's heart, it exploits the downfalls and pitfalls of the Enron Corporation - arguably the most catastrophic bankruptcy in the history of the united states, with the redundancies of tens of thousands of employees worldwide, the crashing of stock (which it should be added staff heavily invested their own personal funds and pensions in), but not all before the MD's had all cashed in at it's amazingly high price.
It contains past-employees accounts of the way the corporation was run, their opinions on Jeff Skilling and the fact that, at the hear of it, several senior figures within the company knew of it's downfalls. It makes for very compelling viewing at this 'highly stylised', which was nothing more than a very, very large pyramid scheme.
At the start, I probably would've given this title a miss, but honestly, just watch a few minutes and I'm sure you'll be lured in - it makes for very interesting viewing.
That said, per my subject heading, I feel that this should be REQUIRED viewing for any concerned citizen grappling with the media coverage and news-spin of this and all other wars. Much like BRAVO's "Anatomy Of A Scene", the unfolding of the 'end of the war' and the subsequent toppling of Saddam's statue in the square both serve as serious examples of the news coverage of ENRON vs. 'The Big Boys'. It's just completely different when seen through the intelligent, capable eyes of the Al-Jazeera staff (than the Enron Boys) than what we're spoon-fed by Fox, et. al. Check it out...... Really.....
Rolled my eyes at the part about The Milgram Experiment, but did get a good laugh when the narrator described Gray Davis as a "then-likely Presidential candidate"
The film will make you shake your head at the gall of Enron, from its self-assured, overly confident executives to the merciless conduct of the energy traders bred within the company's cut-throat culture.
The film discusses the casualties of the Enron fallout, from its employees, its stockholders, retirees who held Enron shares, the entire state of California and Gov. Gray Davis himself.
The film provides a scathing criticism of capitalism unleashed, an aspect that I believe is most overlooked in the wake of Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco. The film, as did most media reports, focused on the personal conduct of the key players, the high-power executives now mired in civil and criminal proceedings: CEO Jeffrey Skilling, CEO Kenneth Lay (now deceased), and CFO Andrew Fastow.
While the conceit and deceit of these executives cannot be over-stated, so much emphasis on their individual culpability distracts from the overall culture of communal greed and reckless hype that saturated all of society during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In the film, Sherron Watkins, a former Enron VP considered by some to be a whistleblower, commented: "Enron should not be viewed as an aberration, something that can't happen somewhere else . . . It can happen again."
Right now, we still live in the shadow of Enron, with heavy-handed oversight and finger-wagging politicians. The real challenge will be 10 or 20 years from now, when the country is experiencing its next major economic boom. Will analysts do their job and demand to see proper balance sheets? Will regulators turn a blind eye to questionable accounting practices? Will shareholders even care that puppetmasters may be manipulating the skyrocketing numbers?
Will ANYONE care so long as gobs of money are being made, until its too late? We humans have a very short memory, and history tends to repeat itself.
I would rate the documentary higher, except that I found much of the inserted pop-culture clips to be unnecessary, distracting, and gratuitous (five minutes of strippers?).