Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
One of the greatest scandals in American corporate history is chronicled in the riveting documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Based on the bestselling book by Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkin, and directed by Alex Gibney (who also produced The Trials of Henry Kissinger), the film is an epic morality tale, drawing upon a wealth of insider interviews and archival material to show how Enron, once the nation’s seventh largest corporate entity, essentially faked its bookkeeping to report profits that never…
One of the greatest scandals in American corporate history is chronicled in the riveting documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Based on the bestselling book by Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkin, and directed by Alex Gibney (who also produced The Trials of Henry Kissinger), the film is an epic morality tale, drawing upon a wealth of insider interviews and archival material to show how Enron, once the nation’s seventh largest corporate entity, essentially faked its bookkeeping to report profits that never existed. The corrupt and closely-guarded mismanagement by Enron executives (including Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, later placed on criminal trial) is revealed through such heinous concepts as “Hypothetical Future Value” (a way of reaping fortunes based on false profit projections) and the use of offshore “shell” companies to hide the massive losses that eventually toppled the company (along with the venerable Arthur Anderson accounting firm) and left 20,000 employees jobless. As a maddening portrait of hubris and white-collar crime, Enron transcends political and corporate boundaries by showing how smart and powerful men grew blinded by greed and brought ruin upon themselves, along with thousands of otherwise innocent victims. For better and worse, it’s a perfect double-feature with eye-opening 2004 documentary The Corporation. —Jeff Shannon
Barnes and Noble
At this writing in early 2006, the principal players in the sordid drama of Enron—believed by some accusers to be the most egregious corporate malefactors in American history—are about to go on trial for pillaging their company and devaluing its stock, leaving thousands of employees and investors holding the bag while they absconded with millions. Alex Gibney’s documentary examines the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of this Houston, Texas-based firm, which for a time made its top officers wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, and all by engaging in business practices alleged to have been little more than a complex shell game. Enron founder Ken Lay and his successor as CEO, Jeff Skilling, are pretty well skewered in Gibney’s film, which in its own way is every bit as riveting as a suspense thriller. Without putting too fine a point of it, the film has all the elements of Greek tragedy; it is hubris that ultimately brings down the main characters. Arrogance, pride, power, the abuse of power—they’re all here. Even if you’ve been following the story in the media, there are dimensions to the Enron tale of which you’re probably unaware. The Smartest Guys in the Room will clue you in, and we predict you’ll be amazed by the facts it presents. Ed Hulse
Until the spring of 2001, the Houston energy giant Enron epitomized the triumph of the new economy. Feared by rivals, worshiped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every quarter; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries.
Then a young Fortune writer named Bethany McLean wrote an article posing a simple question—How, exactly, does Enron make its money?—and the company’s house of cards began to collapse. Though other business scandals would follow, none has had the shattering effect of Enron’s bankruptcy, which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars while small investors, including many Enron employees, lost everything.
Despite enormous media coverage of Enron, the definitive story of its astonishing rise and fall comes alive for the first…[more]