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Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,348 Ratings  ·  249 Reviews
From an award-winning New York Times reporter comes the full, mind-boggling story of the lies, crimes, and ineptitude behind the spectacular scandal that imperiled a presidency, destroyed a marketplace, and changed Washington and Wall Street forever . . .
Paperback, 784 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2005)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
384th out of 3,742 books — 5,589 voters
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling1776 by David McCulloughKafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiNo Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2005
24th out of 100 books — 54 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 13, 2008 Kirsti rated it it was amazing
Would YOU like to cause the biggest bankruptcy in American history? Sure you would! Well, Enron has already gone kablooey, losing billions of dollars, throwing more than 20,000 people out of work, and contributing to at least one suicide. But you can use the Enron approach to management at your company by following these easy rules.

* Don't keep track of how much money is coming in.

* Don't keep track of when your bills are due. Petty details are boooooriiiiing.

* Reward people for getting a deal d
Aug 07, 2010 Donitello rated it it was amazing
This book gives sobering data, while reading like a best-selling mystery--a bona fide page-turner.

The book is particularly relevant when we put the story of Enron into perspective: Geo. W. Bush's longtime personal friendship with Enron head Ken Lay; Bush's own businesses in the 1980s--Arbusto and Spectrum 7--also collapsing shortly after HE sold out his personal stock; numerous other financial giants coincident with Enron (eg., Arthur Anderson, Tyco, Worldcom, etc.) demonstrating the same fiscal
Dec 07, 2007 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dorks like me who like to see big business blunders
Conspiracy of Fools is the fourth Enron-related tale I've read (Smartest Guys in the Room, Enron: The Rise and Fall, and Anatomy of Greed being the other three). In it, Eichenwald does a decent job of combining the best of the three others, as if he poached some from each. Conspiracy reads as a novel, combining facts and details with (presumably) fictional conversations. The sometimes outrageous discussions between characters left me feeling that Eichenwald embellished a little too much, and at ...more
Nov 23, 2007 kareem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A corporate culture of greed, a focus on fast profits, a few bad eggs, and a ridiculous lack of board, executive, and accounting oversight combined to turn Enron into a catastrophic failure.

The most interesting thing for me was that a few Enron employees were aware of what was happening, but either didn't want to speak up, or spoke up and were ignored (sometimes repeatedly).

While I was reading, I wondered whether the shenanigans would have been exposed earlier if data was made available to all
This book presents Andy Fastow, Enron CFO, as the principal architect behind the fall of Enron, diminishing the legitimacy of the US financial institution, feeding the CA energy crisis and international problems, specifically in India and Latin America.

Fastow created accounting entities which were used to hide Enron debt. He initially named himself the owner of these entities and got the board to dismiss any conflicts of interest. He then played loose with accounting rules and received required
Mar 27, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If Shakespeare was alive, he would have stolen this book's plot and written a play: The Tragical Death of Enron. It's got it all.

An aging ruler must choose his successor - a boring, responsible guy or an exciting, dashing, brilliant risk taker. He chooses the risk taker. But although his successor is exciting and bold, he lacks the inner strength and moral compass to guide the kingdom. Things quickly start to go wrong, so he chooses a clever man to look after the kingdom's money - one he knows w
Oct 14, 2014 Joris rated it it was amazing
Wow, I've been reading this one almost non-stop. I could not get myself to put it away.
The enormous spending of corporate funding, the way the exec's are looking the other way, the numerous ways where Enron could have taken another road -away from bankruptcy-, the way the characters play together to create this huge chunk of corporate mischief, I loved it.

The book reads very easily if you have some feeling of accounting or finance, next to that there are a lot of characters involved but they're
Bill Keefe
Mar 06, 2015 Bill Keefe rated it really liked it
I listened to this book on CD.

Another pleasant surprise. I don't usually read books about business but was intrigued by what I remember of the ENRON story. Saw the 25 CD colossus on the shelf in the library and picked it up, figuring it would be interesting or deadly. Better, it was fascinating.

Read like a mystery thriller but also gave real insight into the mess a business can be and the human frailties of the people who run and participate in businesses. I was thoroughly absorbed in the story
Jul 11, 2010 Anthony rated it it was amazing
This is a long book - almost 700 pages - but an easy read. Everyone knows the story of Enron from the anecdotes, and I've read a few other books on the subject, but this is by far the best and most complete. It does a great job of tracing how some minor decisions years earlier - to use mark-to-market accounting, to form off-balance-sheet entities that really weren't, managed by Andy Fastow, who probably shouldn't have been managing a McDonalds - led to it's ultimate collapse.

The "Conspiracy of F
Bookmarks Magazine

The Enron story remains the same, no matter how many times it's retold. In matters of style, at least, Conspiracy of Fools trumps the other books on the subject. Critics' pens dangle like swords of Damocles over the cinematic scenes that are central to the book's appeal: Can dialogue be recounted so accurately after 20 years of echoes? Maybe not. But 40 pages of detailed source notes buy Eichenwald some relief from the red ink. There are nitpicks: Enron executive Andrew Fastow comes across as a

May 08, 2008 Carter rated it really liked it
Enron at the end of the 20th century became a breeding ground for probably the most complex business scandal in history, but Eichenwald expertly breaks it all down & puts it in highly readable perspective. He explains in detail how an old-school pipeline company grew into a multi billion-dollar game of Three-card Monte, and how a handful of journalists & second-string market analysts finally began to uncover the scam. At the same time, he never takes his eye off the personalities behind ...more
May 26, 2008 Yvonne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
This is an eye opening book. I learned so much about the way capitalism works and about how dumb smart people can be. It is mind boggling. The journalistic writing style makes it quite readable. Sometimes the shift in emphasis with out any written transition is sometimes confusing. The details of meetings and lives including rides in elevators and descriptions of luxury hotels adds a lot of color and enhances the feeling of a well told story not just a piece of factual reporting.

The details of
Sep 15, 2010 John rated it it was amazing
Let me start by saying that, if i remember right, i cheated/cried my way through all finance and accounting classes i had to take in college. I'm not upset by that now, because those classes sucked and i am stupid. Nothing to argue with so far.

So there is no f-ing reason for me to read or even go near this book. Especially when i remember watching the enron documentary in college and falling asleep in class and hating my life.

so when i found it at my grandfathers house....fysh!...i'm bored alre
Jul 27, 2007 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: true-crime, business
This book was awesome! It's a nonfiction book about the Enron scandal that reads like a suspense novel. I could hardly put it down. It was amazing to me just how much Enron was able to get away with before the whole house of cards came crashing down.

I had to read some of the technical stuff more than once to understand it, but even getting just the gist of it was fine. Taking the time to understand the sleights of hand that occurred makes the whole thing even more amazing, however.

Great book on
Jan 26, 2016 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-books-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Wilkie
Jan 26, 2016 Linda Wilkie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captivating narrative that brings you to the front lines of Enron's scandal

This is not your typical documentary. This reads more as a narrative and you get to know, love and hate each character. You feel their frustrations, elations, fears, triumphs, and desperation. Multiple face palms throughout this book. I work for one of the largest financial institutions in the world and it amazes me how no one can question and stand against those that were doing wrong.

Spoiler below: although since this i
Cathy Ellis
Aug 29, 2015 Cathy Ellis rated it really liked it
I picked up an audio copy of this in the library thinking it would be something a bit different from my usual listen/read. I remembered the Enron crash but hadn't really know much about it. I thought this was going to be an educational but droll read/listen. I could not of been more wrong. It's a page turning engrossing crime thriller with the added bonus of being a true story. Never did I think I'd enjoy a story about business accounting so much!!

This is a great introduction to the Enron story.
Sep 03, 2014 specious_reasons rated it really liked it
This book is so well written, it obscures the biggest flaw: It's clear that the author bought into the narrative of the bad guys. It's right there in the title, the executives at Enron were fools, not criminals.

It's not particularly soft on Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling, but the author must have been swayed by their viewpoints, and this story of Enron is tainted by that view. Lay and Skilling thought that everything was going just swimmingly until it all collapsed. There's some truth in that, but it'
Kathleen Hagen
This is the story f the rise and fall of Enron. It spans 15 years, and Eichenwald, through his use of background material and interviews, and without trying to imagine any single event himself, has created a thriller which, if it had been written as a novel, no one would have believed to be credible. But every bit of it happened. The book was too long for me at times since Eichenwald faithfully reported everything he found out in chronological order. But, also because he did that, the reader got ...more
May 19, 2014 Themistocles rated it really liked it
Probably the best book on Enron, though written years ago when not all the info was available. Though a big book (some 700 pages long) you won't tire reading and its format - small sections of a page, page and a half long - will make it very hard to put down.

A thorough analysis of the company and its shadowy practices, it will educate and shock most. Eichenwald succeeds in letting the drama, corporate and personal, pass through, and goes into adequate depth.

However, the book is not without its s
Mar 02, 2012 James rated it liked it
Shelves: finance
675 pages, but the writer has a talent for telling stories,
and there are hundreds of stories here.
Very pleasant and interesting to read.

But is it all true?

The author makes it sound like the slimey ratfink Andy Fastow was 90% to blame,
and that Skilling and Lay barely knew what was going on.

I find that hard to believe.

In any case, Skilling is still in prison.

And CEO's are still looting companies with excessive pay and outrageous stock options.

Huub Nollet
May 13, 2015 Huub Nollet rated it really liked it
Duidelijk dat de auteur geen vriend van Andy Fastow de CFO van Enron is. Af en toe werd het voor mij toch wel vervelend want het leek wel een persoonlijke vendetta. Natuurlijk beschrijft de auteur de arrogantie van de macht treffend en deed mij dit toch echt aan DE PROOI over de ondergang van ABNAmro denken. Maar de fraude die hier beschreven wordt en de enorme hoeveelheid mensen die erbij betrokken waren, is ontstellend.

Blijft de vraag of dit soort zaken nooit meer kan voorkomen. Mijn antwoord
Maryann MJS1228
Dec 09, 2015 Maryann MJS1228 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Read a work by Kurt Eichenwald and you may find yourself, like me, hoping yet another corporate titan goes spectacularly off the rails. Conspiracy of Fools reads like a great thriller and an even better comedy of manners. Easily one of the best books of the the year.

Apparently having managed to interview most of the major players, Eichenwald puts the reader inside Enron for the highlights and, mostly, lowlights of ten years. While he doesn't resort to name-calling or exaggeration, Eichenwald mak
Chi Pham
May 06, 2015 Chi Pham rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
Enron. The word that frequently dotted my childhood newspapers. The word that proliferated the various ACCA notebooks lying around my house. The word that my Acccounting professor uttered in the most alarming manner. The story that shaped the world around me and yet I knew mostly nothing about.

Not anymore. The book illuminates one of the biggest frauds in our recent times, detailing the central actors in the demise of Enron and describing (briefly) the regulatory and political landscape that al
May 07, 2008 Alec rated it really liked it
wow, the story is a little played by now, but the writing is fantastic. The smoke and mirror details of how a handful of men destroyed a fortune 100 company and took millions of investors down with them. I have liked everything I have read from eichenwald... I am hoping for more corporate scandals just on the chance that they result in more of his books.
Mar 20, 2008 Andy rated it really liked it
I would never think I'd enjoy a book about Enron so much. Actually, if you asked me what would make a boring book topic, Enron would probably be in the top five. But this book is definitely not boring. I have to agree with what I've seen other commenters say that this book is so well-written, it reads like more like a novel than non-fiction.
Thom Dunn
Difficult to overstate how much more substantial this book is compared with the many quickie-business-expose's out there. Published in 2005. Wonder if Eichenwald is working on a book about the Dastardly Derivatives Debacle.
Roger Royse
Mar 11, 2014 Roger Royse rated it really liked it
what a bunch of idiots
Samuel Longoria
Jul 24, 2015 Samuel Longoria rated it it was amazing
I consider this one of the best historical business book I have ever read. There are a lot of reviews listed here that will detail what this book is about. I will say that it reads like a historical novel. It reads as good as any fiction book. It easily opens up what Enron did and what the main characters did to run Enron into the ground. I enjoyed, actually enjoyed this book. It wasn't a book I read to learn something, it started out that way, but around page 50 I realized that I had found a "h ...more
Sep 17, 2015 Shaun rated it liked it
I probably should have given this book three stars. I mean it was comprehensive, and by that I mean it was really long. And I really did enjoy it - I read it in audiobook form, and the last ten hours (~1/3 of the book) really flew by (seriously).

Still, a few complaints nag. This is almost embarrassing to write down given how many times the same ground was covered, but I'm still not sure I totally understand the structure of the deals with the SPEs that Fastow set up. I mean, I think most of the
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“Enron was becoming a virtual cult of creativity, often placing swagger over substance. New ideas were celebrated for their newness, for their potential; tried and true businesses like the pipelines were almost derided.” 1 likes
“Enron would keep its unearned windfall, generated solely because David Duncan didn't know what he was doing.” 1 likes
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