The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
What went wrong with American business at the end of the 20th century?
Until the spring of 2001, Enron epitomized the triumph of the New Economy. Feared by rivals, worshipped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every year; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries.
Then a young Fortune writer, Bethany McLean,
* Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald
* Power Failure by Mimi Swartz & Sharron Watkins
* Anatomy of Greed by Bryan Cruver(less)
This is the definitive case history of the demise of the most admired company in America. What it demonstrates is the the failure of Enron, although facilitated by the greed and moral indifference that is typical in corporate life, was at root down to its excellence in precisely that set of skills for which it was most admired: corporate finance.
Jeff Skilling, a former McKinsey colleague of mine, was the 'vector' by which the infectious scourge of financial theory found its way ...more
In ma ...more
The story of how Enron collapsed so quickly is one of corporate greed and deregulat ...more
I can’t say enough about how well McLean and Elkind present the material in this book, but the fact remains that (a) it’s really, really long, and (b) it’s about finance. I learned a lot about securitization (etc.) as a ...more
At its heart this is a story of several dislikable Icaruses (Icari?) with a Greek chorus consisting of the Enron trading employees. Unfortunately, to get to that story you must wade through much accounting arcana. The accounting aspects are central to the story so I don’t think there’s an easy way around it.
While the book deserves credit for being the first comprehensive telling of the Enron debacle, 12+ years after it was first published ...more
Enron's collapse is a case study of what can go wrong in an economic system that lacks adequate checks and balances coupled with the increasing disempowerment of other important economic actors (labor unions etc). Unfortunately whatever lessons have been learned from Enron have y ...more
For anyone who has an interest in protecting your wealth and hard earned money, this is a must reead. I learned how important it is how your personal actions and behaviours can have such a detrimental affect not only to those around you but way beyond those that might seem unafected. The enron scandal was something that everyon ...more
I read the book in a few months... very interesting but hard to follow between so many numbers, episodes and not an easy narrative plot. When I was done with it I found the documentary on Netflix and after those 2 hour ...more
The real life story about Enron is fantastically educational: the failed but much promoted new business lines - the big Enchiladas, the drive to push through deals whatever the price, the price curves that bring the success today but will be disastrous for the future - these are issues that can come up but ...more
The book is written in a gripping manner that is both easy to read without wallowing in the intricacies of its financial machinations, and delves into the personalities and politics of people who scammed the business. You will be shaking your head in anger at the sort of money we are talkin ...more
While a bit more background on the history of Northern Natural Gas (predecessor of Enron) would have been interesting, the book does a great job of describing the various markets that Enron entered (from securitizing natural gas futures to the attempts to do the ...more
In contrast with "Barbarians", "When Genius Failed" or the more recent "Billionaire's Apprentice", it does not read like a narrative, and that's because it really can't. Enron was a lot more complex than a single transaction or a single hedge fund. It was an agglomeration of businesses, each with its own specific character. You can't go over ...more
I've previously seen the documentary film based on this book, so much of what ...more
- Role of management in a public company: Public cheerleader, booster of stock value or steward of the company's assets? Can we put Friedmanism to bed?
- Business ethics: whether not doing something strictly illegal is the full extent of moral responsibility
- Employee incentives: What happens when y ...more
McLean grew up in Hibbing and received her BA in English and mathematics at Williams College in 1992. After college and prior to joining Fortune, she worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs.