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Enron: Smartest Guys In The Room

4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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  • Region: All Regions
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005WK83JI


This searing examination of the Enron accounting scandal reveals the psychology of greed and corporate corruption that facilitated the company's rise to power and also its fall. When Enron went bankrupt in 2001, the principals walked away millionaires--but later faced legal proceedings and jail sentences. Meanwhile, many employees and investors were left with nothing, not even their retirement savings. Shedding light on the new economy of the 1990s when predictions and book-cooking flourished without actual profits, the film shows how it was not Enron alone but a network of bankers, traders, and accountants who turned a blind eye to the company's clearly suspicious numbers. CEO Ken Lay and top dogs Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow give candid interviews that illustrate their skill at deflecting hard questions and egotistically boasting about the company's success. In one of the company's cold and calculated moves--which caused the California power outages, and lead to the ousting of governor Gray Davis--Enron employees are shown laughing at forest fires. Footage of employees reveals greed, lust for risk-taking, and cheating, all while thinking they could never be caught. Finally, a few brave whistle-blowers stepped forward, including Bethany McLean, author of the Enron novel upon which this film is based, who wrote an article in Fortune magazine calling the company's bluff. A remarkable documentary which packages the events of the scandal into a cohesive story.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sickest guys in the room 29 April 2007
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
Bethany McLean, who along with Peter Elkind, wrote the book from which this documentary was adapted, is clearly satisfied with herself as she sits on a couch relating what she knows about the fall of Enron. And she should be. She was the one who first really pursued the question, "How does Enron make money?" What she didn't know when she first asked the question is that they make money the old-fashioned way, they steal it.

What I was most forcibly struck with while watching this fascinating story is how much all the posturing and lying and misrepresenting of the talking heads, Jeff Skilling, Kenneth Lay, et al., reminded me of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al., in the White House. The key similarity is the use of their power over the media and in front of a podium to mislead the minions and the public to their advantage. Without the ability to lie to large numbers of people at the same time, and to stifle and belittle contrary voices, they would not have succeeded.

But also there is the complacency and the complicity of not just the greedy stockholders and the adoring employees, but the greater public who failed to ask not "why?" but "how?" In the case of Enron, how can a company exceed not only all expectations, but something like the law of financial gravity? If it looks too good to be true and nobody can give you a clear answer to how it's done--guess what? It is too good to be true. It may seem a stretch, but the same kind of mentality continues to persuade Nigerian scammers and "Congratulations: You've Won!!!" emailers that there are still fat bank accounts in America just waiting to be emptied. Nobody wanted to look too closely because nobody wanted to prick a bubble.
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95 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smarting 27 July 2006
It was never going to get a fair hearing. If there was any defence in one of the most nauseating cases of corporate pillaging, self-aggrandisement and greed it was not going to be seen in this film, shown in Brixton's Ritzy Cinema. The chalk board on the door to the screen set the scene.

What emerges is a staggering story of a corporation romping over the established rules and procedures, riding the bull market to new highs and only crashing down when the people saw that the

The truly tragic thing is not the tales of the various executives, marketing men and lawyers. Some of them lost their jobs, but soon found others. The criminals went to jail, and had their ill-gotten gains confiscated. But the real victims were only fleetingly shown. This was a sole complaint in the otherwise masterly editing of this film. A thorough investigation in to the losses borne by the pensioners and pension holders would have presented a truly staggering contrast to the corporate greed on clear display.

What does emerge is a smattering of personal stories which gives some idea of the extent of the damage done. Private pensions shrunk from 350,000 to $1,500. And with it the dreams of a comfortable retirement destroyed. These were the ordinary people, long-term employees with rock solid utility companies who had invested everything with their new parent company, Enron. With promises of riches for all, they funded the bloated, wallowing greed, and they paid the ultimate price for its inevitable failure.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST SEE NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED 30 Mar 2006
Alex Gibney's riveting documentary is based on the acclaimed book "The Smartest Guys in the Room" by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. Chronicled is the corporate crime of the century by the movie following the inevitable toppling of the seventh-largest business operation in the U.S. Peter Coyote narrates this mind boggling odyssey of greed, arrogance, ethical malfeasance, and power plays through which Enron is changed from a properous natural gas pipeline company to a multinational mehemoth.
The major characters responsible for Enron's downfall could not be interviewed for the movie because they refused to be. But Gibney gives us lots of insights into their leadership style with news footage, corporate audio and video tapes, a comedy skit performed in front of employees, C-Span clips, and a catalog of other visual and recorded material.
Incredibly, even NOW Texan Kenneth Lay, the son of a Baptist preacher and close friend of President George W. Bush (affectionately referring to him as "Kenny Boy"), and Lay's hand-picked CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, deny any wrongdoing. One segment reveals that Skilling's favorite book is "The Selfish Gene." The Darwinian manifesto presents a dog-eat-dog version of human nature. Money is the only thing that counts for Skilling. His ruthlessness coming from such a philosophy is demonstrated throughout his predatory career. Skilling's "mark-to-market" accounting tricks worked long enough to give him the hubris to believe that anything was possible for Enron because they were "the smartest guys in the room.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
not bad
Published 6 days ago by mrs margaret jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting documentray
Great stuff here. Not as in-depth as the book obviously, but still a good overview of what went wrong at enron. Worth watching.
Published 3 months ago by David Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow
Better than fiction amazing analysis of the biggest scam ever. Frightening that this could have happened and more so in that many 'involved' never got investigated, let alone... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Robin Melhuish
4.0 out of 5 stars When reality bites
Enron - the very word is now synonymous with corporate scandal, hubris and dubious accounting. The Enron story has been somewhat eclipsed since the global financial meltdown of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by LXIX
4.0 out of 5 stars the one i've wanted
Great addition to other poblications on the subject od my collection.
I've been interested in corporate mentality for a while and I'm thinking on raising pepole's awareness an... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Krystian Glapinski
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
Although this is a documentary, it rolls along like a movie, from the early beginnings of Enron, through the questionable accounting practices, to the eventual catastrophic climax. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mark Anson
5.0 out of 5 stars Listen to the second half of the truth
Enron. A living (not any longer) legend. Everybody was talking about them once they were a giant, after the collapse silence took over. This is the story from behind the curtain.
Published 9 months ago by Michael Ginter
4.0 out of 5 stars Electrocalifornication
The story of "Kenny Boy" and his cronies is just another saga from the "land of the free to do anything one wants". Read more
Published 11 months ago by Aleks Ozolins
2.0 out of 5 stars Frozen
It was just getting to an on the edge of your seat review of Andrew Fastow when... The disk froze. Tried it on two different devices, stops in the same place. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Miss L. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Enron - packaged story of rise and fall.
An engaging narrative using real news footage plus voice overs. I felt I now understood where Enron was coming from in the derivative frenzy of the 1990's and also remember the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by J. E. Hudson
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