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Enron: Smartest Guys In The Room

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  • Region: All Regions
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 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.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 April 2007
Format: DVD
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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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By F. Sweet on 30 Mar 2006
Format: DVD
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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96 of 107 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 27 July 2006
Format: DVD
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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