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The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron Paperback – 28 Sep 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (28 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591840538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591840534
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.7 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,009,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

...the most comprehensive picture yet of how the company went off the rails. The sheer accumulation of detail makes it possible for the first time to understand how Enron got away with its blend of hubris and incompetence for so long. . . This is more than a business story. It is also about what can happen to any institution when weak and complacent leadership allows itself to be swept along by strong vested interests and the mood of the times. (Richartd Lambert, ex editor of Financial Times and member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Bethany Mclean is a senior writer for Fortune. She is also the author of the award-winning A PIECE OF THE ACTION (1995). It was her investigation into Enron that first began the scandal. Peter Elkind is an investigative report for Fortune. He is the author of THE DEATH SHIFT (1989). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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It is no accident that Ken Lay's career in the energy business began-and, most likely, ended-in the city of Houston, Texas. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Dr. V. Stewart VINE VOICE on 3 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
When I took delivery of this book I'd already read - and given good reviews to - two other books on Enron. So why a third? To semi-quote Josh Lyman, 'That's not being a fan, that's having a fetish.' So I settled to read this one out of a sense of 'you bought it, you read it.' And, whaddaya know, I couldn't put the darned thing down. Being two books ahead of the curve, I knew the story, knew the players - and yet this account had me glued. Why? well, as they say if you watch the video by the same name (also highly recommended) it's essentially a human tragedy, and the authors here manage to handle a huge cast of tragic characters (that's not meant to invite pity, folks) with extraordinary skill. The inevitable teach-ins about how the various scams were run are managed effortlessly. The style is immaculate. There's a sense of fairness running through it, which makes their moral outrage - when delivered - all the more compelling. The US of A had, for the past couple of generations, produced historians who write like angels; this two stand firmly in that tradition.
So, for once, believe the blurb on the jacket; if you have only one book to read, not just about Enron but about the hubris of the past decade, make it this one.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 3 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book about a truly remarkable part of our economic history. I have a minor physical complaint I might as well get off my chest: In their desire to make sure readers get bang for buck (fear not: you do), the publishers have elected to set this book in miniscule type, meaning firstly that you may need reading glasses if not before then after reading it, and secondly that while this looks like a 400 page book, if it were ordinarily typeset it would have the heft of an MM Kaye novel.

On the other hand, if over-length in a business book is the sort of thing that dissuades you, don't let it: this is one of the most riveting books on the history of finance you'll read, and it gets more and more addictive the further you go on.

As a number of reviewers have noted, it is simply staggering that Enron can have ever got where it got to at all, let alone stayed there for the best part of a decade, with all the ostenisble checks and balances that sophisticated capital markets provide. Staggering. In checks and balances I don't mean regulators, who will always be the last ones to find out where market-based moral turpitude is concerned, but investors, stock analysts, brokers, lenders, rating agencies and fund managers: people who don't just earn huge remuneration, but stake their reputations on being sceptical in the face of unconvincing bluster.

But as McLean and Elkind make clear in chapter after chapter, barely disguised and unconvinving bluster was, in large part, all Enron was. For all the "black box" accounting, it is simply inconceivable that Enron's true internal wiring could be kept anything like properly secret, since far too many people had to know about it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Enron, once the much favoured and slavered over corporation of the new paradigm economy of the 1990's (remember that?) is the subject of Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind's engrossing book. The chart the story of the company from it's origins as a lowly gas pipeline company, to it's metamorphosis into Enron, riding the wave of the future into deregulated markets, a share price reaching out for the stars, and a corporate strategy to profit where no company dared to profit before. And then, as the share price fell, the whole mass of contradictions that was Enron unravelled in a decidedly unseemly fashion, taking down their co-conspirators the accountants Arthur Anderson with them, and landing of a few of the malefactors in jail.

Full of details, it makes sense of the accounting malpractices, the shady business practices, the deeply dysfunctional corporate culture and the ins-and-outs of gaming the deregulated energy markets in the United States and beyond. Some of what went on is truly astonishing, the Chief Financial Officer is making tens of millions of dollars out of the off balance sheet gymnastics that enabled Enron to "hide" its debt and it's share price to rise quarter after quarter; the destructive wars between divisions of the company; the projects signed, sealed and forgotten about. Of equal interest are the author's accounts of the people who played a part in the story of Enron.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Conal Henry on 20 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
If Enron hadn't existed we would have had to make it up. The company was founded on amorality and constructed with the all but explicit intention of deceiving investors for management gain. In the classic style, as the project becomes more and more successful, the depth and the extent of the deception becomes greater until finally they run out of lies to tell and there is an immediate collapse.

The book is complex necessarily but the authors do a great job in taking us through the detail without blinding us. As regards the key characters (and there are upwards of a dozen)the authors seem to have adopted something of a formulaic approach to their characterisation. At times it seems like they are working off a table that sets out each characters home town, parental occupation, college and early career. You are left feeling that you know what these people got up to but you don't feel that you know them and you are, largely, left to draw your own conclusions as to why people did what they did.

That said you don't have to be a pyscho-analyst to see that Enron was an exercise in insider greed supported by wrong headed group-think. This allowed a cadre of talented managers, bankers and advisors to convince themselves and others that, in deceiving shareholders and overtly undermining the intention of regulation and in becoming multi-millionaires, they were, in fact "on the side of the angels."

So when you hear Lloyd Blankfein tell us that Goldman Sachs is "doing God's work" - how does that make you feel.
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