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What Went Wrong at Enron [Paperback]

Peter C. Fusaro , Ross Miller
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 July 2002 Finance & Investments
An easy answer guide to the difficult questions surrounding Enron What Went Wrong at Enron explains the critical steps, transactions, and events that led to the demise of a company that was once considered one of the most innovative corporations in the United States. Energy risk management expert Peter Fusaro gets inside Enron and provides a coherent account of the who, why, where, and when of this corporate debacle, without sacrificing the complexity of what has happened. Enron has been front–page news for months, but confusion still remains about what actually happened. What Went Wrong at Enron is written for readers who find themselves wondering what exactly is an energy trading company, what was the sequence of events that caused the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history, and what does this all mean for me.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (3 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471265748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471265740
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.9 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,128,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"...first book to address the difficult questions surrounding Enron..." ( Lloyd′s List , 5 July 2002) "Here come the Enron books...The best offering...is What Went Wrong at Enron ." ( The New York Times , Sunday, July 28, 2002) "...a new book on the Enron debacle..." ( The Sunday Business Post , 28 July 2002) "...the gripping drama de jour..." ( Business Eye , 1 August 2002) "...the book chronicles the deception, back stabbing and eventual whistle–blowing that toppled the Houston–based company..." ( Moneywise , September 2002) "...the end result is quite gripping...it gave out information without even trying and it readily soaked into the consciousness..." ( M2 Best Books , 15 August 2002) "...ideal reading for a train journey or flight..." ( Mortgage Finance Gazette , October 2002) "...compelling and very clearly written book draws the right lessons from the Enron debacle" ( Christopher Faille , HedgeWorld) "...Fusaro and miller have provided an excellent primer to whet our appetites for the scurrilous revelations to come..." ( Times Higher Educational Supplement , 22 November 2002) "...a fascinating, highly readable blow–by–blow account of what led to a company’s dramatic collapse..." ( IEE Review , Janauary 2003) "...a truly fascinating read." ( Financial Adviser , 26 September 2002)


"Do not put another dime into the stock market before reading this book. In all the millions of words that have been written about the Enron scandal, these are the first that really explain, in a way anyone can understand, what actually happened in the greatest stock swindle of modern times. You′ll learn what Enron′s business really consisted of, how the accounting for it really worked, and who the key executives really were in particular chairman Kenneth Lay, the proselytizing son of a Missouri preacher, and Lay′s protégé, Jeffrey Skilling, who earned the nickname of Darth Vader for his ruthless behavior. You′ll follow Enron′s forays into everything from the Internet to the California energy market, learning how Skilling and Lay influenced Wall Street analysts to say only favorable things about the company, and what happened to the analysts who didn′t oblige. And you′ll behold the inevitable doom that eventually comes to shareholders who believe that rising stock prices are proof of increasing value. In the end they may be proof of nothing more than what the world has now come to know as "Enronitis." This is the book that explains what that word really means." —Christopher Byron, author, Martha Inc. "The Enron story, for most of us, is a monster. Fusaro and Miller clarify what went wrong in a manner that allows anyone to get their arms around the beast quickly, without killing oneself." —Bill Crawford, former Chicago Tribune financial writer and Pulitzer Prize winner "The authors′ sharp insights into Enron′s self–destructive culture provide a clear road map into its massive failure." —Peter Behr, Washington Post financial writer

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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A popular notion as to why Enron failed is that its leaders didn't "stick to their knitting." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Gaurav Sharma VINE VOICE
Not every good book needs to bank on being a sensational masterpiece. Details can indeed be provided by making the narrative a little bit more engaging. That is where the authors of this book have failed in their effort to chalk out what happened at Enron for our benefit.

The details, facts and figures are all there. The conjecture is good too, along with attention to details of the bankruptcy as it unfolded. The backdrop of Enron's failure has also been well written. But when it comes to mapping the mood, emotions and aftermath, this book is incredibly sterile.

Enron was a corporate scandal with some fascinating facets - whistle-blowing, leaked emails, evoking of the Fifth Amendment by its executives, deception, greed, human tragedy and fragile egos. This book fails to adequately encapsulate much of that, after such a promising preface which contained a poignant analogy between kids' "Star Wars" trading cards and the ultimate worth of Enron shares.

Furthermore, the authors chart the rise of the failed giant but do not give much of an insight about how it got there in the first place. However, apart from being mundane, some emerging facts before and during the Enron trial have been adequately put forward. It's also among the few books in the market that captures the extent of Enron's overseas misadventures and cockiness. Overall this book promises so much on face value, but in the end is nothing more than a reference book on the debacle, a genre which is quite cluttered.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Brevity of Soul of Witlessness 8 Feb 2004
This book deserves zero stars; it is a complete waste of money.
It skims the surface, offering no useful explanation as to how ENRON became 'successful' in the first place, or where it's slush funds came from.
Avoid it!
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enron explained easily 17 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This book, gives a very easy to read explaination of what went wrong with Enron. Excellent for audit or business assignment for students. This book breaks down each issue that preceded the famous bankrupt and makes them easy to understand. I definitely recommend this book.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Fine Reading 23 Jun 2003
This is really a very fine reading. You can read this book in a train or before falling into sleep. You could be an expert or a layman in finance; you will find this book interesting. By combining "What Went Wrong in Enron" with "The ENRON Collapse" of Dirk Barreveld you should reach the solid base to make your own opinion anbout the ENRON case.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin 30 July 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Let's start with the positives:
- the book is easy to read and reasonably well written;
- the basic facts of the story are covered;
- the book starts the story way back before the problems emerged so that you get a feel for what the business was up to.
- it is very short book for such a complex subject
- the "unravelling" - the investigations into "what went wrong" are (ironically) not well covered
- there is almost no coverage of the Andersen issues
So save your dollar, pound, euro or yen - don't waste it on this book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Enron Autopsy Report 8 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This books lays out all the gory details of the greed and incompetence that killed Enron. The book works because of the understated and slyly entertaining way that it goes about unraveling the Enron bankruptcy. It is particularly effective because rather than being all preachy and sanctimonious, it presents all the necessary facts and background material to let the reader reach her own conclusions.
The real clue to what the book is about is in the section at the end of the book called "The Enron Files," which contains copies of everything from deal approval sheets that are missing Jeffrey Skilling's signature to the "suicide note" left by Cliff Baxter. These exhibits, though some of them are difficult to read given that they were reduced to fit on a single page, give the whole Enron case a certain X-Files quality. Indeed, the book reads a lot like what Special Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder might have written about the case--combining Scully's scientific objectivity with Mulder's talent for psychological profiling of the major perps--in this case Lay, Skilling, and Fastow. Like any good X-Files episode, it raises more questions that it answers. What is truly scary about the whole affair is that there is no alien conspiracy to blame it on, just the lax governmental oversight that Enron bought and paid for with its campaign contributions.
What Went Wrong at Enron is certainly not the last word on this scandal and deals only tangentially with the other scandals that are popping up all around it. Given that story on these scandals is only just beginning, it may be a long time (if ever) until the complete story can be written. Until then, this book provides the important first step in solving the mystery that is Enron.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, Easy and Informative 8 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book is intended for the lay person. For a quick and easy to understand version of what happened at Enron, read this book. The authors do a good job at summarizing the management personalities, company culture, use of special purpose entities and deception that ultimately led to Enron's debacle.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When Too Much is Barely Enough 10 Jun 2005
By Dr. Ian H. Lavering - Published on Amazon.com
Fusaro, P. and Miller, R. M., 2003. What went wrong at Enron, Everyone's guide to the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. John Wiley and Sons, paperback, 240 p.

The moral and cultural lessons of Enron range from the need for ethical behaviour, grounding in truthfulness, honesty, transparency and a need for complete disclosure in accounting and corporate structure. This is the ultimate source of insight into how it all happened. Other sources also point to the underlying dangers represented by a betrayal of trust within the capitalism market system.

The Enron style of approach to flourish in newly deregulated energy and utility markets that have been engineered by governments since the mid 1980s. The levels of executive culpability and it shows the decay and or frailty of underlying value systems which should stand against such events. The events and actions that led to Enron's demise have far more and significant implications to the fate and quality of our own society.

But is Enron a systemic problem or is the ultimate problem the nature of market capitalism itself. If the latter then to avoid more Enron's it is necessary to have moral and ethical tethers to clearly defined absolute terms such as right and wrong (good and evil) in a corporate business environment, otherwise concepts on which an economic system depends, such as trust between all participants, will ultimately breakdown.

Internally, the dynamics of the Enron enterprise set out in this book show a salutary lesson of what should not be present in an apparently healthy and profitable corporate enterprise: failure of 'knowledge conditions', senior management being isolated from those at operational levels (?); individuals pursuing sub-goals that are contrary to overall corporate goals; restrictions on the flows of bad news as opposed to any positive 'spin'.

The underlying causes of an Enron outcome are in fact within the nature of corporations themselves. Their hierarchical structure, limited span of control, self-interest, limited discourse and intimidatory corporate culture all point to a flaw in the nature of many public-listed corporations. Some suggest that the Enron case is one which warrants a revaluation of the shareholder centric model of corporations; management actions should not longer be orientated at maximising the current share price.

Some see the lessons of Enron as being a company that, when in trouble, was unwilling to admit its own shortcomings and thus became driven to cover-up a few bad decisions by making even worse ones. An early admission and some critical changes in operations could have saved the trading side of the business. Instead profit growth at all costs an unwillingness to admit that poor decisions had been made, led to even more exaggeration and fraudulent reporting.

The key problem with Enron was that it had all the surfical signs of a good corporate citizen in place with corporate social responsibility, business ethics tools and status symbols all in place. The greatest danger is that the Enron situation is not atypical of many aspects of many corporate organisations: those who closed their eyes to wrong doings (in Enron) were rewarded; others who sought to give warnings were punished; the win-at-all-costs mentality. The Enron lesson is that business is in the long term only going to survive by virtue of developing and following ethical behaviour. No one single error occurred just the compounding of many errors, all of which were preventable. It was based on a success at all cost culture where the ends always justified the means.

Enron is not explicable as just ethical and moral failure without examining why these failures occurred. Enron was a corporate product of both willingness to bend the rules and the opportunity to bend them. Others suggest that there are limited lessons to be learnt from the Enron story: that is to say Enron is bankrupt because of speculation and legal but unsound accounting and financing schemes. This view suggests that this proves that the free-market works; speculators and those at the margin of the market must suffer as and when the market turns. As such Enron investors were punished by the stock market for their poor judgment. The energy markets adjusted to Enron's collapse with few problems. As for the stock market crash, well, booms and busts are a natural part of a healthy capitalist economy.

A must have book for anyone who wants to know the inside story.

Other academic reading:

. Benston, G. J., and Hartgraves, A. L., 2002. Enron: what happened and what can we learn from it. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 21, 105-127.

Carson, T. L., 2003. Self-interest and business ethics: some lessons of the recent corporate scandals. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 389-394.

Chatergee, S., 2003. Enron's incremental descent into bankruptcy: a strategic and organisational analysis. Long Range Planning 36, 133-149.

Cohan, J. A., 2002. "I didn't know" and "I was only doing my job": Has corporate governance careened out of control? A case study of Enron's information myopia. Journal of Business Ethics, 40, 275-299.

Currall, S., and Epstein, M. J., 2003. The Fragility of Organizational Trust: Lessons from the rise and fall of Enron. Organizational Dynamics, 32 (2), 193-206.

Desai, A. B. and Rittenberg, T., 1997. Global ethics: an integrative framework for MNEs. Journal of Business Ethics, 16, 791-800.

Sims, R. R. and Brinkman, J., 2003. Enron ethics (or: culture matters more than codes). Journal of Business Ethics 45, 243-245.

Spector, B., 2003. HRM at Enron: the unindited co-conspirator. Organizational Dynamics, 32 (2), 207-22.

Dr I Lavering

Adjunct Professor

MBT Program UNSW
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Add Much 6 July 2002
By Loren Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Having read many newspaper and magazine accounts of the fall of Enron, including excellent coverage in The New York Times and BusinessWeek, this book really doesn't add much. It's a concise retelling of the events, so that's nice. But it imparts no greater understanding or context. Among the problems: The writing is bland. The book gives almost no explanation for Enron's rise before the calamitous fall. It never makes clear exactly why Enron had to go bankrupt. This account spends hardly any time on Arthur Andersen's role, even thought it led to that accounting firm's ruin. The authors also have an odd obsession with Michael Milken, even though he seems peripheral to the Enron story. If you've missed the news in the past seven months, this book can quickly give you the outline of the Enron saga. Otherwise, save your money.
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