March 4, 2012

Enron : The Smartest Guys In The Room


                                           We Indians are always familiar with scandal and corruptions. It's like watching weather report, happens daily in any part of the country. A good scandal can get your blood up; it has villains and victims, the cleansing fury of injustice made public. But nowadays, even corruption have become virtual, with its own universe of fine print. In a corporate world, they have this term "ethics" but the men and women at the top don't understand or care about the definition. Instead, "greed" is the mantra by which they live and work - get rich quick and damn the consequences. 

Winners say, "Nothing succeeds like success."  Corrupt corporates say, "Nothing exceeds like success."

                                       Enron is one of the familiar corporate scandal in this century. Based on the book by Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean (who broke the story) and Peter Elkind, The Smartest Guys in the Room lays bare, in funny and shocking video clips, the culture of arrogance at Enron. But what exactly is this scandal? Why did the company which was a media darling on Wall Street, crash so badly? How did Enron manage to fool investors, consultants into thinking it was making profits? How did Enron manage to bully Govt officials, lawmakers, accountants, employees to have it’s own way? What exactly went wrong? The questions are many, and the fraud is massive, so the easy way to get the answers is to watch the documentary "Enron:The Smartest Guys in the Room"
                                         
                                    In the late '90s, the Houston-based energy company was the model for the new economy. Its stock continued to rise even though it wasn't clear how and where Enron made its cash. Its advertisement profits supposedly came from a "black box" - just arriving without explanation. What investors and employees didn't know, the filmmakers say, is that Enron was losing millions and doctoring the books to make itself appear healthy. Pumped-up by positive PR and favorable ratings from stock analysts, Enron maintained a fa├žade of success even as each new ambitious venture failed miserably.

                                         Only in late 2001, when Enron stock plummeted to less than a dollar a share and employees lost jobs and retirement money, did it become clear that company executives were hiding massive problems. Congressional hearings followed. Three Enron executives driven the downfall of the company : Kenneth Lay, the company founder, who in seeking to deregulate the energy market, developed a billion dollar idea that he couldn't leave alone; Jeff Skilling, the nerdy financial whiz who figured out that energy could be traded like stocks and bonds; and Andrew Fastow, the fall guy who organized a series of dummy accounts to essentially keep up appearances. 


                                In the documentary, director Alex Gibney features the recordings, made during the height of California's energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, reveal Enron traders gloating as they shut down perfectly fine power plants in a bid to raise kilowatt prices -- and their own profits. 

                               Just before dawn on June 3, 1997, police officers forcibly entered the homes of several women in Veldur, a fishing village in western India, dragging them into waiting police vans and beating them with sticks. The only "crime" committed by these women was to lead a peaceful protest against the environmental impact of a massive new natural-gas plant being built near Veldur by Enron. We should be indeed thankful of this scandal, that we were spared Enron’s dirty tricks out here. 


                              Although the callousness and heartlessness of these go-getters are revealed throughout the documentary, the most depressing part is that so many accountants, lawyers, Wall Street traders, investment bank analysts, and government looked the other way and enabled Enron to flourish. The failure to speak truth caused agony for millions of ordinary investors, not to mention the thousands of Enron employees who lost their life savings.

                             Enron holds out many lessons for us. Of what happens when corporate greed takes over man’s nature. The documentary raises a question, 'Why should so many suffer for the greed and sins of a few?'  Don't think Integrity, honesty, and ethics are outdated. Enron proves that, greed makes profit only in the short run. After all, even greed has its limits.

Trailer


Enron : The Smartest Guys In The Room - Imdb 



4 comments:

vinay said...

Seems like something I would like to watch. :)

Raghav said...

Nice to include an Indian point of view into the review. I didn't think of that when I wrote mine. Cheers!

rahul aggarwal said...

loved the movie and loved this post !

Veera said...

This documentary is a tight slap on so called Corporate Governance ..

Its a Whistle blowing attempt that sends a warning sign to all greedy and selfish corporate bodies...and the sad part is our business tycoons like Ramalinga Raju want a Indian Version of Enron .. and successfully he repeated the history :(

Arun we can take a documentary on Raju titled "Satyam - The stupid guys in the Jail "

Also I love this punch in your review

" Why should so many suffer for the greed and sins of a few?' Don't think Integrity, honesty, and ethics are outdated. Enron proves that, greed makes profit only in the short run. After all, even greed has its limits."

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