Unethical, greedy, immoral, selfish, dishonest, dreadful, evil. The story of an energy titan who deceived investors and regulators, thus devastating the livelihoods of his workers, elicited these strong reactions from our listeners even 20 years later.
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” showed us how tens of thousands of employees lost their jobs and $ 2 billion in retirement funds. Before declaring bankruptcy in 2001, Enron paid $ 745 million in cash and shares to senior executives. And former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who served 12 years in prison, recently launched an energy investment firm.
Enron’s complicated legacy doesn’t end there. You can read or listen to David Brancaccio in conversation with Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal on what the saga has taught us about investing and with Vijay Vaitheeswaran of The Economist on the echoes of Enron’s energy deregulation in California and Texas. today.
One of our listeners, Carrie, expressed frustration with Skilling’s apparent rebound.
“It makes me so furious that all of the top executives in the company walked away with millions funded mostly by ordinary people trying to make a living (ie Californians paying high electricity bills, lost pensions etc) Then I read that Jeff Skilling is now out of jail and back doing essentially the same job. Amazing that we allow this as a society.
Auditor Lyn C. emphasized that workers, not managers, are the backbone of the economy.
“There will always be stupid people, dishonest people and greedy people. The people who make the economy work are the workers. If you don’t protect them, there will be a collapse of society. We need to ensure safe investments to grow industries and create jobs for these workers. More transparency is needed, as well as clearer guidelines. “
Joyce C. remembers meeting former Enron employees and seeing the toll they took.
“When I moved to Houston 12 years ago, I often met people who had worked at Enron and heard their anger. I attended a seminar with [former Enron Chief Financial Officer] Andy Fastow shortly after his release from prison; he apologized to the angry crowd but insisted he hadn’t done anything illegal, even though he knew it was unethical and immoral. Until then, I hadn’t appreciated the depth of Enron’s impact on the community. Yesterday I mentioned the film to someone who had worked on it and saw an angry reaction – even 20 years later. This film is a case for every business school course on business practices.
And S. Cama pointed out that “smart” was ultimately not the best descriptor for key Enron executives.
“It was pure selfish motivation with no concern for the well-being of others, be it employees, shareholders and the general public in general, who all suffered. It should be called “Enron: the most greedy guys in the room”. It was very telling that so many people in positions of power (be it audit, regulator, or compliance) who had an idea that something was wrong always stamped it or have nothing done when they knew what was going on did not pass the test cap. Enron was a harbinger for AIG, Bernie Madoff and even the housing crisis. With good people doing nothing, this is what allows deception and evil to flourish. Shameful!”
Thanks for watching with us. Do you have a document recommendation that you would like us to review? Email us at email@example.com. We will be back next week with our October selection.