Why I recommend "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron" — 5 years ago
This is not an easy read. It’s a long book, the type is small, and there are technical business facts as well as information about trading, stocks, business development, etc. BUT, it was well worth my time to finish this book. I cannot say I completely understood all the fine points of Enron’s business dealings; however, that did not matter. The explanations were thorough and written on a level which I could understand, so even if I didn’t get everything straight, I did “get” the essence of what the authors were telling me.
Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow ran the Enron corporation during the time it was flying high and appeared to be making money hand over fist. Arthur Anderson was the accounting office charged with keeping the books honest. The Board Of Directors of Enron was well enough informed about the dealings in which Enron participated so that they should have understood and therefore questioned the practices that were showing such huge profits. And the Wall Street analysts who advised people to invest in Enron certainly had enough intelligence to know that what Enron claimed couldn’t possibly have been true. Yet no one stopped Enron from eventually imploding, and there were plenty of opportunities for them to be stopped.
Instead, during the Bull Market of the 90’s, greed and intimidation not to rock the boat controlled everyone who might have stopped Enron before it took people’s retirement money and life savings and essentially threw it away. None of those complicit in the bilking of the investing public were punished nearly enough for their roles in the unethical and illegal practices that eventually brought Enron down. In fact, most of the higher echelon of the company got their money out before the roof caved in and bankruptcy was declared.
I wanted to know how all this could have happened when we are supposed to have safeguards in place preventing it. I found out. The SEC is a joke, and if the company is big and powerful enough, they can do pretty much whatever they want… at least for a while. And that while may be long enough to destroy “regular people” like you and me financially.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out what Enron did and how they did it. It’s an amazing story.