I’m fascinated by the Enron collapse and trial. The sheer brazenness and magnitude of the crimes is mind-boggling. WorldCom ended up eclipsing Enron to take the title of biggest financial fraud, but Enron is a better story. Everything at least seems bigger in
I can remember first hearing about them during the bubble when they announced something they called the “Broadband Operating System”. Having some experience with what it takes to build and ship an operating system (insert your own Windows Vista joke here), I was surprised to hear of a new player with the wherewithal to do an operating system. Surely it was BS I thought but what company would be shameless enough to pretend they were playing in this space? Evidently I needed to lower my shamelessness bar.
A whole Enron genre has emerged. Several of the reporters who covered the company’s downfall have written books, of which I have read a couple. They chronicle the Enron story but also give insights into the interplay with the media, both as the company unraveled and how the press is being used by the lawyers in the subsequent criminal trials. If you are a practitioner of the black art of PR, it is fascinating inside baseball.
The New York Times reporter’s book is Conspiracy of Fools, which was the best general account of the story I’ve read. A well-written narrative, it practically reads like a novel. It is also fascinating because the book was published before the various cases went to trial and you can perhaps discern the hand of defense lawyers trying to tee up their defense, which basically amounts to “they were incompetent fools, but not criminals”, hence the title. Enron’s head PR guy manages to burnish his reputation and do some personal PR to go down in history as a hardworking, responsive professional who was mislead by management. Skilling and his lawyers must not have participated in this book as he remains an enigma, in particular why he resigned just months after getting the CEO job and just months before the company blew up.
The other book I read was by the