Enron Corporation

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)


Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a 2005 American documentary film based on the best-selling 2003 book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, a study of one of the largest business scandals in American history. McLean and Elkind are credited as writers of the film alongside the director, Alex Gibney.

The film examines the 2001 collapse of the Enron Corporation, which resulted in criminal trials for several of the company’s top executives during the ensuing Enron scandal; it also shows theinvolvement of the Enron traders in the California electricity crisis. The film features interviews with McLean and Elkind, as well as former Enron executives and employees, stock analysts, reporters and the former Governor of California Gray Davis.

Background:

The Enron scandal, publicized in October 2001, led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston, Texas, and the de facto dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which was one of the five largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world. In addition to being the largest bankruptcy eorganization in American history at that time, Enron was cited as the biggest audit failure.

Enron was formed in 1985 by Kenneth Lay after merging Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth. Several years later, when Jeffrey Skilling was hired, he developed a staff of executives that – by the use of accounting loopholes, special purpose entities, and poor financial reporting – were able to hide billions of dollars in debt from failed deals and projects. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow and other executives misled Enron’s board of directors and audit committee on high-risk accounting practices and pressured Arthur Andersen to ignore the issues.

Enron shareholders filed a $40 billion lawsuit after the company’s stock price, which achieved a high of US$90.75 per share in mid-2000, plummeted to less than $1 by the end of November 2001. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began an investigation, and rival Houston competitor Dynegy offered to purchase the company at a very low price. The deal failed, and on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history until the WorldCom scandal the next year.

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