Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

“Enron should not be viewed as an aberration; something that can’t happen anywhere else because it’s all about the rationalization that you’re not doing anything wrong…there (was) the diffusion of responsibility, everyone was on the bandwagon and it can happen again”

Sherron Watkins’ words of wisdom seem oddly prophetic in this time of recession, the recent financial collapse of some of the world’s most reputable firms, and wave of corporate ethics scandals and made me think, did people pay attention to why Enron collapsed?  Sure, you can always blame corporate greed, but what exactly does that mean, when there were so many smart, rational people who to this day disavow anything illicit or illegal was done?  What is about this particular company that elicited this type of response, where it became synonymous with evil, duplicity, and scandal?

I was initially inspired to watch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, adapted from the book of the same name, because Freakonomics, another movie by Alex Gibney comes out this fall.  Although this movie was not as engaging, moving or life-changing as “Taxi to the Dark Side,” it is a good movie but I struggled with what I should rate it.  Did I like it? It was alright. Was it incredibly engaging? Not really, I mean I had read a lot about the company beforehand. Is it a movie I think everyone should watch? Absolutely, especially in this day and age.

Gibney experts weaves in personal interviews, historical footage, and a few small pieces of re-enacted material to portray a company who’s tragic flaw appears to be the pride of its leaders, in refusing to admit that the ship was sinking.  The allusions to the Titanic were wide and numerous, perhaps a little too numerous honestly, but apt.   The style of story-telling was dry and factual, yet visual (e.g., lots of pictures) and easy to follow.   It was also interesting to note the implied effect on the deregulation of California’s energy market as the guinea pig, so to speak, to Gray Davis’ gubernatorial recall and the election of the Governator, and how that conveniently played into Enron’s profits.

It took me a while to watch this movie, but in the end, still a fan of Alex Gibney.  It’s definitely more a dense film, but an important one…$8

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