Pin It
Favorite

DVD Review 

by Michael Bowen & r & & r & Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Enron debacle was a case of mass hysteria: In Y2K, with the company's stock price exploding like a Texas oil rig set ablaze, no one thought to ask questions, and everyone acted like God.


After CEO Jeff Skilling came up with the idea of turning Enron into "a kind of stock market for natural gas, transforming energy into financial instruments," the company made a deal with Blockbuster and tried to expand into broadband. It failed, but no matter: Soon Enron was selling futures on the weather. It wasn't a company; it was a casino.


Under post-Reagan deregulation, everybody was too busy gambling to wonder how the chips kept flowing in. Wall Street analysts admitted they had no idea how Enron made its money, yet still slapped Buy ratings on the company's stock. When Skilling came up with the completely unrealistic concept of 'mark-to-market' accounting (which allows future profits to be booked on the day a deal is signed, not when and if anything of value is ever produced), Arthur Andersen and the FTC actually signed off on it. It wasn't just Enron, in other words -- there were bankers, lawyers, lots of people who knew that Enron was a sham.


There are enough extras on this disc to conduct a seminar on corporate excess, starting with Bethany McLean's Fortune articles, which first started asking questions. Skilling was condescending to McLean (who's young and fresh-faced), but she had the last laugh by turning Enron's motto, 'Ask why,' against the crooks themselves. Ironic stock footage (cliff jumpers for the stock's freefall), jokey soundtrack ("Son of a Preacher Man" for chairman Ken Lay's Baptist upbringing) and stock-ticker crawls enliven this documentary, a likely Oscar nominee, with a light touch. Director Alex Gibney clearly takes pride in his visual motif of reflective surfaces -- but his biggest scoop was unearthing taped phone conversations of predatory traders joking as they took down the California electric grid and jacked up their profits.


In the end, McLean expresses some compassion for Jeff Skilling ("he was devastated, his life destroyed") but adds, "I despise Ken Lay a lot more for his ability to just ... walk away."


Five years after selling off hundreds of millions of dollars in stock, now Skilling and Lay are walking into Houston courtrooms.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Reunited We Stand
  • Reunited We Stand

    With major provisions of Trump's executive order put on temporary hold, 11 Iraqi refugees reunite with their families in Spokane
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Working Blue
  • Working Blue

    Spokane police officer under fire for profanity; plus, Tomi Lahren — and her opinions — are coming to town
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • 'Cautiously Optimistic'
  • 'Cautiously Optimistic'

    Spokane Public Schools has seen improvement since committing to reducing suspensions, but the hardest part is yet to come
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • More »

Comments


Comments are closed.

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Harlem Globetrotters

Harlem Globetrotters @ Spokane Arena

Tue., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • We Have Not Yet Begun to Fight

    Why we're filling the streets to protest Trump's inhumane, dangerous policies
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Obscene Gestures

    Spokane political party leaders hope to harness post-election passion into civil discourse. But so far, there's only been more strife
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


Comment


do something


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Manufacturing Fear
  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation