Review – Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room

The collapse of Enron is one of those incidents in business history that is certainly going to end up in the history books. The death of what appeared to be on of the strongest companies on the market changed the way the goverment, and the public, looks at business even more then the Dot Com Collapse did. The key here is, though, why? Why did Enron, which by all appearances was one of the strongest corporations on the stock market, collapse like a house of cards? That is the question that this documentary aims to answer.

In order to find the right answer, you really need to rethink the question, the documentary says. The real question is – how did a company that was built like a house of cards appear as one of the strongest corporations on the stock market? The answer is through three things – a extremely agressive corporate culture that favored profit over ethics, the use of mark-to-market accounting, and the pressuring of stock analysts to present a favorable profiles of the corporation.

The documentary presents these points through interviews with the participants in the events, as well as video footage taken from Enron, from the news media, and congressional hearings on the collapse, and audio recordings from trader’s on the trading floor and a few phone conversations. All of the insiders who perpetuated the fraud itself are absent from the interview footage, but are present in the internal video and phone conversations.

Overall, the presentation of the documentary is very well done. In addition to the interview footage, and the stock footage from the news media and internal footage from within Enron, we also get some very nice establishing shots of the Enron floor itself, and the areas where Enron built up their power – from natural gas fields in Texas, to their corporate offices, to California, where Enron fleeced the state government itself through the still-infamous rolling blackouts.

The one semi-negative I’d give the documentary is that it feels like an episode of Frontline or similar PBS documentary. Now, in my book that is not a negative – Frontline is one of my favorite programs on PBS, and is to a certain extent in my opinion the ideal of the documentary. However, some people find this type of documentary very dry, and to an extent it is. rather dry. So, if such documentaries are not for you, then you might want to pass on this one.

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