Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Title: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Author: Independent Spirit Award (2005)
The inside story of one of history’s greatest business scandals, in which top executives of America’s seventh largest company walked away with over one billion dollars while investors and employees lost everything.
One of the greatest scandals in American corporate history is chronicled in the riveting documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Based on the bestselling book by Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkin, and directed by Alex Gibney (who also produced The Trials of Henry Kissinger), the film is an epic morality tale, drawing upon a wealth of insider interviews and archival material to show how Enron, once the nation’s seventh largest corporate entity, essentially faked its bookkeeping to report profits that never existed. The corrupt and closely-guarded mismanagement by Enron executives (including Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, later placed on criminal trial) is revealed through such heinous concepts as “Hypothetical Future Value” (a way of reaping fortunes based on false profit projections) and the use of offshore “shell” companies to hide the massive losses that eventually toppled the company (along with the venerable Arthur Anderson accounting firm) and left 20,000 employees jobless. As a maddening portrait of hubris and white-collar crime, Enron transcends political and corporate boundaries by showing how smart and powerful men grew blinded by greed and brought ruin upon themselves, along with thousands of otherwise innocent victims. For better and worse, it’s a perfect double-feature with eye-opening 2004 documentary The Corporation. —Jeff Shannon