ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM
Portrait of a Megacompany’s Undoing
Release Date: April 22, 2005
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Rating: R for strong sexual content
including graphic nudity, and
Runtime: 120 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Director: Alex Gibney
Executive Producer: Mark Cuban, Joana Vicente, and
Producer: Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot, and
Writer: Alex Gibney
Address Comments To:Magnolia Pictures
115 West 27th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 924-6701
Fax: (212) 924-6742
Email: info@ magpictures.com
Enron began in Texas as a natural gas company. It soon grew into an energy trading company, like a miniature version of Wall Street, that brokered international energy commodities. At this point, Enron began to grow exponentially, acquiring a large electric power company in the Pacific Northwest and starting an Internet venture to resell bandwidth. Corporate oracle Fortune magazine was enamored with the company and heaped superlatives on them throughout the 90s, including “America’s Most Innovative Company” and one of the “Best Companies to Work for in America.”
Sadly, these pronouncements were all folly. President Jeff Skilling had engaged the company in an accounting practice called “mark-to-market” which effectively allowed Enron to estimate future profits but count them on the books as current profits. These projected figures misled stock buyers into thinking that Enron was making huge profits, when it was really taking losses on many ventures. Further, CFO Andy Fastow was creating corporations in which he could stash Enron’s corporate debt so that investors would not see the company’s negative cashflow.
THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM untangles the wide web in a way that is very easy to follow and engaging, almost exciting. Following Enron’s trail is like solving a huge mystery, though most audiences will find the movie sobering. The greed and hubris exhibited by Enron execs is a sad reminder of mankind’s base tendency toward selfishness and sinfulness.
Be warned, sensitive conservative viewers: The movie establishes that both George W. Bush and his father were close friends and associates of Ken Lay. No explicit claims are made, but the filmmakers imply that Bush chose not to pursue harsher punishments for Lay and his Enron cronies because of their deep history. The movie is mostly apolitical, however, content to chase down the trail of corporate lies.
Also of note, a very brief scene inside a strip club should keep out younger viewers. ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM delivers more than an average documentary; it is entertaining, educational and alarming.
Sadly, high-level executives were using accounting practices that made it easy to deceive investors and continually raise the stock price. As executives were fabricating the company’s profits, they were cashing out their stock before the truth came out and the company collapsed. THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM untangles the wide web in a way that is very easy to follow and almost exciting, though most audiences will find the movie sobering. The greed and hubris exhibited by Enron execs is a sad reminder of mankind’s tendency toward selfishness and sinfulness. There is brief nudity, but the documentary manages to be entertaining, educational, and alarming.