"Portrait of a Megacompany’s Undoing"
What You Need To Know:
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.
(BB, PC, C, LL, S, NN, MM) Moral worldview that rebukes greed, lying and selfishness, with an implication that the Bush family has personal reasons for not coming down harder on former Enron CEO Ken Lay, and a Christian interjection from a priest who counseled some Enron employees; 14 obscenities, most of which were toward the end of the movie in a taped conversation, and one profanity; strippers shown; brief reenactment inside a strip bar with upper female nudity; and, extreme greed, corporate fraud, lying and lying by omission, discussion of one executive’s suicide, extreme selfishness, and stealing, all rebuked.
ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM is a compelling, fast-paced inquiry into the buildup of Enron and its very public undoing. The movie profiles its two leaders, CEO Ken Lay and President Jeff Skilling, who lied and cashed in while their 20,000 employees were robbed of their life savings.
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.