Other Sellers on Amazon
Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.
Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing "Send link," you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message & data rates may apply.
Follow the Authors
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron Paperback – September 28, 2004
There is a newer edition of this item:
Enhance your purchase
Frequently bought together
About the Author
Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are Fortune senior writers. McLean, a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, lives in New York City. Her March 2001 article in Fortune, "Is Enron Overpriced?," was the first in a national publication to openly question the company's dealings.
Peter Elkind is an award-winning investigative reporter and the author of The Death Shift. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Fortune, and Texas Monthly.
- ASIN : 1591840538
- Publisher : Portfolio Trade; Reprint edition (September 28, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 440 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781591840534
- ISBN-13 : 978-1591840534
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.63 x 1.08 x 8.45 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #302,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
As authors McLean and Elkind tell us, the simple answer is greed. Even if you don’t believe in God nor the Bible, you have to give the author of the Good Book credit when he tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil.
The ironic thing is that the Enron story is so complex, that even the most prudent financial experts in the industry had a hard time deciphering the deception. Let’s be honest, the average layman gets a bit lost when reading things such as a company’s balance sheet or a 10k report, so when the financial experts kept telling everyone how great Enron was and that they were the visionary for the future, why would anyone doubt it? Even the employees (sadly) were so convinced of the positive spin, that they had the bulk of their 401k savings invested in their own company.
It was ironic that the co-author of the book (Bethany McLean) first started the ripples by throwing a small stone in the pond with an article in Fortune Magazine titled “Is Enron Overpriced?” It was all downhill for the energy mogul from there.
Unfortunately, the same reason why people never could (nor can now) really understand the complex financial irregularities of the company, is the same reason why this book falters a bit. The authors spend well over half of this book going over the ill-gotten deals that Enron procured in immense financial detail. Many of the chapters read like a 30-page financial statement. In other words, if you have a PhD in Finance, you might find the bulk of the material in the book readable, but for the rest of us, it’s just too much, and we get lost. I found myself skimming over many of the chapters describing the many endeavors that the company embarked on with the simple task of masquerading the fact that they weren’t actually making any money.
The chapters I found more interesting were the ones where the authors were describing some of the key players at the top of the Enron food chain, and how their misguided morals influenced not only how they did business, but how they lived their personal lives as well. It’s seems as though most of the senior players had gotten a divorce at some point while they were raking in millions, and I lost track of all of the illicit romantic affairs going on between the key players. It’s also fascinating (yet not surprising) to read about how most of the top-level employees hated each other, and the immeasurable amount of backstabbing that went on amongst the leaders.
The book I read was a ’10-year anniversary’ edition, and the authors discuss in the coda that, sadly, things in the business world haven’t changed as much as they probably should in lieu of the Enron scandal. As long as there is greed, there will always be corruption. In that sense, the Enron story should be a model for companies everywhere. Fortunately, I would say that more and more companies are embracing a culture of teamwork and truly being more philanthropic, but there are still companies out there that advocate that, in order to be successful, you have to step on everyone else’s neck to get to the top – even if that neck belongs to someone else in the company. Such was the culture that Skilling and his minions encouraged.
A fascinating, yet depressing story. Good, but overall, I would have liked more personability and less minutia around the many complex financial dealings.
If this had been fiction, it likely would have been criticized for lacking credibility -- how could any company become the "evil empire" that seems to have been Enron? Of course, it's not fiction, and even if one assumes that the authors may have exaggerated or left out some facts that might have made the villains look less evil, it's still a "credibly incredible" book.
The book demonstrates the authors' intelligence, diligence and writing ability. There are a few passages that one might argue are too detailed, but for the most part I felt that the detailed explanations were helpful and even if they hadn't been the book is eminently readable and compelling. If you like this sort of book, this is a must-read; even if you don't, it's pretty damn good.
From the book:
“The larger message was that the wealth and power enjoyed by those at the top of the heap in corporate America demand no sense of broader responsibility. To accept those arguments is to embrace the notion that ethical behavior requires nothing more than avoiding the explicitly illegal, that refusing to see the bad things happening in front of you makes you innocent, and that telling the truth is the same thing as making sure that no one can prove you lied.”
Top reviews from other countries
Of course that just might be why many, many others didn’t get what was going on. That said I am not into finance so probably that might have coloured my opinion.
Now then, despite all this, when I got my head round what was going on, realised just how bad the financial services section can be it was a great read & worth all the effort.
Now then what is the next big financial fraud? Bitcoin? - That may get me some negative comments. Can I just say that, before you do, I took a punt on Bitcoin & pocketed myself a 40% profit. My money is now safe in my bank.
Stay safe people.
In contrast with "Barbarians", "When Genius Failed" or the more recent "Billionaire's Apprentice", it does not read like a narrative, and that's because it really can't. Enron was a lot more complex than a single transaction or a single hedge fund. It was an agglomeration of businesses, each with its own specific character. You can't go over the whole thing linearly.
It starts like a narrative. The authors start by painting a portrait of the main characters of the book, namely Lay and Skilling, weaving their bios and their credos well into the tale of the genesis of Enron through the merger of a couple gas businesses and the adoption of mark-to-market accounting for long-term projects and markets. But then the authors have to branch out.
They do a very commendable job of describing how Enron developed its sundry lines of business, from trading gas, to trading power, to financing power plants across the planet. This comes complete with deep profiles of the Enron managers in charge of these businesses.
Finally, the book homes in on the last three to four years of Enron when an obsessive focus on the share price, combined with a brash get-rich-quick attitude amongst the narrow leadership of Enron (but not necessarily the rank and file) led the company to a series of insane business decisions (like the creation of two enormous new divisions out of nothing) as well as to aggressive and eventually fraudulent business practices. Again, you get complete portraits of Andrew Fastow, who did most of the accounting magic, and his team.
The book is a tremendous source of information. God knows how much digging and how many interviews were distilled into these 400 pages. That said, this is an unfinished book. You find out who did what and when. But the book leaves as many questions open as it provides answers to. Most importantly, you don't get a good idea of whether Enron ca. 1997, before the crazy accounting practices and business schemes became the norm, was a valid business or not.
The authors are incredibly good at digging, less good at interpreting. I personally never figured out if this was Murder on the Orient Express, where everybody shared a bit in the crime, or a single perpetrator or even death from (expedited) natural causes. Was it the arrogance? Was it the pay structure? Was it the massive leverage? Was is the accounting practices? Was it the nature of the business? Which business? Would a sounder company have withstood the revelation of the fraud? Finally, no sense is given for how Enron ranked vis a vis its corporate peers in terms of playing fast and loose with its accounting and if they also shared similar compensation structures, corporate structures etc.
Regardless, there's a lot of food for thought here. And I guess if you want a tight narrative, there's always the movie!