The thing I liked most about this documentary was the fact that it focused on the guys at the top, the self-proclaimed "smartest men in the room", the so-called geniuses who knew the energy business so much better than the rest of the industry. And what a piece of work these men were.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room shows us how basic human nature does not change, whether it's in the easy fall into killing as a means to resolve disputes, or in the incessant human obsession to acquire for acquisition's sake. This all makes for terrible human actions.
One particular sequence of the film shows a series of Enron commercials that feature the Enron motto ask why. This rings almost like a corporate version of a Jack the Ripper taunt to the police: come and get us!
The three main crooks Chairman Ken Lay, CEO Jeff Skilling, and CFO Andrew Fastow, are as off the rack as they come. Fastow was skimming from Enron by ripping off the con artists who showed him how to steal, by hiding Enron debt in dummy corporations, and getting rich off of it. Opportunity theory is ever present because since this scam was done once without penalty, it was done plenty of more times with ease. Skilling however, was the typical amoral nerd, with delusions of grandeur, who wanted to mess around with others because he was ridiculed as a kid, implementing an absurd rank and yank policy that led to employees grading each other, with the lowest graded people being fired. Structural humiliation played a direct role in shaping Skilling's thoughts and future actions. This did not mean the worst employees were fired, only the least popular, or those who were not afraid to tell the truth. Thus, the corrupt culture of Enron was born. At one point, in an interview with financial reporters, Skilling calls a reporter a jerk for asking how Enron makes money. Lay comes off the worst, though, his wife whining that they're broke, even as he admits he has a net worth of over twenty million dollars, after lawyer's fees, and stock losses. He was the one who hired Skilling after a similar scandal in the 1980s nearly derailed the company, never concerned with ethics, only profits. Lay even sickeningly and psychotically compares his and Enron's criminal behavior, and the criticism of it, with the 9/11 attacks. All three started dumping their stock based on their most inside information months before the company tanked, and this forms the bases of the cases against Skilling and Lay, which are underway. Fastow opted to fink out on his bosses, after they set him up as the fall guy. If this film does not prove, once and for all, that the glorious myth of the free market is a fraud, nothing will.
On the superficial level, the attitudes and motives behind the events and decisions causing eventual downfall seem simple enough: collective and individual greed created in the atmosphere of corporate arrogance. As Enron's reputation in the global environment grew, the internal culture of the...