Everything You Ever Wanted to Understand About Enron But Were Afraid to Ask

Monday, December 29, 2003
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Some folks have written me, asking me about corporate scalawags, failures, and the accounting scandals. I hope to eventually finish the new section of my website to reflect a resource center for such writings and information. But with my busy season coming up (my have-no-life season), it’s tough to get it done.

Here’s some advice for those looking to read up on the Enron debacle. There are a gazillion books out there, but some of them are either full of uninformed, pop culture analysis, or they are written by stringent anti-capitalists who were looking for a chance – any chance – to hop on the anti-free market bandwagon. Before you buy a book on Enron, look at the detailed thesis, and surely, do look at the authors. For instance, this one here has an introduction by Molly Ivins. Smell a rat? You bet. Know that she’s anti-free market and one of these pro-corporate social responsibility huff’n'puff’ers, to boot. The book has some proper info in regards to corporate financial mayhem and the Enron personalities and players, and some accounting lingo for the layman, but Robert Bryce, a Texas journalist, is not known to support an unfettered free market. It’s good, but watch the personal slant.

This one, Power Failure, is co-written by an Enron internal auditor and a Texas journalist. The book is an “as-told-to” account from an insider that tends toward sensationalist, and really doesn’t have a lot of meat in terms of ethics and modern corporate culture. But it’s worthy, especially considering that it comes from a CPA who spent her days auditing Enron. But how much of the truth does she tell?, is the reader’s concern.

Lauren Fox’s book is good on company history, and gets into the business model aspect of corporate shenanigans such as Enron’s. Definitely worth the read. The Fusaro book is not recommended because of its lack of detail on what really went wrong. It seems rather simpleton.

The one I am reading now – Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron – is a human drama written by two business writers from Fortune magazine, and it may be the best one yet. Perhaps reading this one in combination with one of the others that is better focused on the financial aspects, is the best choice.

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