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Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise…

Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind

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9381414,655 (3.99)18
"Just as Watergate was the defining story of its time, so Enron is the biggest business story of our time. And just as All the President's Men was the one Watergate book that gave readers the full story, with all the drama and nuance, The Smartest Guys in the Room is the one book you have to read to understand this business saga."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Title:Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
Authors:Bethany McLean
Other authors:Peter Elkind
Info:Portfolio Hardcover (2003), Hardcover, 464 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean (2003)



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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Turns out weird Randian ideas about competition and profit don't translate well to real life economics, and wealthy businessmen are sociopaths with no concept of their own faults ( )
  hatingongodot | Aug 12, 2019 |
This is a very well-written book that explains in great detail what happened at Enron. And not just the last 100 pages that reads like a mystery novel where you already know the end; it explains in lay language who was involved with Enron from the beginning, their personality traits, their business traits, and everything that made Enron both a powerhouse and a den of thieves.

What I found especially innovative, besides financial considerations that I never had studied before (and some were definitely over my head) was the people became a cast of characters. From Fastow's disregard of others to Lay's inability to speak truthfully about Enron's status, from Baxter's suicide to Skilling's inevitable meltdown, each of these people is given his (and her) own biographical sketch and then the world in Enron, as they saw it.

Definitely a must-read for anyone interested in how corrupt people can be. The word sociopath came to mind often. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Betty White
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
After seeing a play about Enron, I wanted to learn more. This book is well researched and makes most of the complex deals and accounting policies understandable.

An excellent tale of corporate greed. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 5, 2014 |
I will be thinking about this book for a long time! What is it really about, anyway? What is truly wonderful is... the authors tell us, and I suspect they're right, that pretty much none of the folks involved in this massive fraud, none of them felt they were doing anything wrong.

One of the most chilling statements by the authors... this book came out around 2003. The authors wondered whether accounting and finance would be more transparent or whether the next bull market would be build on similar illusions. Ach, the real estate bubble sure looked a lot like Enron. How can something worthless get painted up to look valuable and then sold.

This is really the interesting puzzle. Is illusion really a polar opposite of reality? Is it more like illusion has its own sort of reality. There are layers and layers of reality. Hmm, I have been learning about photoshop and its layers of pixel transformation. Yeah, accounting is really like photoshop. The image is a kind of reality. What does it mean for a picture to be accurate? Yeah, photoshop and ebay. How much of ebay selling is driven by photoshop?

It's really sad to think, how much of our economy and society has been spun around by the creation of layers and layers of illusion, where folks have totally lost track of any underlying reality? OK, that is a nice puzzle. Our analytical powers have grown just as tremendously. We can analyze any phenomenon and discover layers of layers of construction to the point where any sort of logical stopping point is lost. We can build up layers and we can dig through layers. It becomes a big abstract game.

That was a theme through part of this book, the purity of the trading ethic. Everything is an abstract game. Of course this is hideously destructive. But the puzzle is, how so? If reality isn't some stopping point, some top-most illusion that cannot be painted over, or some bottom-most layer that resists all analysis, if the layers are infinitely extendable in either direction, then where is the reality?

Maybe all the layers are real, maybe the reality is just that interplay of levels. No layer cancels out the reality of any other layer. If one layer can cancel the reality of another, the whole structure devolves into accelerating gaming. But if layers instead enhance each other's reality... if it is *all* real, all worthy of cherishing...

It is a curious business, all the strategies we use to isolate and purify and protect what is really worth caring about, and to discard and deny reality to what is not worth caring about. The Smartest Guys sure draws a vivid picture of one such strategy and where it led. ( )
  kukulaj | Mar 19, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bethany McLeanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Elkind, Petermain authorall editionsconfirmed
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RESPECT: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don't belong here.

INTEGRITY: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won't do it.

COMMUNICATION: We have an oblication to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another ... and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.

EXCELLENCE: We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we really can be.

--From Enron's 1998 Annual Report
For Chris
--B. M.
For Laura
--P. E.
First words
(Introduction): On a cool Texas night in late January, Cliff Baxter slipped out of bed.
It is no accident that Ken Lay's career in the energy buisness began -- and, most likely, ended -- in the city of Houston, Texas.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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