Through our analysis of The Smartest Guys in the Room, I have had a hard time believing that Enron, as big as it was, was able to get away with so many “illegal” activities for such a long period of time. It is hard to accept the fact that the way our society is structured (with relationships and power of certain individuals and organizations) lends itself to such heinous acts. Why would we let a seeming “bully” take advantage of so many people? Without rejecting any of the information provided to the reader through the novel, I have also tried to take a step back from the strong viewpoints of the authors of the book so that a more neutral understanding of the situation could be laid out.
Chapter 17 of the book titles Gaming California generally explains, with a negative connotation, the many ways in which Enron’s hand in the deregulation of the electricity market in California directly resulted in the instability and ultimate rise in price of electricity. This chapter is a great centerpiece for the ways in which the rest of the book charges Enron and many of its business dealings with being a money hungry giant.
Ken Lay’s vision that deregulation could be a means of profit seemed to run through the veins of all Enron employees. Executives were all to eager to find the next deregulation opportunity after the success of the oil and gas business. But what were their motives. From one perspective, Enron is shown as the hungry giant who seeks to take advantage of the flaws and loopholes found in deregulated markets. As they even said themselves, Enron employees are the smartest of the smart. If there were a way to get around legislation, then they would be the ones to figure out how. In essence, the reason that the business sought to enter new markets was not to do any good or profit through conventional ways, but to find the loopholes and take advantage of the system.
But is this perspective fully true? As we have interviews of Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay, and other Enron executives prior to the scandal, we have always seen and judged what they have said based on our preconceived notions of what the book has told us. It seems that everything said is complete bull-s**t. But how do you lie your way through all the media attention that Enron received. Is it possible for someone to be so good at deceiving people that everyone, even our government officials, were blinded by Enron’s pretty face. Watching some interviews with Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay, it seems that there is a sense of true sincerity in what they believe in and what their goals are. Maybe their actions were good intentions lead astray. Since none of us worked at Enron, we do not know all the great things that happened in Enron. Its few flaws may have overshadowed these accomplishments.
While Enron was in its glory years, it could do no wrong. Analysts were almost forced to give the company favorable reviews and investing in Enron’s stock seemed to be one of the best ways to invest your money. No matter what Enron did, it could do no wrong. At the same time, in 2001 when the trials officially began, Enron could not do anything right. It seemed that no matter what their case, stakeholders were out for blood. In the end, I am not suggesting that Enron was unjustly accused (as I’m sure a lot of the information provided in The Smartest Guys in the Room is true) or that their business endeavors were all appropriate and within legal confines. I am only suggesting, in fairness to the company and its employees, that a lot of good did come out of its existence and these accomplishments should not be overshadowed by the way the company disbanded.