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The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron

by and

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Until the spring of 2001, the Houston energy giant Enron epitomized the triumph of the new economy. Feared by rivals, worshiped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every quarter; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries.

Then a young Fortune writer named Bethany McLean wrote an article posing a simple question — How, exactly, does Enron make its money? — and the company's house of cards began to collapse. Though other business scandals would follow, none has had the shattering effect of Enron's bankruptcy, which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars while small investors, including many Enron employees, lost everything.

Despite enormous media coverage of Enron, the definitive story of its astonishing rise and fall comes alive for the first time in this gripping narrative, by McLean and her Fortune colleague Peter Elkind. Drawing on a wide range of private documents and well-placed sources, many of them exclusive, McLean and Elkind lead you behind closed doors and deep into Enron's past, to pierce the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the company's inner workings and corrupt culture.

The Smartest Guys in the Room is fundamentally a human drama — of people drunk on their own success, people so ambitious, so certain of their own brilliance, so fueled by greed and hubris that they believed they could fool the world. The book explores the motives, thoughts, and secret fears of a fascinating array of characters, including:

  • Ken Lay, the genial but clueless CEO who reveled in the trappings of his office but ducked the responsibilities. From the earliest days of Enron, his weakness allowed greedy lieutenants to run amok.
  • Jeff Skilling, the brooding, mercurial genius who was the architect of Enron's greatest triumphs — and its ultimate disgrace. "I am Enron," he once boasted. As the company unraveled, so did Skilling.
  • Rebecca Mark, the glamorous "It" girl of Enron International who raced around the globe in high style and battled Skilling for control of the company.
  • Andy Fastow, the brutally ambitious, deeply insecure whiz kid. Inside Enron his colleagues marveled at how his complex schemes allowed the company to scam Wall Street — not realizing that he was secretly scamming Enron.
  • Ken Rice, the Midwestern farm boy who was seduced by Enron's fast-money culture and who cashed in while hyping a high-tech business that didn't exist.
  • Cliff Baxter, the manic deal maker and Skilling confidant who resented Fastow's murky self-dealing. "He's a goddamn master criminal," Baxter would rail.
Just as Watergate was the defining political story of our 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 amazing business saga.

Review:

"The book's sober financial analysis supplements that of Mimi Swartz's Power Failure, while offering additional perspectives that flesh out the details of the Enron story." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"The portrait of the narcissistic culture fostered by Enron's president, Kenneth Lay...is so vivid that the reader is amazed but not really shocked when the boom of the late 90's provides the spark that ultimately engulfs the entire enterprise in flames." Jonathan A. Knee, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Masterful....News junkies and mystery lovers who enjoy financial scandals will devour this multilayered book." USA Today

Review:

"This is the most thorough examination of Enron to date....Laying extensive groundwork, the authors ably convey the multidimensional nature of this story." David Siegfried, Booklist

Review:

"Compelling....[A] cautionary tale about highfliers who weren't as clever as they thought." Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"The biggest and most shocking business story of our time is the Enron debacle, and Fortune's senior writers Bethany Mclean and Peter Elkind have dug up the full story of the players and the plays that created the scandal of the century." Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Synopsis:

The definitive volume on Enron's amazing rise and scandalous fall, from an award-winning team of Fortune investigative reporters.

There were dozens of books about Watergate, but only All the President's Men gave readers the full story, with all the drama and nuance and exclusive reporting. And thirty years later, if you're going to read only one book on Watergate, that's still the one. Today, Enron is the biggest business story of our time, and Fortune senior writers Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are the new Woodward and Bernstein.

Remarkably, it was just two years ago that Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron's house of cards began to crumble. Now, McLean and Elkind have investigated much deeper, to offer the definitive book about the Enron scandal and the fascinating people behind it.

Meticulously researched and character driven, Smartest Guys in the Room takes the reader deep into Enron's past — and behind the closed doors of private meetings. Drawing on a wide range of unique sources, the book follows Enron's rise from obscurity to the top of the business world to its disastrous demise. It reveals as never before major characters such as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, as well as lesser known players like Cliff Baxter and Rebecca Mark. Smartest Guys in the Room is a story of greed, arrogance, and deceit — a microcosm of all that is wrong with American business today. Above all, it's a fascinating human drama that will prove to be the authoritative account of the Enron scandal.

Synopsis:

Until the Spring of 2001, The Houston energy giant Enron epitomized the triumph of the new economy. Feared by rivals, worshiped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every quarter; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries. Then a young Fortune writer named Bethany McLean wrote an article posing a simple question — How, exactly, does Enron make its money? — and the company's house of cards began to collapse. Though other business scandals would follow, none has had the shattering effect of Enron's bankruptcy, which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars while small investors, including many Enron employees, lost everything. Despite enormous media coverage of Enron, the definitive story of its astonishing rise and fall comes alive for the first time in this gripping narrative by McLean and her Fortune colleague Peter Elkind. Drawing on a wide range of private documents and well-placed sources, many of them exclusive, McLean and Elkind lead you behind closed doors and deep into Enron's past, to pierce the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the company's inner workings and corrupt culture.

The Smartest Guys in the Room is fundamentally a human drama — of people drunk on their own success, people so ambitious, so certain of their own brilliance, so fueled by greed and hubris that they believed they could fool the world. The book explores the motives, thoughts, and secret fears of a fascinating array of characters. No matter how much (or how little) you already know about Enron, the revelations in The Smartest Guys in the Room will shock you. You'll witness the astonishing extent to which Enron's business was an illusion. You'll meet the enigmatic Enron executive who seemed interested in only two things: money and strip clubs. You'll learn the truth about the California power crisis. You'll see how much Wall Street knew about Enron's shenanigans and why the Street chose to look the other way. You'll learn the dirty secrets that Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and J. P. Morgan Chase have kept out of the headlines to this day. Just as Watergate was the defining political story of our 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 amazing business saga.

Synopsis:

The tenth-anniversary edition of the definitive account of the Enron scandal, updated with a new chapter

and#160;

The Enron scandal brought down one of the most admired companies of the 1990s. Countless books and articles were written about it, but only The Smartest Guys in the Room holds up a decade later as the definitive narrative. For this tenth anniversary edition, McLean and Elkind have revisited the fall of Enron and its aftermath, in a new chapter that asks why Enron still matters. They also reveal the fates of the key players in the scandal.

Synopsis:

and#147;Gaming the LIBORand#151;that is, fixing the price of moneyand#151;had become just that: a game. Playing it was the price of admission to a club of men who socialized together, skied in Europe courtesy of brokers and expense accounts, and reaped million-dollar bonuses.and#8221;

In the midst of the financial crisis of 2008, rumors swirled that a sinister scandal was brewing deep in the heart of London. Some suspected that behind closed doors, a group of chummy young bankers had been cheating the system through interest rate machinations. But with most eyes focused on the crisis rippling through Wall Street and the rest of the world, the story remained an and#147;open secretand#8221; among competitors.

Soon enough, the scandal became public and dozens of bankers and their bosses were caught red-handed. Several major banks and hedge funds were manipulating and misreporting their daily submission of the London Interbank Offered Rate, better known as the LIBOR. As the main interest rate that pulses through the banking community, the LIBOR was supposed to represent the average rate banks charge each other for loans, effectively setting short-term interest rates around the world for trillions of dollars in financial contracts.

But the LIBOR wasnand#8217;t an average; it was a combination of guesswork and outright lies told by scheming bankers who didnand#8217;t want to signal to the rest of the market that they were in trouble. The manipulation of the and#147;worldand#8217;s most important numberand#8221; was even greater than many realized. The bankers kept things looking good for themselves and their pals while the financial crisis raged on.

Now Erin Arvedlund, the bestselling author of Too Good to Be True, reveals how this global network created and perpetuated a multiyear scam against the financial system. She uncovers how the corrupt practice of altering the key interest rate occurred through an unregulated and informal honor system, in which young masters of the universe played fast and loose, while their more seasoned bosses looked the other way (and would later escape much of the blame). It was a classic private understanding among a small group of competitorsand#151;you scratch my back today, Iand#8217;ll scratch yours tomorrow.

Arvedlund takes us behind the scenes of elite firms like Barclays Capital, UBS, Rabobank, and Citigroup, and shows how they hurt ordinary investorsand#151;from students taking out loans to homeowners paying mortgages to cities like Philadelphia and Oakland. The cost to the victims: as much as $1 trillion. She also examines the laxity of prominent regulators and central bankers, and exposes the role of key figures such as: and#160;

  • Tom Hayes: A senior trader for the Swiss financial giant UBS who worked with traders across eight other banks to influence the yen LIBOR.
  • Bob Diamond: The shrewd multimillionaire American CEO of Barclays Capital, the British bank whose traders have been implicated in the manipulation of the LIBOR.
  • Mervyn King: The governor of the Bank of England, who ignored U.S. Treasury secretary Tim Geithnerand#8217;s repeated recommendations to establish stricter regulations over the interest rate.

Arvedlund pulls back the curtain on one of the great financial scandals of our time, uncovering how millions of ordinary investors around the globe were swindled by the corruption and greed of a few men.

About the Author

Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are both senior writers at Fortune magazine. McLean is a former analyst for Goldman Sachs. Elkind is the former associate editor of Texas Monthly.

Table of Contents

Authors' Notes and Acknowledgments vii
Cast of Characters xiii
Our Values xix
Introduction xxi
1. Lunch on a Silver Platter 1
2. "Please Keep Making Us Millions" 15
3. "We Were the Apostles" 27
4. The First Prima Donna 44
5. Guys with Spikes 55
6. The Empress of Energy 70
7. The 15 Percent Solution 85
8. A Recipe for Disaster 100
9. The Klieg-Light Syndrome 114
10. The Hotel Kenneth-Lay-a 132
11. Andy Fastow's Secrets 150
12. The Big Enchilada 171
13. "An Unnatural Act" 189
14. The Beating Heart of Enron 212
15. Everybody Loves Enron 229
16. When Pigs Could Fly 246
17. Gaming California 264
18. Bandwidth Hog 284
19. "Ask Why, Asshole" 313
20. "I Want to Resign" 337
21. The $45 Million Question 352
22. "We Have No Cash!" 378
Epilogue: Isn't Anybody Sorry? 406
Index 415

Product Details

ISBN:
9781591840084
Subtitle:
The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
Publisher:
Portfolio Trade
Author:
Elkind, Peter
Author:
McLean, Bethany
Author:
Arvedlund, Erin
Author:
Nocera, Joe
Location:
New York
Subject:
History
Subject:
Corporate
Subject:
Business failures
Subject:
Energy industries
Subject:
Corrupt practices
Subject:
Corporate & Business History - General
Subject:
Investments & Securities - General
Subject:
Economic History
Subject:
Banks & Banking
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Series Volume:
27
Publication Date:
October 13, 2003
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8-pp BandW photo insert
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

Related Subjects


Business » Business Profiles
Business » History and Biographies
Business » Investing
Business » Writing

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 480 pages Viking Books - English 9781591840084 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The book's sober financial analysis supplements that of Mimi Swartz's Power Failure, while offering additional perspectives that flesh out the details of the Enron story." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "The portrait of the narcissistic culture fostered by Enron's president, Kenneth Lay...is so vivid that the reader is amazed but not really shocked when the boom of the late 90's provides the spark that ultimately engulfs the entire enterprise in flames."
"Review" by , "Masterful....News junkies and mystery lovers who enjoy financial scandals will devour this multilayered book."
"Review" by , "This is the most thorough examination of Enron to date....Laying extensive groundwork, the authors ably convey the multidimensional nature of this story."
"Review" by , "Compelling....[A] cautionary tale about highfliers who weren't as clever as they thought."
"Review" by , "The biggest and most shocking business story of our time is the Enron debacle, and Fortune's senior writers Bethany Mclean and Peter Elkind have dug up the full story of the players and the plays that created the scandal of the century."
"Synopsis" by , The definitive volume on Enron's amazing rise and scandalous fall, from an award-winning team of Fortune investigative reporters.

There were dozens of books about Watergate, but only All the President's Men gave readers the full story, with all the drama and nuance and exclusive reporting. And thirty years later, if you're going to read only one book on Watergate, that's still the one. Today, Enron is the biggest business story of our time, and Fortune senior writers Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are the new Woodward and Bernstein.

Remarkably, it was just two years ago that Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron's house of cards began to crumble. Now, McLean and Elkind have investigated much deeper, to offer the definitive book about the Enron scandal and the fascinating people behind it.

Meticulously researched and character driven, Smartest Guys in the Room takes the reader deep into Enron's past — and behind the closed doors of private meetings. Drawing on a wide range of unique sources, the book follows Enron's rise from obscurity to the top of the business world to its disastrous demise. It reveals as never before major characters such as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, as well as lesser known players like Cliff Baxter and Rebecca Mark. Smartest Guys in the Room is a story of greed, arrogance, and deceit — a microcosm of all that is wrong with American business today. Above all, it's a fascinating human drama that will prove to be the authoritative account of the Enron scandal.

"Synopsis" by , Until the Spring of 2001, The Houston energy giant Enron epitomized the triumph of the new economy. Feared by rivals, worshiped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every quarter; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries. Then a young Fortune writer named Bethany McLean wrote an article posing a simple question — How, exactly, does Enron make its money? — and the company's house of cards began to collapse. Though other business scandals would follow, none has had the shattering effect of Enron's bankruptcy, which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars while small investors, including many Enron employees, lost everything. Despite enormous media coverage of Enron, the definitive story of its astonishing rise and fall comes alive for the first time in this gripping narrative by McLean and her Fortune colleague Peter Elkind. Drawing on a wide range of private documents and well-placed sources, many of them exclusive, McLean and Elkind lead you behind closed doors and deep into Enron's past, to pierce the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the company's inner workings and corrupt culture.

The Smartest Guys in the Room is fundamentally a human drama — of people drunk on their own success, people so ambitious, so certain of their own brilliance, so fueled by greed and hubris that they believed they could fool the world. The book explores the motives, thoughts, and secret fears of a fascinating array of characters. No matter how much (or how little) you already know about Enron, the revelations in The Smartest Guys in the Room will shock you. You'll witness the astonishing extent to which Enron's business was an illusion. You'll meet the enigmatic Enron executive who seemed interested in only two things: money and strip clubs. You'll learn the truth about the California power crisis. You'll see how much Wall Street knew about Enron's shenanigans and why the Street chose to look the other way. You'll learn the dirty secrets that Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and J. P. Morgan Chase have kept out of the headlines to this day. Just as Watergate was the defining political story of our 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 amazing business saga.

"Synopsis" by ,
The tenth-anniversary edition of the definitive account of the Enron scandal, updated with a new chapter

and#160;

The Enron scandal brought down one of the most admired companies of the 1990s. Countless books and articles were written about it, but only The Smartest Guys in the Room holds up a decade later as the definitive narrative. For this tenth anniversary edition, McLean and Elkind have revisited the fall of Enron and its aftermath, in a new chapter that asks why Enron still matters. They also reveal the fates of the key players in the scandal.

"Synopsis" by , and#147;Gaming the LIBORand#151;that is, fixing the price of moneyand#151;had become just that: a game. Playing it was the price of admission to a club of men who socialized together, skied in Europe courtesy of brokers and expense accounts, and reaped million-dollar bonuses.and#8221;

In the midst of the financial crisis of 2008, rumors swirled that a sinister scandal was brewing deep in the heart of London. Some suspected that behind closed doors, a group of chummy young bankers had been cheating the system through interest rate machinations. But with most eyes focused on the crisis rippling through Wall Street and the rest of the world, the story remained an and#147;open secretand#8221; among competitors.

Soon enough, the scandal became public and dozens of bankers and their bosses were caught red-handed. Several major banks and hedge funds were manipulating and misreporting their daily submission of the London Interbank Offered Rate, better known as the LIBOR. As the main interest rate that pulses through the banking community, the LIBOR was supposed to represent the average rate banks charge each other for loans, effectively setting short-term interest rates around the world for trillions of dollars in financial contracts.

But the LIBOR wasnand#8217;t an average; it was a combination of guesswork and outright lies told by scheming bankers who didnand#8217;t want to signal to the rest of the market that they were in trouble. The manipulation of the and#147;worldand#8217;s most important numberand#8221; was even greater than many realized. The bankers kept things looking good for themselves and their pals while the financial crisis raged on.

Now Erin Arvedlund, the bestselling author of Too Good to Be True, reveals how this global network created and perpetuated a multiyear scam against the financial system. She uncovers how the corrupt practice of altering the key interest rate occurred through an unregulated and informal honor system, in which young masters of the universe played fast and loose, while their more seasoned bosses looked the other way (and would later escape much of the blame). It was a classic private understanding among a small group of competitorsand#151;you scratch my back today, Iand#8217;ll scratch yours tomorrow.

Arvedlund takes us behind the scenes of elite firms like Barclays Capital, UBS, Rabobank, and Citigroup, and shows how they hurt ordinary investorsand#151;from students taking out loans to homeowners paying mortgages to cities like Philadelphia and Oakland. The cost to the victims: as much as $1 trillion. She also examines the laxity of prominent regulators and central bankers, and exposes the role of key figures such as: and#160;

  • Tom Hayes: A senior trader for the Swiss financial giant UBS who worked with traders across eight other banks to influence the yen LIBOR.
  • Bob Diamond: The shrewd multimillionaire American CEO of Barclays Capital, the British bank whose traders have been implicated in the manipulation of the LIBOR.
  • Mervyn King: The governor of the Bank of England, who ignored U.S. Treasury secretary Tim Geithnerand#8217;s repeated recommendations to establish stricter regulations over the interest rate.

Arvedlund pulls back the curtain on one of the great financial scandals of our time, uncovering how millions of ordinary investors around the globe were swindled by the corruption and greed of a few men.

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