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The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron [Anglais] [Broché]

Peter Elkind , Bethany McLean
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
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Description de l'ouvrage

30 septembre 2004 VIKING NFIC PB
What went wrong with American business at the end of the 20th century?Until the spring of 2001, Enron epitomized the triumph of the New Economy. Feared by rivals, worshipped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every year; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries. Then a young Fortune writer, Bethany McLean, wrote an article posing a simple question - how, exactly, does Enron make its money?Within a year Enron was facing humiliation and bankruptcy, the largest in US history, which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars, while small investors lost everything. It was revealed that Enron was a company whose business was an illusion, an illusion that Wall Street was willing to accept even though they knew what the real truth was. This book - fully updated for the paperback - tells the extraordinary story of Enron's fall.

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

...the most comprehensive picture yet of how the company went off the rails. The sheer accumulation of detail makes it possible for the first time to understand how Enron got away with its blend of hubris and incompetence for so long. . . This is more than a business story. It is also about what can happen to any institution when weak and complacent leadership allows itself to be swept along by strong vested interests and the mood of the times. (Richartd Lambert, ex editor of Financial Times and member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee)

Biographie de l'auteur

Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are Fortune senior writers. McLean's March 2001 article in Fortune, "Is Enron Overpriced?," was the first in a national publication to openly question the company's dealings. Elkind, an award-winning investigative reporter, has written for The New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post.

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 480 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin; Édition : New Ed (30 septembre 2004)
  • Collection : VIKING NFIC PB
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0141011459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011455
  • Dimensions du produit: 2,8 x 13,2 x 19,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 7.263 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
  • Table des matières complète
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Première phrase
It is no accident that Ken Lay's career in the energy business began-and, most likely, ended-in the city of Houston, Texas. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Exemplaire 2 mars 2010
Long et complexe mais exemplaire du travail de la presse et malheureusement des dérives du capitalisme.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of the best books on the Enron story 14 septembre 2011
Par Max
A very interesting and detail oriented book about the story of Enron from its beginning to its tragic end.
It is the first book I ever read on the subject and none of the ones I read after this one were as exhaustive on each step of the story.
It is written in a documentary / reportage style but is really easy to read. It is like reading a very well written book on the story of the Titanic : you know how it ends, but you still want to read the book from the first to the last page.
I definitively recommend it as a gift to people who are interested in white collar crime or in business tales.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5  205 commentaires
227 internautes sur 243 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Who will be among the smartest guys in a federal prison? 3 novembre 2003
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur
This book will be especially valuable to those who have a keen interest in "the amazing rise and scandalous fall of Enron." I also commend to their attention Smith and Emshwiller's 24 Hours: How Two Wall Street Journal Reporters Uncovered the Lies that Destroyed Faith in Corporate America. The "smartest guys in the room" included Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Rebecca Mark, Andrew Fastow, Kenneth Rice, and Clifford Baxter. Whereas Smith and Emshwiller explored the same company as investigative reporters, McLean and Elkind seem (to me) to have approached their subject as corporate anthropologists. Both books reach many of the same conclusions as to what happened...and why.

Two significant differences are that Smith and Emshwiller limit their attention primarily to a period in 2001 extending from October 16th (when Enron announced huge losses caused by two partnerships) to December 3rd (when Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy); McLean and Elkind cover a two-year period of the company's "amazing rise and scandalous fall." Also, McLean and Elkind devote far more attention to each of the "smartest guys"; Smith and Emshwiller seem far less interested in them, except in terms of the impact of their mismanagement and corruption. Let's say there are two books about the collapse of the twin towers at the World Trade Center; one focuses on the human tragedies associated with it whereas a second book addresses design, construction, and structural issues. Obviously, both approaches are valid.

McLean and Elkind suggest that the eventual collapse of Enron was caused less by the greed of senior-level Enron executives than it was by their arrogance and incompetence. Their lack of basic business acumen is astonishing as is their defiance of regulatory agencies and contempt for customers. None of them seems to have had a moral "compass." They exemplified, indeed nourished a culture of brutal competition between and among their subordinates. Each used Enron as a personal ATM as well as a means by which to structure all manner of corporate partnerships and high risk/high yield investments without fear of any personal liability. If one prospered, so did they. If it failed, the loss was Enron's. On to another.

Primary blame for all this must be shared by Lay, Skilling, and Fastow. McLean and Elkind rigorously examine the inadequacies of each, suggesting that if only one of the three had not been involved, it is probable that Enron would not have had the problems it did. Attorneys, accountants, brokers (notably Merrill Lynch) and bankers (especially Citibank and JP Morgan Chase) apparently were aware of Enron's bending and then breaking of various laws but were earning so much in fees that they chose to remain at the Enron "trough" side-by-side with Lay, Skilling, Fastow, and other Enron executives.

Consider this brief excerpt from Chapter 10 (page 149):

Here's how another former employee explains the process: "Say you have a dog, but you need to create a duck on the financial statements. Fortunately there are specific accounting rules for what constitutes a duck: yellow feet, white covering, orange beak. So you take the dog and paint its feet yellow and its fur white and you paste an orange plastic beak on its nose, and then you say to your accountants, `This is a duck! Don't you agree that it's a duck?' And the accountants say, `Yes, according to the rules, this is a duck.' Everybody knows that it's a dog, not a duck, but that doesn't matter, because you've met the rules for calling it a duck."

There are so many other brief, equally revealing excerpts which I am tempted to include but won't. Earlier, I suggested that McLean and Elkind display in this volume many of the skills of a corporate anthropologist. I also commend them on their skills as storytellers. Of course, it helps to have many colorful characters and such an interesting narrative. Among business books, this is one of the rare "page turners." If Enron remains a classic example of organizational dysfunction, my guess is that this book will remain the definitive analysis of the causes and effects of that dysfunction.
118 internautes sur 127 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Not For Lay People 26 mars 2004
Par John Van Wagner - Publié sur
There's blame galore to go around for the spectacular downfall of Enron Corp in that sober year of 2001. Accountants, rating agencies, regulators, lawyers, consultants, bankers--and these are just the bad actors outside the corporation. Look inside, where Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind treat their readers to a thorough journalistic scouring, and the smell of the rot almost wafts off the pages.
The authors rightly spend the vast majority of the book examining the personalities and circumstances that allowed the company to become what it was at the end of its life. Mix a potion that's one part hardscrabble Harvard MBAs, one part energy deregulation, and one part hysterical bull market, and you've got a financial molotov cocktail. Sadly, as we all know now, it was largely the little guy who paid the price for all the hubris of the players in this story, a fact that tends to get lost in the authors' painstaking recreation of the most complicated shell game in history.
But the story of Enron's fallout could provide the material for a whole other book. In this one we get the tale of the players, people like Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Rebecca Mark and Andy Fastow, all filled with an equal mix of remarkable brilliance and fatal arrogance. All are indicted by these authors as rabid players in a game they made up themselves, deeming themselves beyond the petty world of rules and regulation. But coming in for equal excoriation is the system itself, the web of enablement and intimidation that allowed Andy Fastow to quietly hammer together the company's coffin in the form of a maze of phantom accounting entities designed to prop of the appearance of the corpse inside. The most unnerving theme the book treats indirectly is the effect of mass psychology--the way exceptional personalities distort and transform reality on a systemic scale. And it offers little in the way of how something like this could ever be prevented in the future.
One word of warning for people not acquainted with basic finance: this is a complicated story, about erstwhile geniuses in the arcane use of financial products and regulatory loopholes. Though it's enjoyable even if one can't follow every detour down each accounting scheme, some knowledge of Wall Street and its workings seems necessary to understand the implications of the book overall. Given the fact that most experts didn't understand what went on here, the authors do their best to keep things as simple as possible, often using helpful metaphors and simple summations after a few pages of analysis, but they have no choice but to assume a level of sophistication among their readers.
Which leads to one gripe. In "The Smartest Guys In the Room" not a single institution or individual player involved with Enron escapes the authors' finger-pointing notice, with but one exception. Where were the journalists in all this? Why did short-sellers have to be the ones to ask all the tough questions? Bethany Mclean should take understandable pride in being the first one to pry the door open on Enron's malfeasance, but she was just a little late. One would think that with the mass of financial journalists on CNBC, the Journal, the Times, etc., that just one would have bucked the collective cheering squad and dug deeper into what this supposedly invincible company was up to. But of course, this was the bull market. A time when everyone was exuberant when they should have been scared.
34 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant 18 octobre 2003
Par "mail15147" - Publié sur
Like many, I followed the Enron disaster as it unfolded with a certain curiosity usually reserved for matters closer to home. Somehow, the more I learned, the more intrigued I became at the sheer magnitude of the arrogance, incompetence and irresponsible management displayed by executives who were surely thought to be `the smartest guys in the room'. Fearing the media at large was skewing the coverage afforded to Enron on a whole, I looked forward to a book or report that would serve as a definitive look into the entire Enron affair with the type of thoughtful and provocative investigation that "The Smartest Guys In The Room" provides. Having been extremely disappointed with another recently read Enron expose, I could not recommend "The Smartest Guys In The Room" highly enough. Not only do McLean and Elkind do an excellent job in uncovering the facts, they do so in a crisply entertaining and enticing manner that kept me interested and consumed the entire way through. From the opening chapter, the authors flush out the characters, establish the timeline and ultimately piece together an incredibly insightful story of greed, ignorance and outright superciliousness, worthy of anyone's time and attention. "The Smartest Guys In The Room" is an incredible section of work that deserves to be recognized as the truly inspired endeavor that it is.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 turning a dog into a duck... 19 octobre 2004
Par D. Friedman - Publié sur
It is by now a cliché that arrogance and myopia contribute to many a downfall, whether the downfall is personal or corporate. This book proves that point aptly. Hubris and a sincere belief that Enron could do no wrong in the world contributed to an atmosphere of injudicious superiority. Combine that tumultuous atmosphere with ineffective, weak-willed executives and poor business management skills, Enron always was a precarious edifice awaiting its fate.

At least, such is the narrative that the authors offer. They argue that Enron, over the past 15 years, repeatedly found itself in financial trouble, and, rather than come clean to the Street, used financial engineering strategies to make its numbers appear better than they were. This practice arose out of a fanatical devotion to the company's stock price; the company's stock price would not continue to rise if the company missed the Street's earnings expectations for the quarter. Since so much of the executives' wealth was tied up in Enron stock and options, financial shenanigans became a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, the authors point out, if most of your wealth is tied up in a company's stock, don't you have an incentive to do everything possible to keep its stock at a high level? Certainly, at this point, financial chicanery becomes more attractive than financial fidelity.

Therein lies the fundamental flaw of Enron (as well as numerous other bubble companies): the very compensation scheme created by the company to inculcate a sense of loyalty in its executives created a conflict too gross to manage adequately. The conflict in this instance is, in retrospect, a simple one: executives had all the incentive in the world to keep their company stock at a high level because all of their wealth, and their future wealth, was tied up in the company. Therefore, there was little incentive for them to be straightforward with the Street, or, for that matter, the company's finances. Enron thus became a delusional place where it could do no wrong and its managers were businesspeople par excellence.

All of this is false of course. Enron's managers are human after all, and all humans are susceptible to the foibles and follies of people everywhere; no matter how smart a group of executives, nor the sterling reputations of the schools from which they received their MBAs, absent sound business principles, ignorance becomes bliss and delusion becomes reality.

The authors are at their best when they explain the source of Enron's executives' arrogance, and the consequences for the company of that arrogance. It is important, therefore, to understand the company's hierarchy. The company was run by its founder, Ken Lay. Despite having the title of CEO, he played a role more akin to Chairman of the Board or a statesman: he spent most of his time away from the company, hobnobbing with celebrities and heads of state, and otherwise embodying the rock star CEO mentality. Business is just another form of theater, a la Sean Penn walking down the red carpet at the Oscars. Thus, other executives, from Jeff Skilling, on down, basically ran the show, and their outsized, narcissistic personalities therefore dictated a lot about the Enron culture.

Skilling came from McKinsey, the famous consulting firm full of Harvard and Wharton MBAs. As we all know, people with MBAs from Harvard and Wharton can be very intelligent. But they can also be very arrogant and dismissive of those they consider to be their intellectual inferiors; the authors imply that Skilling demonstrated the worst tendencies of a Harvard MBA, and, absent any checks in his behavior, his arrogance and condescension became the shaky cornerstones of the poorly constructed edifice that became Enron.

The metaphor of a poorly built structure is, at the end, the appropriate one for Enron. Despite the thousands of worker bees carrying out the daily operations of the company, the executives at the top were maniacally focused only on telling the Enron story: manipulating the Street into thinking that Enron was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Their thought was that as long as the stock keeps going up, and the Street believes in the Enron story, then there is no need to make the hard business decisions that are actually quite unpleasant to deal with. Enron had no organization and no comprehension of the risks it faced, either in its daily operations or in its financial engineering. One need not be an architect or engineer to know that structural integrity is important to the sanctity of a building. Such is the lesson we learn from the Enron fiasco: image is nothing when it is created only for the purpose of supplicating the Street and propping up the stock.

Incidentally, the title of this review comes from a reference in the book. The authors quote an accountant who explains that Enron used creative accounting techniques that often hewed to the letter of the law but violated its spirit. Under this logic, if you have a dog, but you paint its fur yellow and paste a beak on it, you technically have a duck, if by "duck" you understand it to mean "an animal with yellow fur (feathers) and a beak." In other words, if a transaction meets the technical requirements for it to be considered, say, revenue, then it need not matter that, in substance, it's not really revenue but debt.
33 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Corporate Character 20 décembre 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur
The authors describe a complicated critical mass of personalities that caused the Enron meltdown. McLean and Elkind have written a book about human behavior in a pressure cooker where top dogs vie for power. Enron executives cannibalized their own company with Wall Street's help. Financial engineering may have assisted these people, but their willingness to do it in the first place is a question of character.
I also recommend a book that explains how structured finance can be used to funnel money out of companies and which explains Enron's disguised loans: Tavakoli's "Collateralized Debt Obligations and Structured Finance."
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