JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Director/Screenwriter: Alex Gibney) - December 28, 2006

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

4.5 4.5
109 min.

The Emperor Has no Energy


TO:                Senior Management
FROM:         Vice-President of Business Development
SUBJECT:    Just don’t get caught

Hey folks, just saw Alex Gibney’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and have learned a great deal about fraud management and lying with conviction. Accordingly, I want to offer the following suggestions for our business plan before it goes to the full board of directors and then the shareholders.

Our off-shore company names, while funny to us, might actually become a tip-off for diligent investors: let ‘s change “Upyourz Inc.” to “Safe Haven Corp.” and Skimdeep Corp. to “Ownpockets 'R' Lined Income Trust” (as you’ll recall, the Feds have backed down on tinkering with the “trusts”—too risky for their futures).

The film was based on a book written by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. I’d seriously recommend contracting them to our marketing and public relations team. The devil is most certainly in their details and, should our initial bond issue ever be questioned, we’ll need the best wordsmiths in the business to help us script our way out of an SEC investigation.

Despite the fact that our controller rose to the office of senior vice-president with the “late” Arthur Andersen Inc., I think it better to send him to our Yellowknife office than keep him too near the books (he can still “work his magic” from there, but, should anything “awkward” be discovered, he can slip out of the country and take the rap in absentia). But just in case, let’s make a condition of his employment the purchase of a three-piece suit. Seeing Enron’s CFO, Andy Fastow, in a Brooks Brothers pinstripe and handcuffs was a beautiful sight.

We’d better rethink our corporate tagline “Ask us how,”—seems too close to Enron’s “Ask why,” although it’s astonishing that so many investors, bankers, traders, employees and government officials never did. Still, let’s not risk any word association with the financial world’s biggest human-natural disaster.

In a similar vein, the film’s music—from “God Bless the Child” to “God’s Away on Business” (bookending this compelling exposé with references to the Almighty is a nice right-wing touch) underscores the fervor and near-religious worship of greed, power and lust (really, Lou Pai, cashed in his stock, divorced his wife and married the stripper just ahead of his Enron division losing $1 billion—there’s an exit strategy that puts us to shame), which permeates the production from the opening frame to credit list of losses, legal proceedings and leavings (but just one suicide).

And I believe we need to re-think our political strategy. Having both Bushes (er, all three if you count Barbara) in their greased palm got Enron up and running with subsidies and prolonged the inevitable by months or years. The coup de grâce, electing the Terminator—a kind of moral rolling “brainout”—padded their bottom feeders (oops, I mean line) while the public shivered or boiled in the dark. So let’s triple our campaign contributions to everyone except the Greens—if the public gets wise and changes the status quo, we’ll want to have whomever wins beholden to our civic pride.

Finally, do shred the hard copy and erase the electronic version (and don’t forget your desktop trash can) of this memo. If we’re really going to be able to achieve your personal dreams on the backs of our shareholders, we’ll have to be more vigilant and follow the sage advice of a certain prime minister, “Just don’t get caught.” JWR

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Director/Screenwriter - Alex Gibney
Based on the book by - Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind
Cinematography - Maryse Alberti
Editor - Alison Ellwood
Narrator - Peter Coyote
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Brit Films.TV Magnolia Pictures
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