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Business Ethics - Enron: The Smartest Guys in The Room

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Stephanie York

Professor Cynthia Orms

Business Ethics

30 August 2015

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room-Movie Review


        The Smartest Guys in the Room was a detailed storyline of the rise and collapse of a fraudulent energy trading company, Enron. The documentary is put together by a series of interviews, short clips of trial hearings, and insider stories of how and why the 2001 collapse of Enron came about. As the movie states, the fall of Enron was one of America’s largest and most historical corporate bankruptcies, costing investors large sums of money.  

        The documentary began with a troubling scene showing Cliff Baxter’s suicide and showing Jeffrey Skilling, the former president and CEO of Enron denying any false actions on his behalf. This is a very powerful message from the get-go, because it just proves the lack of compassion, and how greedy and selfish these men and women were.   As the documentary continued to show the collapse of Enron, it also went on to illustrate the profile of CEO Ken Lay and his lack of action and oblivious blind eye to corruption as long as he continued to make a profit in the Vahalla scandal with traders betting in the oil markets. Continuing on, Key Lay hires Jeffrey Skilling, a man with huge ideas that included finding a new way to deliver energy and to become a part of the stock market for natural gas. This would essentially be traded as stocks and bonds. He also put into place the practice of market-to-market accounting and established the rank and yank system, which reviewed employees and fired them if they were in the bottom 15%.  Enron then proceeded to participate in pumping and dumping where a company would push their stock market prices up and then cash them in.  Stock prices were everything to this company, so much so, that they were even posted in the elevator. Not only is the company participating in market-to-market accounting, but Andrew Fastow begins to create the company’s only to do business with Enron, so that the company could hide their increasing debt. He had a low moral compass and used black magic to embezzle 45 million dollars for himself alone.  As the film goes on, the viewer learns how Enron would exploit the energy market and shut down power plants which created shortages, and they would profit from the crisis. This then leads to the definite downfall, red flags and questioning of Enron’s financial situation. The bankruptcy of Enron left employees without jobs, the loss of their life savings and landed Ken Lay, Andrew Fastow, and Jeffrey Skilling in hot water and definite jail time.

        It is very obvious that Enron severely struggled with making proper ethical decisions.  Due to the lack of moral and business ethics, they found themselves in mounds of trouble, financially unstable and business less.  Key Lay had no concept on how to follow the ethical decision process. This decision process includes determining the facts of the situation, understanding them completely, being able to have the ability to identify between an ethical issue and an ethical decision, considering all of the people involved, and considering and weighing the alternatives. He never once stopped to hear the facts, simply because as long as it made him millions, he did not care. In addition, his coworkers, Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow did not follow this process either. The cooking of the books, not caring about stealing from their investors, creating a vigorous competitive work environment and not caring about the risks violates the whole ethics four step process.



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