Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron Paperback – Jan 8 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Finally, an Enron book that actually explains what happened at Enron. Bryce, an Austin, Tex., journalist familiar with the energy and telecommunications industries, offers a colorful account of the most spectacular corporate self-destruction in American history. Tracing the company's history, he shows how deal-focused executives like CEO Jeff Skilling transformed a fiscally responsible energy supplier into an out-of-control trading firm. He describes risky practices, like "mark-to-market" accounting and shell corporations, in clear, concise language that doesn't confuse readers who don't have MBAs. The book relies heavily on good ol' boy colloquialisms (e.g., "If [George W.] Bush had been any more simpatico to Enron, he could've been charged with a misdemeanor under the state of Texas' buggery laws") but backs up every unusual assertion, revealing, for example, connections between Bush and Enron going back to the mid-1980s. Not that Democrats were innocent; there's also extensive coverage on what Enron got from government agencies during the Clinton administration. While the emphasis on sexual misconduct among the top brass and its correlation to the financial shenanigans is arguable, Bryce makes a reasonable case for former chairman Ken Lay's unwillingness to control his staff's behavior-and inability to lead by example. This isn't just the first book to make sense out of the debacle; it's a vivid cautionary tale about the consequences of the lurid excesses-personal and professional-of the recently ended economic bubble, where corporations and their employees were so obsessed with acquiring wealth they became "dumber than a box of hammers" about making-and saving-money.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The first Enron expose (The Anatomy of Greed, by Brian Cruver [BKL UF Ag 02]) was a view from the inside by a former Enron employee with a focus on the final months leading to Enron's demise. This one is a comprehensive piece of investigative journalism that gives a much larger overview of the energy industry, the history of Houston, and the complete story of how a medium-sized gas pipeline company became an international energy developer and trader in the complex world of energy derivatives. Along the way, Austin Chronicle reporter Bryce reveals the political history of "The Crooked E" with its ties to the Bush family and Senator Phil Gramm, who, without shame, sponsored legislation that directly benefited Enron and allowed the company to conceal its debts. All of the high-level players at Enron are profiled, and you get an excellent sense of their personalities and plenty of gossip about the sexual infidelities that ran rampant with this group of executives. Most importantly, Bryce unveils the intricate accounting schemes that allowed Enron to switch from a healthy cash flow business into one that put all its emphasis on trading revenues while ignoring the massive expenses that would ultimately pull the company into bankruptcy. Bryce's account is a prime example of how greed, arrogance, and influence lead to corruption, deception, and ruin. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Bryce's cash-centric theories on the Enron downfall are open to scrutiny by financial experts, and could possibly be shot down, but that doesn't affect the quality of the book's condemnation of the Enron executives and the suffering they caused for employees and investors. Bryce has a wonderfully biting and sarcastic writing style that leads to some unexpected chuckles, with quips like "there's no sex in laying pipe," "Texas-sized sphincter," and my personal favorite "uber-execucrat" (referring in particular to Enron's purchased statesman Henry Kissinger).Read more ›
Bryce's reporting mixes the personalities (all the main ones are covered here - Skilling, Lay, Rebecca Mark, Ken Rice, Lou Pai, Andy Fastow, Michael Kopper, etc.) and the financial details. Bryce's mastery is he gives you a flavor for shady dealings like Fastow-created partnerships such as the now notorious LJM1 and LJM2. He explains their intent, references a chart that speaks to their inherent complexity, winks at the reader (hey, he says, obfuscation was the point here), and then points to their fatal flaws (e.g., Fastow sitting on both sides of the table, financial solvency based upon a constantly-rising stock price, etc.)
Bryce is a reporter that can interweave facts like that with delicious stories of Rebecca Mark's high dollar globetrotting, replete with obscene private plane trips - often flying her, alone, to far-flung locales - and wonderfully evocative stories of her making speeches to water works executives...and dramatically flinging off her full-length sable coat as she ascends to the stage. Well, any hack writer can't pull that off. Pipe Dreams is a combination of good old-fashioned reporting (200+ interviews) and great writing chops. In short, it's a great read.
If my employer flew first class, subsisted on Steak and Lobster, and allowed employees to acquire stock options worth a million dollars I would be suspicious. Public school teachers, police officers, and nurses don't get a million dollar retirement.
My dad was a Vice President for Medical Affairs. He had three deans and twenty department heads under him but his compensation package would make some mid-level Enron people cringe.
I would also wonder if my employer paid an employee's way through Harvard Business School especially if that employee already had a graduate degree behind her.
The most obvious indictment against Enron's rank and file is that they let the company's third world transactions go unnoticed. You cant get Johnny Walker out of a cactus and you cant rob out the world's poorest countries and still sleep at night.
Most recent customer reviews
I have read about four of the books on Enron. This is one of the best ones. It starts to by telling the history of Houston, and as a former Houstonian I found it interesting. Read morePublished on Oct. 18 2003 by bert868
Outstanding. Does a great job laying out the personalities at the top, which is essential for an understanding of how it is that this particular company got so out of control. Read morePublished on Sept. 26 2003 by Jeremy Weinstein
Read Sherron Watkins' book Power Failure instead. Its a better read and gets the story right.Published on May 16 2003
Penn Square was peanuts. Robert Bryce's witty racountement of the rise and fall of Enron reminds this reader of Mark Singer's equally entertaining tale of the itty-bitty shopping... Read morePublished on April 26 2003 by TundraBee
Meet Ken Lay, Chairman of Enron, who saw fit to send a corporate jet to retrieve his daughter from the south of France after she tired of partying with The Beautiful People. Read morePublished on March 22 2003 by Ed O'Donnell
Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, And The Death Of Enron by Robert Bryce offers a compelling and in-depth descriptive survey and history of the origins of the Enron financial scandal, the... Read morePublished on March 6 2003 by Midwest Book Review
This is a very readable account. The text opens stating, "My premise throughout this book is that Enron's failure wasn't due to faulty accounting or poor regulation.... Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2003 by E. E Pofahl
I enjoyed the description of corporate officers consumed with their own financial bottom line and with the machinations they used to pull it off. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2003
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