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Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron Paperback – Jan 8 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (Jan. 8 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482017
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482015
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 13.9 x 20.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 485 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #837,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Out of many books available on the Enron travesty, this one probably offers the most bang for the buck with its fast-moving and incredibly informative structure. Bryce has sufficient skills as an investigative journalist and provides a healthy mix of history, finance, and politics, allowing the general reader to understand what happened with that ridiculous corporate house of cards at Enron. Bryce's main theory is that the company was done in by a lack of hard cash, as just about all of its revenues were long-term contractual deals in which cash would actually come in slowly and periodically, although the "revenues" could be claimed immediately through preposterous over-use of "mark-to-market" accounting. Meanwhile, greedy executives who set up such deals were paid millions in hard cash bonuses immediately, long before a single cent of actual cash was made for the company. This in turn led to preposterous deal-making shenanigans that were little more than schemes to cook the books and claim profits, such as a bizarre web of tax havens and false subsidiaries set up by the crookedest executive of all, Andy Fastow.
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).
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Format: Paperback
The victory of Pipe Dreams lies in its readability. As US prosecutors have explained in their dogged attempts to nail down a case against Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, "If WorldCom was arithmetic, then Enron is advanced calculus." Despite the inherent complexity of Enron's downfall (derivatives, SPEs, mark-to-market accounting, and 'pre-paids' all figure heavily here), Robert Bryce tells a compelling, gripping tale.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
The author explains that fish rot at the head but the tail isn't far behind. Every journalistic treatment of Enron makes the same mistake. They excoriate higher ups but rank and file workers get a free pass.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Sherron Watkins was Enron's vice president of corporate development. She was 42 years old and had worked for a decade at Enron. She was high up enough, or grumpy enough, to send the head guy at Enron a letter. It was a pull-no-punches, put-it-on-record letter telling him for seven pages that his company was more or less a fraud. She kept on working for Enron through a congressional investigation, covered in front pages across the country. In the news media, it was "Enron whistle-blower" Sherron Watkins". Unfortunately, concerns like hers seem to have been old news in corner offices at Enron. And at other companies. And she may well have written it purely to cover herself. To protect that resume when the inevitable happened. The "CYA" letter is as old as business itself. But she got a reaction. She made sure she got a reaction. She did start the dominoes falling in the Enron scandal. This is the true inside story. If you go through this you will have remarkable insights into the personalities and misdeeds of the people who are now indicted, on trial, or convicted. As the news reports come out, having read this you will have a better picture of what really went on.
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