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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable
Unbelievable, how did they get away with what they did? Very good to watch. They were the inovators for trading electricity. Recommend watching.
Published on Oct. 21 2007 by Motzie

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can you Criticize this Film, without Supporting Enron?
I know this will not be as popular a critique of this film as others, because it raises some questions that fly in the face of some of the emotions driving many of the responses here.

Let me say upfront, that this is a very effective documentary. It does bring out a lot of facts that many are unaware of, especially those who have gotten their news on this event...
Published on Sept. 27 2009 by Bart Breen


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable, Oct. 21 2007
By 
This review is from: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (DVD)
Unbelievable, how did they get away with what they did? Very good to watch. They were the inovators for trading electricity. Recommend watching.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can you Criticize this Film, without Supporting Enron?, Sept. 27 2009
By 
Bart Breen "Bart Breen" (Sterling, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (DVD)
I know this will not be as popular a critique of this film as others, because it raises some questions that fly in the face of some of the emotions driving many of the responses here.

Let me say upfront, that this is a very effective documentary. It does bring out a lot of facts that many are unaware of, especially those who have gotten their news on this event in the form of sound-bites. It does a great service and is to be commended in that regard.

In terms of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, if I could lessen their pain and suffering for what they both did with their power and leadership, by waving my hand in a dark room .... I wouldn't bother to wave it. They got off easily in comparison to what they did. No arguments here. My emotions run high too when I consider the human suffering they inflicted by their abuse of their power and influence.

The pain and suffering inflicted by their irresponsibility, greed and ego-maniacal behavior is too great to even begin to calculate. Jobs were lost, families destroyed, retirements ruined, suicides prompted, divorces in the wake of financial ruin, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, if all this is true, what could I have to say about this film that could argue for the techniques used in comparison with that?

Just this;

Emotions are a legitimate response to the magnitude of this event. When emotions replace critical thinking and follow an agenda however, a disservice is done to those watching as well as those whose suffering is dehumanized and diminished by their suffering being used as a tool for political or ideological purposes.

I think this movie missed some salient elements that would have resulted in a more even-handed dealing with the issues.

What emotional issues am I referring to?

How about the use of camera techniques to morph an Enron executive into a red skinned effigy of Satan? How about the focus on George W. Bush as governor of Texas, a constitutionally weak governorship, while ignoring the current president and appointer of SEC governance at the time? How about mentioning contributions to the GOP, which is true, while ignoring similar contributions to the Democrats?

I viewed this film in the context of a Master's Degree class asking the question of whether leadership really matters, and what this film has to say in regard to that question.

Enron was more than a single event. Enron took place in a context that included:

1. The Toxic Leadership of Lay, Skilling and a host of others in Enron. This comes through in the documentary and is more clearly presented than any other element. This is understandable and defensible in my opinion. Both these "gentlemen" misused their power and position and violated any number of ethical standards. They deserve what they get in this documentary and more.

2. Shareholder profit expectations at the tail end of the Dot Com were driven through the roof by the excitement of investors believing they just couldn't lose in the strongest bull market run ever witnessed in modern times. Enron struck upon the "innovation" of accounting for "potential" profits at the inception of an idea and using this as a basis for valuation. It wasn't a new idea. It was a new application though in the context of a company supposedly dealing in hard energy commodities. The movie captures this, but doesn't give the context of how this accounting was used in intellectual companies such as the dot-coms. Enron is isolated in this instance and context is lost.

3. The complicity of Arthur Anderson as the auditors of the firm. Corporate auditing had moved by this time from being an adversarial relationship to one of a willingness of the auditor to view itself as a "partner" with its "client." Anderson was the recipient of over $1 million dollars a week for their oversight role in auditing Enron. They acted to preserve this at the expense of holding Enron to accounting standards that were designed to be enforced to the benefit of shareholders and analysts. This more than anything else, is what led to Sarbanes-Oxley legislation following Enron's colossal collapse. The movie references this, but in the end paints Anderson and its employees, a similar number of whom lost their jobs when Anderson failed too, as fellow victims. Really?

4. Stock Analyst's complicity in the presentation of the numbers "massaged" by Skilling and Company. The movie rightly captures the influence exerted upon such brokerages as Merrill Lynch et al to keep the positive presentation flowing. It fails however, to hold as accountable those who could have raised the issues presented earlier. McLean story in Fortune is amazing, not for its raising hard questions, but for the fact that it took this long for someone to ask them. This documentary would have you infer that they were victims or complicit with Enron management. There is a much bigger picture here, that is not completely captured and further minimized in the agenda to take Enron and caste it into the desired light of sole corporate corrupter. Enron was complicit. They were not the only ones and Stock Analysts manipulated their analysis to benefit themselves and companies like Enron before Enron came along. They still do. Where's the statement on that?

5. Banker's cooperation in the debt manipulations needed to extend the Ponzi Scheme that was at work here in presenting quarter after quarter of illusory profits. Try to walk into a bank with no balance sheet and ask for a loan and see how far you get. Enron was not the banking industry. Again, who was overseeing the banks at this time? Was it George W. Bush? Maybe the heretofore unnamed president prior to January of 2001 had some responsibility too. Who was that, anyway?

6. Deregulation in California certainly played a role. Pete Wilson and the California legislature made some decisions that opened a pandora's box in a manner not seen for many years. Was the idea of limiting options speculation leverage by debt a new one? No. This had happened in the past with similar predictable fall-out. Why did Enron engage in the activity it did? Because they could. Who allowed them to and created an environment where to fail to do so meant competitors would? Does it excuse Enron? No, it doesn't. What they did was legal however in the strictest sense in view of the deregulation of the industry. Why not focus more upon those in the state and at the Federal level who made it so? Why simply focus on Schwarzeneger based upon a "guilt by association" type argument because he met one time with Kenneth Lay. Could there have been complicity? Maybe. No proof however, coupled with a limited scope that ignores others with more proof to incorporate. Hardly seems balanced to me.

7. The greatest outcome of this whole debacle was Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. Why no mention of this? Does the need for such legislation perhaps, lessen the agenda of the documentary and the points they wanted to make?

Hopefully you get the picture. This is not a hatchet job documentary in the vein of Michael Moore where all rational thought is thrown out the window to make a political point. It is some ways is more insidious than that. One senses that more than political passion, there is a set agenda here to make a point and to lead the average watcher to conclusions that fail to appreciate the big picture.

That is a shame in my opinion. I give it 3 stars because it does educate and I am in no way a defender of Enron, Lay or Skilling. I don't blindly support Bush and Republicans either. There is plenty of blame to go around at many different levels. This film misses the opportunity to make a broader statement and to educate more broadly and in view of that, 3 stars are the most I can give it. I do recommend people view it. Just view it critically.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Perfect!, July 10 2014
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Fast shipping, looked like New and not a scratch on the disc. Excellent job and great documentary. Thx
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, July 5 2014
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This review is from: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (DVD)
We'll done movie
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could've been better, Feb. 14 2013
By 
Theo (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (DVD)
The single best thing about this documentary is the sheer volume of footage we get of the actors involved in the Enron drama. We get a fair bit of newsreel type stuff of the primary players, plus a good deal of interview footage of those from around the periphery. Altogether, this gives you far more of a sense of who these people were, and why they did the things they did. It puts meat on the bare bones of facts, names, and figures. Decisions - and disasters - are made not by abstract optimizers, but by real, flawed, flesh and blood human beings. Films like this one remind us of that.

On the down side, I would have liked to have seen more thoughtful probing into how the accounting fraud at the core of the Enron debacle was allowed to continue. We do get to see something of the underlying mentality involved: the merchant bankers and all the rest who just lined up to play their part and take their fee and keep their mouths shut. Indeed, it is in exposing the human dimension to the fraud that this documentary is at its strongest.

But one thing we could have seen more of is deeper probing into the institutional structures that facilitated all this. In particular, I would have liked to have seen much more of a sustained focus on the auditors. I single out the auditors for the simple reason that they are, after all, the ones whose nominal role it is to uncover accounting fraud and report it. That's the whole reason for having auditors in the first place.

Of course, the reality is that auditors are hired and fired by the very people they're supposedly monitoring. It's like going into the criminal justice system and being able to hire and fire not only your own defense team, but the police whose nominal role it is to investigate you as well. Understandably in such a system, prosecutions remain rare.

It is for this reason that I would say that the really fundamental problem is with the institution of auditorship itself. That was the case back in Enron's day, and it remains so today. Sarbanes-Oxley's solution of audit committees is a joke. It's just regulation for the sake of being seen to be doing something, despite the fact that you're really doing zip. It's a great employment scheme for corporate accountants and attorneys, but otherwise it just creates more paperwork. And if there's one thing that Enron should've taught us, it's that these people are superb at filing the right paperwork. So long as the auditors are hired and fired by the very people they're supposed to be auditing... Well, you figure out how that's going to end.

So as radical as this idea may seem to some in the business community, I would say that the real lesson of Enron is simply this: No, it's not okay for the people whose nominal job it is to report to the market on the integrity of a company's accounts to be hired, paid, and fired by the very people whose accounts - and integrity - they're supposedly investigating.

In fact, it's just plain stupid.

We don't have to stop at company accounts either. There's a deeper and more general principle here: it's not okay for people whose nominal job it is to provide "independant" advice to the market on ANYTHING to be hired, paid, and fired by people with a vested interest in the perceived status of whatever is being advised upon.

If you're wondering why any of this still matters a decade on, why Enron still matters a decade on, ask yourself simply this: Would we now be in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis if mortgage backed securities weren't rated by people who were ultimately being hired, paid, and fired by the very people who were selling those securities? If we'd connected the dots and had a blinding flash of the obvious way back in 2001, there's a lot of pain we could have avoided. Enron was a * H U G E * missed opportunity.

This is the kind of analysis I would've liked to have seen more of in this film. So I can't help but end this review where I began it. On the level of individual human beings involved, this was undoubtedly a fascinating documentary. Perhaps even a great one. But on the level of the broader institutional structures that allowed Enron to happen, it wasn't particularly insightful. It never really went beyond the rather uninspired observation that people just didn't do what they were supposed to.

Theo.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enron, March 11 2009
By 
Spike (Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (DVD)
Informative. Best seen after reading book such as "Conspiray of Fools". Shocking clips depicting traders. Hard to watch exec's lying through their teeth!
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