It has been said that the winners write the history. Sometimes you wonder if Enron – The Smartest Guys in the Room is crossing the line in its editorial stance, but in the end, the strong narrative of what went on at Enron wins the day. It is a chilling and enthrawling thriller of how a successful company dressed itself up to be even more successful using increasingly deceptive techniques. In 2001 it went from being the 6th largest corporation in the world, to bankrupcy.
The film is a fascinating human drama as well as a cautionary tale about capitalism at its worst – unbridled greed and moral bankrupcy at the individual level.
It’s hard to work out who comes off looking worse – anyone responsible for the accounting standards that enabled the Enron fraud, the guys who saw it early and jumped ship while their shares were still worth something, or the self deluded senior execs who stayed to the bitter end.
One of the most chilling scenes in the film is a video of senior leaders telling staff to keep their 401K pension fund investments in Enron shares. Anyone who followed that advice not only lost their job but also their retirement savings.
It is one of several places where you might have to restrain yourself from yelling at the screen in frustration at the injustice and tragedy of what went on at the hands of greedy corporate leaders.
Slick, logical, essential viewing.
On a side note, this was the first film shown at the West Pymble Thinking Person’s Film Festival, and was followed by Margin Call, with Moneyball set to play next.