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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

What went wrong with American business at the end of the 20th century?

Until the spring of 2001, Enron epitomised the triumph of the New Economy. Feared by rivals, worshipped by investors, Enron seemingly could do no wrong. Its profits rose every year; its stock price surged ever upward; its leaders were hailed as visionaries. 

Then a young Fortune writer, Bethany McLean, wrote an article posing a simple question - how, exactly, does Enron make its money? 

Within a year Enron was facing humiliation and bankruptcy, the largest in US history, which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars, while small investors lost everything. It was revealed that Enron was a company whose business was an illusion, an illusion that Wall Street was willing to accept even though they knew what the real truth was. This book tells the extraordinary story of Enron's fall.

©2020 Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Smartest Guys in the Room

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Immeasurable greed and swaggering lust for power

Well written and well read. Shocking to hear of the extent to which Enron took everyone for a ride.

1 person found this helpful

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If you wanted a deep understanding, avoid

For many years, I’ve been intrigued by the collapse of large companies and Enron was definitely at the top of my interests. However, this book certainly did not help with my intrigue.

The book was more of a chronological commentary of what happened, but didn’t necessarily explain why or how. It doesn’t delve into understanding why Mark to Market Accounting was the issue, the relevance of the funds Fastow had created and it felt more like a Jeff Skilling biography than anything else.

It’s a let down in that respect, I found plenty of resources online that helped explain why and how, this book didn’t.

1 person found this helpful

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A testament to greed

A fascinating expose of the biggest bankruptcy in US history. The accounting frauds are well explained, and were inevitably discovered. A great book , which was well read.

1 person found this helpful

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Long winded

Incredible detail, could be told in fewer words, loses the listeners attention. Attention to detail is incredible.

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Great listen

Very detailed story that led to the demise of enron. Explanation was very clear and the audio form was good (no graphs or tables needed). Narration was good too. Some can argue the book described too many different characters.

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Compelling

Being too young to remember any details about the rise and fall of Enron beyond the general public narrative, I found this book fascinating.

The book gives a detailed, textured account of numerous significant transactions and the broader culture at Enron, all carefully stitched together so that the listener can follow the thread from Enron's early years, through incredibly complex corporate structures, confusing accounting practices, collusion with investment banks, rating agencies and accountants all the way through to Enron's collapse.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who didn't intricately follow the story at the time.

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Interesting but Loooonnggg

Interesting story. But feel it could have been shorter. Some parts did drone on a bit.

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Incredible book

This book is so well researched, written and narrated I didn't want it to end.

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Still hard to believe they got away with it

The examples in this book of corporate and personal greed are eye-watering. Even several years on it’s still hard to believe the various checks and balances all failed, thereby allowing rogue senior execs and their accountants to wreak havoc at the expense of everyone except themselves

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A lot of detail

If you want every detail of the fraud this is the book for you. Difficult to understand sometimes (search engine useful for further explanations) but on the whole everything was explained really well. Excellent narrator