Monday, February 27, 2006

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - (2005)

My political views mostly fall on the left side of the spectrum. So it does surprise people when they find out that am a staunch capitalist. Sure there are evils associated with the capitalist model. But its benefits outweigh the pros of any other alternate model. I grew up in a society which was (and still is to some extent) clinging on to socialist principles. I have seen both its postives and negatives.

Every society needs to evolve to incorporate the varying needs of its constituents. When trying to build a society from scratch a socialistic model seems to be a fair enough approach. It allows the government to channel the available resources into building the basic infrastructure.

But once this is accomplished, the system needs to evolve into one which provides impetus to growth. That is where most socialistic states failed. Government has no business to be in business. My state tried to ignore that rule and as a result ran so many businesses to the ground. The factory where my father worked was one among them. And my family and many others suffered as a result. Of course corporate greed has also resulted in similar situations. But I would argue that the inherent inefficiency of governments make them more prone to such mistakes.

Back to the movie, at hand.

"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room " (nominated for Best Documentary) gives us a fairly detailed account of how the smoke screen of success was created by a group of unscrupulous managers, unethical financial institutions and to some extent, by the media with their superficial analysis. The central players in the story are Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay. They were aided by Andy Fastow. The myriad of insider trading deals and illegal accounting procedures, finally culminated in the fall of the firm in 2001. The upper management made millions but thousands lost their means of living.

Since then Andy Fastow has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, which he will start serving once he has finished his duties as a key witness in this case. And the financial institutions involved will pay nearly $6 billon. The Enron debacle is one of the many that has resulted in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

The trials of Lay and Skilling are currently in progress. And most likely these will result in convictions. There has been too much of public outcry for them to walk away free.

The most impressive aspect of this movie is that it has not let its heart rule its head or vice-versa. It doesn't go into an endless tirade of corporations like what The Corporation did. It deals with this case as it should be - as the greed for power and wealth.

At times it is almost reminiscent of high school drama - where a wallflower suddenly becomes Mr. Popular and he revels in his new found popularity. Going back to obscurity scares him so much that he finds any misdeed acceptable as long as it will let him keep his new found status.

The movie also brings up some interesting points about the media. How they touted Enron as a golden child while they knew very little about it. The superficial and rudimentary nature of their research is mind boggling. Maybe it is indicative of the human nature and society that we live in today.

My rating : 4.5/5

1 comment:

Whinger said...

I assume all of your Oscar predictions are forthcoming?
I have pool entries to turn in, y'know.