Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room (15) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Adapting from the book by reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, documentarist Alex Gibney unpicks the scandal of Enron, once the seventh largest business corporation in the world, now a byword for unbridled corruption. It's a riveting story, for it recounts levels of hubris and greed that even Trollope and his High Victorian readers would have wondered at. Rottenness started at the top with chairman Ken Lay and chief executive Jeff Skilling, who sanctioned their lieutenants to gamble with oil prices, post non-existent profits, divert pension funds and foment an energy "crisis" that plunged California into darkness.

To overhear these fat-bottomed plutocrats josh one another on taped phonecalls is pretty sickening, more so for the 20,000 people who lost their jobs when the Enron bubble burst ($2bn in pension funds was lost while senior executives walked free). Gibney deftly mixes courtroom footage of Lay and Skilling, news clips and interviews with journalists and ex-employees to explain the outrageous free market plundering and the determined suspension of disbelief that between them enabled "the corporate crime of the century". Your pension may never feel safe again.

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