Friday, December 16, 2011

50 DTSBYD: #25 Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room

Part of my 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die Challenge

Way before the mortgage meltdown, there was Enron.  Led by my favorite meteorologist's little brother, Enron imploded in spectacular fashion, following an absolutely improbable run of decades in which the company didn't seem to make any money or have any real plan that would ever make the company profitable.  And these smug little bastards didn't seem to find anything wrong with that because they were smart enough to figure out how to perpetuate the fraud.

Whether the cause of bad business sense, stupid accounting rules, or the logical result of the deregulation of rules designed to prevent abuse, it's a bad thing.  What's worse is that it does not appear that the business community learned anything from this situation.  Sometimes we have regulations for a reason.  Whether or not utilities should be a public good is the question, not whether utility regulations get in the way of corporate profits.  The Enron case is a cautionary tale about what happens when regulation is repealed without thinking about what the consequences are going to be.  We're living through the consequences of the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act, and the inability of the government to recognize that Credit Default Swaps should be regulated like insurance policies.  Maybe someday we'll recognize this.  Maybe?

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