From an award-winning New York Times reporter comes the full, mind-boggling story of the lies, crimes, and ineptitude behind the spectacular scandal that imperiled a presidency, destroyed a marketplace, and changed Washington and Wall Street forever . . . It was the corporate collapse that appeared to come out of nowhere. In late 2001, the Enron Corporation--a darling of the financial world, a company whose executives were friends of presidents and the powerful--imploded virtually overnight, leaving vast wreckage in its wake and sparking a criminal investigation that would last for years. But for all that has been written about the Enron debacle, no one has yet to re-create the full drama of what has already become a near-mythic American tale.Until now. With Conspiracy of Fools, Kurt Eichenwald transforms the unbelievable story of the Enron scandal into a rip-roaring narrative of epic proportions, one that is sure to delight readers of thrillers and business books alike, achieving for this new decade what books like Barbarians at the Gate and A Civil Action accomplished in the 1990's.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
This enormous, intimate blow-by-blow of Enron's implosion gets as close to what actually happened, in terms of people making (bad) decisions in real time, as anyone who wasn't there with a concealed video-phone possibly could. Having combed endless documents and interviewed countless principals and peripherals, Eichenwald (The Informant) presents short declarative sentences (and lots of sentence fragments) that may have run through the heads of men like top executives Skilling, Lay and Fastow as they managed to cook a very large set of books, as well as men like Stuart Zisman, a lawyer in the firm's wholesale division who wrote an early memo titled "Overall Book Manipulation" that stated "the majority of investments being introduced to Raptor are bad ones." Eichenwald's bald depictions ("Skilling sank deeper into depression"; "It couldn't be true, [Anderson partner Tom] Bauer thought") make for real tension. Collegial meetings at the White House with Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and others; charged conference calls with skeptical investors; endless buy-ins, buyouts and acronyms-all are presented in a rat-a-tat style thick with corporate anxiety, keeping pages turning even as the details themselves are numbing. (Luckily, Eichenwald includes a "Cast of Characters" and "List of Deals" so that readers can remind themselves of past carnage.) As an unadorned attempt to get into the heads of some major manipulators, this book can hardly be bettered. (On sale Mar. 8) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 13, 2005
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Excerpt from Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald
The two men pushed through the glass-and-chrome doors of the Enron building and hurried down the polished granite steps outside. Across the street, a white fountain resembling a mammoth three-tiered wedding cake bubbled in the brilliant winter morning. The sounds of splashing receded as the men crossed Smith Street, a main artery for downtown Houston. Rounding a corner, the older man, David Woytek, glanced at his watch. Fifteen minutes to go. Fifteen minutes, he felt sure, till all hell broke loose.
Without a word, he picked up the pace, followed in step by John Beard, a colleague from Enron's internal-audit department. On that morning, February 2, 1987, the two were eager to meet with Ken Lay, to finally prove that two of his underlings had cheated his company. Beard carried the damning evidence ' bank records showing millions of dollars siphoned from Enron into personal accounts, transactions so suspicious that the bank itself raised a red flag to Woytek. But, most delicious of all, the executives under investigation ' Louis Borget and Thomas Mastroeni, two top officers in Enron's oil-trading unit in Valhalla, New York ' would be at the meeting, defending themselves with what Woytek and Beard were certain would be a tangle of lies.
The proof was strong, but the auditors knew it would need to be. Borget was Enron's earnings Svengali, a man whose business reliably brought in tens of millions of dollars in badly needed annual profits. He and Mastroeni, his top finance executive, were rumored to consort with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, contacts everyone believed gave them strong knowledge about the inner workings of OPEC, the Arab petroleum cartel. Taking them down would mean losing their connections and dismantling their profit machine at a time when Enron was struggling.