24 Days : How Two Wall Street Journal Reporters Uncovered the Lies that Destroyed Faith in Corporate America
This is the story of Rebecca Smith and John R. Emshwiller, the two reporters who led the Wall Street Journal's reporting on Enron and uncovered the unorthodox partnerships at the heart of the scandal through skill, luck, and relentless determination.
It all started in August 2001when Emshwiller was assigned to write a supposedly simple article on the unexpected resignation of Enron CEO Jeff Skilling. During his research, Emshwiller uncovered a buried reference to an off-balance-sheet partnership called LJM. Little did he know, this was the start of a fast and furious ride through the remarkable downfall of a once highly-prized company.
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October 12, 2004
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Excerpt from 24 Days by Rebecca Smith
"Our CEO Is Resigning."
Some days, the newspaper gods refuse to smile. The keyboard won't cough up coherent sentences. A crucial source doesn't call back. The wall clock, warning of approaching deadlines, seems to be running a time zone too fast. Within minutes of getting that call on the morning of August 14, 2001, Jonathan Friedland, The Wall Street Journal's Los Angeles bureau chief, suspected it was going to be one of those days.
The caller was Mark Palmer, the public relations chief for Enron Corp., the Houston-based energy giant that the Journal covered out of its Los Angeles office. Normally, Palmer's call would have gone to the paper's national energy reporter, Rebecca Smith, or her de facto backup on the beat, John Emshwiller. But Smith was on vacation and Emshwiller was out of town on a story.
The PR man got right to the point. "Jeff Skilling, our CEO, is resigning," Palmer said. "Ken Lay is going to step up and assume the president and CEO duties."
You're kidding me, Friedland replied. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"No," said Palmer. "There'll be a press release in about an hour." There would also be a conference call with Lay and Skilling for the press and stock analysts at about 12:30 P.M. Los Angeles time.