Thursday, May 25, 2006

What the Enron verdict means

Let's hope that chief executives everywhere feel uneasy on their thrones. Because the ramifications of this verdict are profound. More than any other corporation, Enron symbolized a culture of greed and arrogance that made mockery of the values of a civilized society. From its "rank-and-yank" treatment of workers to its scorn for government regulation to its elevation of the scruple-free, gunslinging trader into highflying culture hero, Enron declared with every step: We know best; we are the state of the art of modern capitalism. Follow us to the future, or suck on our exhaust.

And at its height, the company was lauded for its balls-out braggadocio. The business press fawned over it: Fortune magazine named it "most innovative corporation" in America six years in a row. Lay hobnobbed with presidents and was considered on the shortlist for energy secretary. Skilling was the Harvard-educated, McKinsey-trained "genius" who created brand-new markets with the wave of a hand. Enron was endlessly innovative, endlessly creative, endlessly profitable. Enron was what all companies aspired to be, if only those darned governments would get out of the way and let them run free.

Except now we know, Enron was run by incompetent crooks. Enron lost billions of dollars. Enron didn't know best, Enron, in truth, was pathetically managed. Enron was the worst that America can be.



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