ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room



This comment area is closed to new submissions. Visit ITVS.org to continue the conversation about this film.


Big oil had a new plan in 2005 when they created the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPact). Transparency was removed from the plan to allow private companies to take private land for profit for gas storage fields. FERC allows private companies for profit to store natural gas underground, no meters and statement are given to property owners; natural gas formations near storage fields cannot be developed but natural gas migrates and no one knows where the drill bit goes underground. These companies report what they withdraw based on the honor system. The mineral department was involved in a scandal, sex for gifts? A recent theft was approved in Pennsylvania for Spectra Energy (former Duke Energy) with no meters are each well (FERC thinks they aren't needed because Spectra says so) FERC allows the Marcellus Shale to be jeopardized from recovery and it could be stolen since no one knows where the drill bit goes underground. It is one of the biggest underground robberies in history and is just beginning to unravel. Type in an internet search: Clearville, Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania. CP08-15 docket at FERC shows the battle for meters at gas wells along with statements and the opportunity to produce the Marcellus. FERC tells landowners they believe this company. FERC does not have a staff to investigate to see if what is being told it true, they can' present evidence, it is heresay. They are sending landowners to court who didn't have gas storage in their gas leases. There are so many lies they wouldn't fit into a brief case...Enron is back!

Roselle Dance
Saratoga, California

Dear Independent Lens,

While watching the very insightful program on ENRON, I started to think about the SIMILARITIES between price fixing, our resource needs, OIL companies, and how the Energy crisis, deregulation and all, has a LOT of similarities with out GASOLINE problems at the moment. Again, Mr. Bush also has "ties" with the oil companies, and the price of gasoline seems to be artificially manipulated. Sound familiar to anyone? What are we going to do about it? Isn't it about time we admit gasoline is a necessity, just like electricity? There must be some solution to the Oil Nations and Oil companies holding us hostage?

Brian Greer
Walnut Creek, CA

Skilling‚s tragic error was messing with the Democrat government of the State of California. If Skilling had stuck to defrauding the helpless public, he would have walked away. Had a Republican governor been recalled as a result of Enron causing blackouts and budget deficits in California, rather than a Democrat governor; Enron executives would have walked away free with their money. Double-minded Republicans would never have pushed past the Enron executives‚ defenses; defenses that they had technically done nothing wrong, their plausible stories, and their endless delays; not so enraged Democrat leaders, who are open in their doings, who had lost the governorship of California because of Enron.

Democrat leaders would put those guys in jail fast, not for ethics, but for political vengeance, and no matter what. The Democrats‚ prosecution of Enron for political vengeance should not deceive the American People to believe that our government cares about us. Today, Congress gives tax-breaks to co rporations that transfer American factories, jobs, know-how, and proprietary-machinery to Red China. The profits from those factories stay in Red China. The corporation CEO‚s pay themselves $100 million salaries. Congress should be Ordering American corporations to return these factories to America, under penalty of jail, losing their positions, hefty fines, and the American nationalization of corporations that are too slow. America‚s corporate CEO‚s are every bit as greedy, self-serving, corrupt, and treasonous as


I liked your show on Enron. 99.9% of civil Court cases brought by persons too poor to afford an attorney and representing themselves are dismissed or ruled against in favor of the Judge's fellow-attorney opposing the non-attorney pro-per plaintiff. Judges are legally-obligated to step out of unlawful position of bias and refer these cases to a jury of non-lawyers, but Judges never do. Judges are biased for their fellow attorneys. Judges are legally-obligated to refer a non-attorney plaintiff's motion for injunctive-relief to binding-arbitration by a non-attorney, but they never do. The Judge's attorney-clerk admires their fellow attorney opposing the non-attorney and always write pre-trial Orders in favor of the attorney, often without the Judge ever reading the non-attorney's pleadings. You should do an investigation and you will find the stats show bias and corruption. You should do a show, interviewing non-attorney plaintiffs. The lawyer - lawyer-Judge cartel is not in the business of justice, but the business of making lots of money, and are in bed with big corporations who pay. Sincerely, Brian Greer

Trey Gibbs

I just saw the film last night and it was incredibly well done and interesting. My only critique is that the aftermath text flashes to quickly to read it all at the end of the film, and I agree that the SOX Board members should have been treated with more responsibility for the collapse as well.

While these ideas are outside of the scope of the film, I feel that these ideas could make for a great follow up or Part II. I recall that Southern Company was at the Cheney, Ken Lay energy policy meetings. Mirant(natural gas & energy trader) was spun off from So. Co. and quickly descended into bankruptancy. How did they play into this time period of deregulation and loose accounting?

I also think it would be neat to review what TV pundits were saying during this time period about the Enron situation. I seem to recall a lot of defense of upper management and the Fastow "lone bad apple" story being the main story line. Another media story I recall was whistle blowers who had vendettas- when they were actual ly reporting the true crimes.

Since this time period the Bush administration has been found paying news media for favorable stories for administration propaganda, I wonder who else could be connected here?

I also recall pundits explaning the rolling blackouts as technical problems, problems with fires, and impossible demand. Could they have been covering up Enron profiteering as well?

The financial industry and financial media community had some casualties from the Enron fall out, but none from the news media. I would like to know who was defending Enron then so I can discount their programming now.

Alameda, CA

Your program neglected to note that Enron's Board of Directors not only failed to provide adequate oversight to the operations of the firm but was generally complicit in supporting Lay, Skilling and Fastow with their financial schemes. SOX was born out this failure. Most noticeably, Enron's board voted to waive the company's ethics policy so chief financial officer could set up special purpose entities to buy company assets and personally profit from the deals. Enron's board's audit committee failed woefully to discharge its responsibilities and was complicit with Enron's auditor (Arthur Andersen) in the cover-up of these schemes.

Also, there was not only a link between the Bush Administration and Enron but also between Congress and Enron. Those links existed not only with Ken Lay (GWB's "Kenny Boy") but also with the Board of Directors that Ken Lay put into place. Let's not forget the DC power couple who helped Ken Lay pave the way for Enron. That power couple was Texas Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas, why isn't a surprise?) and his wife Wendy who served on Enron's board. Both of them immensely benefited financially from Enron. Neither has been held accountable for their roles in the collapse of Enron. In the early 1990s, Wendy Gramm, then chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, moved to lift governmental oversight of energy contracts that Enron and other companies traded. A short time later, she was appointed to Enron's board of directors. She was also on the board's audit committee

In December 2000, Senator Phil Gramm helped clear the way for a bill turning his wife's deregulation decision into law, something Enron had long wanted. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act, of which Phil Gramm was a sponsor, contained a clause making the exemption law. That bill had been commonly referred to as the "Enron exemption" on Capitol Hill.

Post-Enron, Wendy Gramm was appointed chairman of regulatory studies for the Mercatus Center, a conservative think tank affiliated with George Mason University in Virginia. Ironically in 2004, she moderated a panel on a proposed rul by the Securities and Exchange Commission to give shareholders more access to board selection. However, the corporate governance experts attending the December meeting didn't acknowledge the Enron connection in the room. Enron came up in passing, but the fact that one of its former directors was leading a discussion about how boards of directors should be held accountable to shareholders went untouched.

Sadly, there were probably many others who went into stealth mode and avoided the prosecution radar. They like the Gramms probably have retired comfortably and with their reputations mostly intact.

Alan Owens
Ann Arbor, Michigan

65 billion dollars disappeared. Seventh largest corporation was ENRON. Jeffrey Skilling. Ken Lay. Andrew Fastow. Pie. All are bad guys. Cliff Baxter committed suicide. Four months after Skilling resigned ENRON declared bankruptcy. ENRON cost California 30 billion dollars. No one caught these bad guys until it was too late. ENRON "was a ride of broken dreams." This tradegy about pride and greed will probably be repeated. And government needs to help. California deregulated electrical energy which ENRON took advantage. There are lessons to learn from ENRON and strong warnings. To sum it up ENRON was crooked pay.

Jerry Douglas
Solvang, California

Your piece on the enron crime syndicate was good and late. Perhaps a more forward looking independant lens will come? Should the authors and producers will see the merit in credit card fraud.oh not the small timers who swipe #s and charge things around, OH NO,I refer to those billing houses that dis regard cancelations and continue to charge and over charge with relitive impunity. We've even reduced the victims recourse for reconciliation is a PROTEST from the victim or their banker. I can bird dog you to one billing house in particular ccbill.com. My estimate of their criminal profits are now at 100,040,00 dollars and that is a real crime,for just one billing house. A lot like Haliburton, will you help the public and citizens recover their recover our STOLEN hard earned money?

Harwood Heights, IL

Your film goes much too easy on California's officials and implies too much involvement by the Bush administration. Your own timeline puts the first of the rolling blackouts on January 17, 2001. Bush wasn't inaugurated until three days later, January 20, 2001.

You also ignored several important supply factors in the crisis. There was a major drought which reduced avalable hydropower. There was a natural gas pipeline explosion in August 2000 near the Pecos River in New Mexico that disrupted supplies to California. At one point, underground storage of gas neared zero, a major problem if your generating plants are gas fired!

And there were some refuelling problems with some nuclear plants (e.g. San Onofre suffered a fire during re-start that damaged the turbine and delayed re-start several months). That's a series of major problems for all three major source of generation. Enron did not cause the problem, though they definitely gamed the system.

California got into the peak of the crisis during the Clinton administration, suffered through the worst of it and then solved the problem during the early Bush administration. A big part of the solution was to raise consumer rates about 10%, a move long fought by Gray Davis and the California Public Utility Commission. They finally agreed to enact it until federal pressure. FERC forced California to face its problems and then solve them.


The "ethical" attitudes at ENRON are not unique, even to the for-profit sector. Is this a type of self-delusion prevalent and expected among up-and-coming managers; is it naivete/fear in the general public, who don't want to turn over rocks to see what crawls out; or are basic math skills in the U.S. so poor that that very few people can look at a balance sheet, compare it to an organization's reported activities, and not see there isn't a match? It would be nice if this film's production team would look at nonprofit and government spending. For example, divide the operating budgets of some of the country's largest and most respected nonprofits by the number of people who qualify as "needy" --- where do the excess millions go? Has anyone totalled the donations and government funds targeted to Katrina victims, and divided it by the number of people affected? What is the current financial status of people directly affected by 9/11? It is doubtful that any major nonprofit CEOs & CFOs have missed a paycheck, yet the survivors of tragedies wait to see a penny...where has the money gone?

John Rockwell
Portland Oregon

Overall, I felt the show was very well done. However, and as anumber of your viewer comments show, it does not matter what the situation is, GWB is blamed for every ill in society. The obvious attempt to tie the Bush White House to the Calofirnia problems is beyond legitimate reporting. The State of California had a Democratic Governor and a Democractically controlled state legistlature when the energy de-regulation was passed. The only link presented in the whole report to the "influence" of Enron over the Bush Admin was the Enron employees "thinking" that Lay would be Energy Secretary. As if a person in Lay's postion at the time would have taken such a subordinate position in a cabinet.

The rolling blackouts started in December of 2000. This was before Bush even took office. Correct me if I am wrong, but is it was not Lay, Skilling, Ebbers ( MCI), and the numerous others charged, tried and convicted under the Bush administration.

Stockbridge, GA

Fascinating - but at times hard to follow. However definitely improved my understanding of what happened with Enron.

Atlanta GA

This was an informative show. But, it should be noted that what Enron operated in was not a "free market" in the laissez-faire sense. When most people refer to "free markets," they're actually referring to markets regulations in their favor. At least another two hours is needed to explain how government intervention allowed such a mess to occur.

R. D. Dunn
Vancouver, British Columb

THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM. Comment: Alex Gibney, the producer of this documentary, fails to link the ENRON fiasco with its true root cause: Milton Friedman's obsessive fixation with deregulation. Just as your earlier, uncritical documentary on MILTON FRIEDMAN totally ignored the disastrous consequences of his obsessive fixation on (1) the airline industry; (2) the savings & loan industry; (3) the telecommunications industry; (4) the untilities industry including and especially ENRON. You people never quite get it right. You never quite tell the whole truth.

San Francisco, CA

Good subject, but didn't explore deeper enough. I wish Independent Lens list more facts such as who made money (through bonus, trading, understable deals...) from or with Enron; who directly or indirectly helped Enron (e.g. Dick Cheney and his wife's); what institutes or regulations in this country got investigated or reviewed after Enron to reduce loopholes...It's not moral issue at the first place but system's problem.

Katy, TX

--- Who do you think was ultimately responsible for Enron‚s collapse: Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andrew Fastow or other parties?

„Synergistic‰ is a perfect word. It was a perfect storm. All of the above.

--- Do you invest in a 401(k) or securities?

Not a 401(k). IRA‚s and fully-funded and fully-vested plans. I am now partially retired. While I was working I always had an earmarked account, so I could pick and choose my own investments, and I was fortunate to work for company that did not push just one stock. I was a law firm office manager and a long-term employee of a private university.

--- Do you think the stock market has the stabilizing economic influence intended when it was formed?

I invest based on a company‚s under-lying fundamentals (that would include financial statements, like cash flow!) and not all of the psychotic craziness that often happens with stock. It is often over-priced. --- Given what we know now, do you think a corporate scandal on the scale of Enron could happe

n again? Why or why not?

Of course it can happen again. People are people. With the right confluence of people and circumstances, you bet. Look at the disaster that is Iraq.

--- General film comments

Brilliant film!!!! I am so glad it was finally broadcast on PBS. Now we need a film on the „synergistic‰ press corps and the Bush administration. Thankfully, Bill Moyers also had a brilliant documentary on this exact topic. I watched Dick Cheney lie about Enron. Or was he just filled with so much incompetence and hubris. And now I know he has lied to us about Iraq and everything. I can‚t wait for this whole administration to be over. Worst in America‚s history. Incalculable damage to the USA at home and aboard. And I am a Republican. But thankfully also a critical inquisitive thinker. Again, what a brilliant film. Riveting. I live just outside of Houston now, but I am California born and bred and lived through that „energy crisis.‰ I am still a Californian at heart. Thank you for bringing more of that aspect of the story to light.

Augusta, Georgia

I wonder how close Ken Lay came to being appointed Bush's Secretary of Energy.

Concerned Citizen
New York NY

You guys are great! the enron story was extremely disturbing and I would like to see you put an independent lens on ICE INTERCONTINENTAL EXCHANGE and their unregulated trading of crude and other energy.... it seems to me its another reincarnation of enron ala Goldman Sachs insiders!


expose them before its too late!

Elmhurst Illinois

I have to tell you I just loved "The smartest guys in the room". BRAVO!!!! I really enjoyed it and I can't wait till May 2 to see it again. At work today a couple people watched an other people are also looking forward to watching this film. This is the first time I've heard of "Independent lens" and after seeing that I have no dought that the films you put out will be just as Great. Thank you so much for something worth watching. Again BRAVO!

John C.
Canton, GA

I was spellbound by this expose on the corruption and greed revealed at Enron. This documentary highlighted that we all as investors, through our 401Ks, or as consumers must be every vigilant of the double-talk and confusing financial statements produced by large MNCs. This was more than just a case of groupthink [Irving Janis, 1971] defining the corporate mantra. Employess, executives and analysts all drank the purple Kool-Aid and loved every drop.

Jessie Lugo
Hillsboro, Oregon

For the first time I could understand the rise and fall of Enron and how the process evolved. When pieces are put so well together like this one it helps me have a clear vision of what is going on in the world around me even after the fact. All parties knew very well what they were doing and should have been accountable without a doubt. You have choices and hopefully morals to guide you and if not used properly, obviously innocent parties are taken advantage of.

I do invest within the company and feel comfortable that it would not work against me in the future for we are a non-profitable agency. However, this can happen again if not already. Greed is powerful and only the conscious mind can cure. Thank you for the education and experience.

DeeLyn Pool
Beaver, OK

I did not see the entire documentary, but I saw enough to be sick to my stomach. My husband and I both lost almost everything when Enron collapsed; our retirement, our children's college funds, etc. Some might say we were blinded by greed just like top management, but we were low level (and I mean low) employees believing that our company was looking out for us. Boy were we wrong. FYI - I don't believe for a minute that Ken Lay is really dead.

Indianapolis, IN

Well done! I hope it will air again.

LaPorte, Tx

I watched the movie last night and was amazed at how little I really new and what lies I was called to believe∑ This movie, I thought, was very well done, placed the blame with the Bankers, Lawyers, Traders, as well as Lay, Skilling and Fastow. I also have a different view of Fastow that I'd never though I'd have. I loved working at Enron. There was the other side of Enron, hard working, honest people that got screwed over by the select few who WERE NOT!

I'm getting a copy of movie. I want to watch it from the beginning this time, and catch some things I missed the first time. Nice round of applause to those involved in making and producing this little gem.

Dallas, Texas

Enjoyed the film.... I would have like to have seen more of an explanation of just how the Portland General Electric workers lost their retirment savings. I understand that Enron froze their 401(k)s, but on what date? The timeline that I'd like to know more about is the how and why Enron's 401(k)s were frozen ? That was never exlpained to my satisfaction. Enron's execs continally lied about the company's stock prospects to the public and their employees in the months and weeks before the stock tanked.

Tim Finnegan
Axandria, Virginia

I saw this film last night. Wonderful. I was struck by the cushy surroundings of the "survivors." Did anything befall the pretty lawyer with the British accent? Where did her due diligence go? To Neiman Marcus?


I really, really ...really wonder if Lay is really death. With all the money behind and having that alternative to protect the money from the court and give that money to his relatives, have a face changed, pack some cash and move to live in Africa or somewhere. With these guys you never know Thanks and great Pat.


How about some follow-up on if and how "The Governator" is in the Bush administration's pocket? This piece I think makes the case that he is.

John Selle
Dodge, ND

Point 1: Being a "founder" of another man's company, I recognize the desire to make a company succeed but if the desire is not tempered by the a moral center then success will likely be measured by self worth. I believe the core of the company (Enron) was self modivated yet bolstered by each others (company leaders) convictions of the proper coarse required to acheive the "Goal". They were all; very similar and eqauly guilty.

Point 2: The human race would not have achieved its' success if not for our abilty to help the lesser in hopes of the lesser helping us when we need it most. The concern should not be about the stock market, the concern should be about "The human race". Can the stability be maintained in our society with a civilization modivated by "self".

Point 3: Imagine the mentality of the California energy crisis but now throw it completely into the SIFI world by using a nations nuclear arsenal. Can the idea of overting a nuclear holocaust be turned into a comodity?

A human (specifically, man) is inherently aggersive by our own right (nature). The answer is yes, we will certainly have the opprotunity to dominate through deception and the few that have no moral compass to follow will exploit the tendancy. Remenber one thing, as a culture, we are young. Time is on our side.As for myself, I do not fear the possibility of being exploited, however, I do fear that the reprocussions will become less defined as time goes on, leading to even greater missgivings.

Anyway, the film was excellent. I learned a lot about the greavous errors of the Enron leaders and about myself, as a human being.

Tom Kelley
Powell, Tn.

Thank you! Your report was spell binding. I watched thinking how many more Corp. Co's are Wall St.'s paper bag boys (or visa a versus, I'm not sure), and when ur in the money it's justified; one thinks?

San Jose, California

I was totally engrossed in this film. It provoked various emotional responses which I believe is the hallmark of great film making. Bravo.

4/26/07 B. Hill

It was an extremely informative and in depth glimpse into the fall of Enron and the faces behind master plan of deception. I don't believe it was any one single person to blame, but instead a host of self serving individuals intent on greed and self deception. It's a powerful shame that Kenneth Lay died before justice was served. I think the 401K plans are a scarey thing. Sometimes they work when the people at the top aren't blinded by greed. Then there are other times, like the 80's, when the oil industry went bust, and banks were taken over by our government. When bank accounts were only insured for $100K, then hundreds of thousands of pensioners, 401K investors, and other savings were wiped out over night. It's not only the corporate greed that can wipe out those funds. The bottom line is NOT having enough checks and balances at the top of the food chain leaving only a few at the top wielding the power for the masses. On a final note, there are eerie similarities with the rolling blackouts in California that Enron created by diverting their power to drive up electric prices and what is going on with TXU in Texas as we speak. How many electric plants did they shut down this summer which drove the prices of monthly electricity past mortgage payments? How many times did the rates on the grids spike like this month where instead of paying $10/kwh, in the first week of this month we paid $2K/kwh for three fifteen minute intervals in one day on a beautiful calm day! They and the top gas companies made exhorbant amounts of money and don't seem to be bothered while the rest of the country suffered and the high number of home foreclosures I'm sure were affected by these high prices. Do I pay my mortgage or keep the lights on? How many people, I wonder, left Enron and are now in positions of power with TXU and other utility companies across the nation? The similarities are just TOO striking to be dismissed!

Verona, WI

First of all, what a great documentary, what an interesting and moving film! But, unfortunately, late at night. I think that you would get bigger audiences on earlier hours. One question: one of the bigshots from ENRON who cashed out earlier and was mentioned in the film as becoming Colorado's biggest landowner's, what became of him? Did he get jailtime? A loyal fan of independent lense.


What intrigues me the most is how much further does the responsibility go of creating Enron's fraud. The show touched on the California politics as well as the GWB influence.There are guidelines and ethics involved in securities that we know from Enron, Worldcom, etc. that have changed the rules. As far as the gamble with my retirement, it seems banks and securities traders can make up the rules as they go and find a way to walk scott free with no retribution. My life can be very affected based on how they play the game.

Is scandal or scam the right word, because the laws of nature dictate that there will always be the Medicine Man selling snake oil and buyers that buy it. This lesson was told to me by a theiving President of a Fortune 500 company in the 80's - Those who work for the government are those that work for companies like us and we make the rules. If you want to get ahead, then get creative with the rules.

I'll never forget that because as I discovered his fraud and was told to resign, this man was offered a higher position with a new subsiderary and walked with hundereds of thousands of falsely earned commissions and bonuses.

Phillip McKnight
Lafayette, CA

This production is awful for one reason alone. The tacky background music... If this is an indication of future productions, you're going miss out on the older audience who actually make up the lion's share of viewers.

Mary Ann Leader
Berlin, Wisconsin

Just watched your Enron broadcast... VERY GOOD. Now I have another investigative subject for you. The oil/gasoline corporations are copying the Enron California Energy Rip-off format to upgrade their prices at the gas pump. I think that there is scandal there also, copied after Enron's actions... that manipulated the market to upgrade the price of electricity and utility rates... and the oil corps are doing the same to gasoline energy with the result that they shut down production and make shortages and are able raise gas rates, with the effect that it has flooded their profits and gains. This business format seems to have become a way for mega business structures to make money and profit. Where has our ethics gone????? Look into that story too... PLEASE???!

Leonard Clapp

I am surprised that the concept of the enronization of the US has not occurred to more people. The systematic increase the debt structure of the US has capacity has been "out-sourced" and this keeps inflation ( the deterioration of the dollar) down, while replacing it with the economic gemuetlichheit of the service economy. The gigantic golden parachutes and handshakes are just like the sell-offs of Lay & Co. Is Iraq the California of the US, and is this why the insistence to remain there is so intransigent? A lot of people are going to lose their life savings when the value of the dollar becomes more realistic.


What intrigues me the most is how much further does the responsibility go of creating Enron's fraud. The show touched on the California politics as well as the GWB influence. There are guidelines and ethics involved in securities that we know from Enron, Worldcom, etc. that have changed the rules. As far as the gamble with my retirement, it seems banks and securities traders can make up the rules as they go and find a way to walk scott free with no retribution. My life can be very affected based on how they play the game.

Is scandal or scam the right word, because the laws of nature dictate that there will always be the Medicine Man selling snake oil and buyers that buy it.This lesson was told to me by a theiving President of a Fortune 500 company in the 80's - Those who work for the government are those that work for companies like us and we make the rules. If you want to get ahead, then get creative with the rules.

I'll never forget that because as I discovered his fraud and was told to resign, this man was offered a higher position with a new subsiderary and walked with hundereds of thousands of falsely earned commissions and bonuses.|

Baton Rouge LA

I am interested in this. It would be nice to see if it addresses Enron's backing and lobbying Al Gore's Kyoto efforts and Carbon Credit trading.

Tell a
Friend top

Home | The Film | How the Stock Market Works | Enron Timeline
Filmmaker Bio | Filmmaker Q&A | Learn More | Talkback | Site Credits

Get The DVD Talkback Learn More Filmmaker Q&A Filmmaker Bio Enron Timeline How the Stock Market Works The Film View a timeline of the Enron scandal ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room More >>