Enron Endgame (Stifled Yawn Edition)


Is it just me or did the trial of Enron baddie Jeff Skilling go largely unobserved?

Skilling's fate is going to a jury now, reports MSNBC (and a slew of other places) to seemingly little more than yawns. Shockingly, his lawyers contend he is innocent of all charges and those who testified against him are liars and thieves.

Why don't we care more about the Enron endgame, especially when that company's collapse, perhaps more than anything else, created the context for the onerous and generally useless new accounting regime known as Sarbanes-Oxley? A few years back, Enron was seen as a symbol of pure evil, the embodiment of (depending on your POV) capitalism run amok or of government-abetted crony capitalism. Now it seems like even the left doesn't really give a shit about the disposition of the case.

Is it because it's too complicated? I caught last year's anti-Enron documentary, The Smartest Guys in the Room, and walked out thinking that the filmmakers understood Enron's actions even less than I did. Is it because Enron and Martha Stewart (two very, very different cases) and a few other popular villains function less as things-in-themselves and more as scapegoats for a market gone bad? That is, that the anger directed at Enron et al. was less about anything the company did and more about the popping of the tech bubble and the resulting loss?

For a good explainer to the key issues in the Enron meltdown–and a concise and utterly convincing refutation of the idea that Enron bilked its employees' 401(k) accounts–go here.

For the true story of California's electricity deregulation reregulation, in which Enron is often accused of playing an insidious role, read "Power Tripped: Faulty re-regulation turns out the lights in the Golden State."