. . . Friday May 26, 2006

The Skilling Fields

During the myriad of salivating television coverage of the Enron case, CNN spoke to one former employee to get his reaction to the guilty verdicts.

His story was ridiculous. But it sounded pretty familiar to anyone living in or around the front row of the web boom part one.

He got a job at Enron right out of college. He was, in his words, “fortunate enough” to be able to join the company’s broadband group.

When the Skilling hit the fan, this employee lost it all. He had supposed, just before the collapse, that he had enough dough in equity to retire on.

He was 25 at the time. His career had totaled 3 years. He worked for a division of a shady company that never really got off the ground at all.

Am I suggesting this is the typical Enron employee story? No. But I am suggesting that this guy represents a level of absurdity that stretched far beyond the borders of a Houston boardroom. Come on folks, this employee couldn’t have even imagined retiring after three years of working at in a division with no customers unless something at Enron, and in the system in general, was horribly wrong.

Anyone from the Valley able to name that tune?

Kurt Eichenwald, who has been a top reporter on this case from the beginning, sums it up nicely:

The Enron case will forever stand as the ultimate reflection of an era of near madness in finance, a time in the late 1990′s when self-certitude and spin became a substitute for financial analysis and coherent business models. Controls broke down and management deteriorated as arrogance overrode careful judgment, allowing senior executives to blithely push aside their critics.

These guys may have been the ultimate moonshine runners. But a whole lot of us took a swig on occasion.

Concentration is important!