Many books are still being written about Enron’s implosion but it would be difficult to find a better one than Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald, a reporter for The New York Times. Mr. Eichenwald takes an interesting approach, using a slightly fictionalized version of events and conversations, in telling the story behind America’s biggest corporate scandal. The narrative account of real events makes for gripping reading and even the dry parts involving mind-numbingly complex accounting manoeuvres are made interesting.
My only complaint about the book is the claim made in the cover:
Behind thick corporate walls, in the shadows of Wall Street, along the corridors of political power, a scandal is brewing…
The first two are true enough but there is no political scandal in the story that we know of. It is true that Ken Lay, the long-time Enron chief was close to the Bush family, but the book suggests that even Lay’s crimes are crimes of omission rather than that of commission. It is therefore odd that the author introduces George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul O’Neill, Colin Powell, Alan Greenspan and Bill Clinton in the story.
Among the names dropped in the blurb of the book is Rupert Murdoch, media mogul and chief of News Corp. (NYSE: NWS). It turns out the involvement of Mr. Murdoch in the sorry saga was a meeting with Ken Lay to discuss Enron’s broadband effort that takes about half a page in a 742 page book. Which begs the question: What is Mr. Murdoch doing in the book?
Despite the mild annoyances, I really enjoyed the book. If you read one book about the Enron debacle, this should be it.