Ten years ago today, Enron filed for bankruptcy, rocking Houston to its energy-filled core. Enron was “a slow-motion cataclysm chronicled in thousands of articles, dozens of case studies, movies and even a play,” the Houston Chronicle‘s Tom Fowler, wrote at Fuel Fix, finding unheeded lessons among the ashes. “Exhibit No. 1 on the lessons unlearned: the 2008 financial collapse.”
Loren Steffy, the Houston Chronicle‘s business columnist, distilled the collapse this way: “Peeling back the fraud, the hubris and the wretched excess, stripping away the corruption of the lawyers, accountants and internal safeguards, Enron’s failure underscored the dangers of the short-term view that still pervades American business. Enron, fundamentally, was a company that lived for the moment.” The company pushed its employees to quickly close deals, focusing more on “the momentary hype that would prop up Enron’s veneer of growth” than any lasting value.
KUHF’s Andrew Schneider put together an impressive four-part series to mark the anniversary, speaking with many former Enron employees. Schneider revisits the creation of Enron after it merged with Houston Natural Gas and Omaha-based Inter-North, charts the problems the company had before Andy Fastow and Jeff Skilling even arrived, crescendoes with Enron’s “fiery demise,” and examines how the company’s downfall forever changed Houston. He also put together a story for NPR’s Morning Edition.
The AP’s Bernard Condon penned a 1,850-word retrospective on the company and the U.S. economy as a whole to mark the anniversary. “Stocks have barely moved in the decade of lost faith. On the Friday before the Enron bankruptcy, the S&P 500 closed at 1,139. Last Friday it closed 19 points above that. The incomes of many middle-class Americans haven’t kept up with inflation. Home prices are still falling,” he wrote. “Pretending we were wealthier has made us poorer.”
Had enough doom and gloom? Want to relive Enron’s glory days? Read BusinessWeek’s cover story from February 12, 2001. “We’re on the side of angels,” Jeffrey K. Skilling said at the time. “We’re taking on the entrenched monopolies. In every business we’ve been in, we’re the good guys.”
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary cozy up in front of the fire with all of your favorite fallen Enron executives and re-watch The Smartest Guys in the Room.