Power Failure

Version: Abridged
Author: Mimi Swartz , Sherron Watkins
Narrator: Henry Leyva
Genres: Business & Economics, Biography & Memoir, Finance, Business, Biography
Publisher: Random House (Audio)
Published In: March 2003
# of Units: 5 CDs
Length: 6 hours
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"They're still trying to hide the weenie," thought Sherron Watkins as she read a newspaper clipping about Enron two weeks before Christmas, 2001. . . It quoted [CFO] Jeff McMahon addressing the company's creditors and cautioning them against a rash judgment. "Don't assume that there is a smoking gun."
Sherron knew Enron well enough to know that the company was in extreme spin mode…

Power Failure is the electrifying behind-the-scenes story of the collapse of Enron, the high-flying gas and energy company touted as the poster child of the New Economy that, in its hubris, had aspired to be "The World's Leading Company," and had briefly been the seventh largest corporation in America.

Written by prizewinning journalist Mimi Swartz, and substantially based on the never-before-published revelations of former Enron vice-president Sherron Watkins, as well as hundreds of other interviews, Power Failure shows the human face beyond the greed, arrogance, and raw ambition that fueled the company's meteoric rise in the late 1990s. At the dawn of the new century, Ken Lay's and Jeff Skilling's faces graced the covers of business magazines, and Enron's money oiled the political machinery behind George W. Bush's election campaign. But as Wall Street analysts sang Enron's praises, and its stock spiraled dizzyingly into the stratosphere, the company's leaders were madly scrambling to manufacture illusory profits, hide its ballooning debt, and bully Wall Street into buying its fictional accounting and off-balance-sheet investment vehicles. The story of Enron's fall is a morality tale writ large, performed on a stage with an unforgettable array of props and side plots, from parking lots overflowing with Boxsters and BMWs to hot-house office affairs and executive tantrums.

Among the cast of characters Mimi Swartz and Sherron Watkins observe with shrewd Texas eyes and an insider's perspective are: CEO Ken Lay, Enron's "outside face," who was more interested in playing diplomat and paving the road to a political career than in managing Enron's high-testosterone, anything-goes culture; Jeff Skilling, the mastermind behind Enron's mercenary trading culture, who transformed himself from a nerdy executive into the personification of millennial cool; Rebecca Mark, the savvy and seductive head of Enron's international division, who was Skilling's sole rival to take over the company; and Andy Fastow, whose childish pranks early in his career gave way to something far more destructive. Desperate to be a player in Enron's deal-making, trader-oriented culture, Fastow transformed Enron's finance department into a "profit center," creating a honeycomb of financial entities to bolster Enron's "profits," while diverting tens of millions of dollars into his own pockets

An unprecedented chronicle of Enron's shocking collapse, Power Failure should take its place alongside the classics of previous decades – Barbarians at the Gate and Liar's Poker – as one of the cautionary tales of our times.

Reviews (3)

Power Failure

Written by Tom Watrous on December 15th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This is the second book I've had on Enron; but was told from a different prospective. This one is also fascinating. It is just hard to beleive they operated this company with such deceit for so long.

Power Failure - The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron

Written by Jess Robinson on November 13th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Another business tale of the siren song of greed. Fascinating collection of characters. I recommend this book for a number of reasons: 1) I love a good business tale - this was as intriguing as they come; 2) This is yet another reminder that, in the end, we always receive what we put out into the world; 3) The Enron debacle is a significant (albeit lamentable) piece of American business history.

Power Failure

Written by Anonymous from Scarsdale, NY on July 3rd, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Even with an MBA and 30 years in business I couldn't believe how Accountants can deceive stockholders legally and ultimately go over the legal line to bankrupt a company. A real eye opener to us non-accounting types and possibly a guideline to get out of a company that uses similar techniques. Very well written and delivered!

Author Details

Author Details

Swartz, Mimi

MIMI SWARTZ is an executive editor at "Texas Monthly" and won a National Magazine Award in the public interest category in 1996. She has been a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and "Talk," and has written for the" New York Times," "Vanity Fair," and "Esquire," She lives in Houston with her husband and son.
SHERRON WATKINS is a former Arthur Andersen accountant who joined Enron in 1993, working for the man who later became CFO, Andy Fastow. She worked in Enron's finance group, its International company, and its Broadband division, before returning to work for Fastow as a vice president in

Watkins, Sherron

Sherron Watkins joined Enron in 1996, initially working for CFO Andrew Fastow. She moved to the merger and acquisitions division of Enron International, and then returned to work for Fastow as a vice president in corporate development. Prior to her employment at Enron, she spent eight years at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. She lives in Houston, Texas.