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Investigative reporter and Brandeis lecturer Alison Bass will interview Sherron Watkins, Enron’s whistleblower.Legal perspective will be provided by Dana Gold, director of the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability.
Despite his belief that his business strategy could be applied to many different industries, Enron had trouble repeating its early success with derivatives.
However, through the combination of complicated derivatives deals (often with strange names like “Nighthawk” and “Osprey”) and “mark-to-market” accounting – a method that was typically used for banking - Enron was able to hide losses on many of these new businesses.
For gas pipeline companies such as Enron, this meant finding entirely new ways to operate.
Skilling helped solve this problem by drawing inspiration from the innovations taking place on Wall Street.
Offering a comparison to the art world, Skilling told interviewers for a business school case study that Enron’s “paint” and “brush stroke” were now being applied to a larger “canvas.” Indeed, that Enron had just introduced financial derivatives related to changes in the weather reveals just how big that “canvas” was that Skilling had in mind.
The influence of Wall Street could also be felt inside the company.
No longer seen as a business visionary, Enron’s CEO now seemed to be nothing more than a con man.
On Capitol Hill, an impulse towards reform followed Enron’s failure.
The details of the company’s 2001 collapse, involving a massive accounting fraud, were so outlandish that Skilling’s prison term seemed as if justice had been served.
After all, many Enron employees lost their retirements when the company went under.