September 2020 Update on Live Performances and Events at the NAC.

ENRON

Background

from Theatre Calgary's Audience Enrichment Guide by Dom Saliani and Shari Wattling

If there is one single event that began to reveal ENRON for what it really was, it would have to be the March 5, 2001 publication in Fortune Magazine of Bethany McLean’s article “Is ENRON overpriced?” (You can read the original article here.) This article was the first to question ENRON’s stock valuation and it raised serious concerns about why it was so difficult to get financial information about the company’s earnings and assets. Once the article appeared in print, it was only a matter of time before the whole house of cards came tumbling down – which it did nine months later in December, 2001.

With co-author and Fortune colleague, Peter Elkind, Bethany McLean wrote The Smartest Guys in the Room which told the full story of the ENRON scandal. In 2006, their book was developed into a feature documentary film which was nominated for an Academy Award.

 

The Major Players

Kenneth Lay (1942 – 2006)

 a convivial man in his 60s

Ken Lay, one of the most powerful businessmen in Texas, served as ENRON Chairman and CEO from 1986 until his resignation in 2002. He was friends with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Bush affectionately referred to him as “Kenny Boy.”

Between 1989 and 2001, he reportedly unloaded more than $300 million of his ENRON stock – all this while encouraging his employees to continue buying the stock which was rapidly decreasing in value.

Lay was charged with and found guilty on six counts of conspiracy and fraud. In another separate trial, he was also found guilty of four counts of fraud and false statements. It was expected that he would be given between 20 to 30 years in prison. Before he was sentenced, Lay died of a heart attack in a remote community in Colorado on July 5, 2006, at the age of 64.

 

Jeffrey Skilling (b. 1953)

a 40-something single accountant

Skilling began his career with ENRON in 1990 when Ken Lay offered him the position of chairman and chief executive officer of the ENRON Finance Corp. By 1997, he rose to the very top of ENRON by becoming its President and Chief Operating Officer, answering only to Ken Lay. His meteoric rise is attributed to his groundbreaking idea that ENRON did not actually have to produce energy, but rather they should focus on energy trading and finance. He also introduced “mark to market accounting” which enabled ENRON to immediately, upon signing any new contract, enter the expected profits into their books.  Through this method of accounting, it appeared to all that ENRON was making huge continuous profits and the value of ENRON stocks soared. By February, 2001, Skilling was earning $132 million a year.

Skilling resigned from ENRON in August of 2001 for “personal reasons” and within a month sold off $60 million of his ENRON shares. 

 Skilling was charged in February, 2004, with 35 counts of fraud, insider trading and various over crimes. Two months later, he was arrested for public intoxication after harassing passersby thinking they were undercover FBI agents. In 2006, he was found guilty of numerous charges and sentenced to 24 years and four months in prison and fined $45 million dollars. His case has since been the subject of court appeals and in 2013 federal prosecutors announced a deal that cut 10 years off his sentence and makes him eligible for release in 2017.

 

Andy Fastow (b. 1961)

Fastow was promoted in 1998 by Jeffrey Skilling to the position of Chief Financial Officer. It was Fastow who engineered the company’s practice of creating shadow companies to hide ENRON’s massive losses. This ensured that the books continued to show increased profits and made the ENRON stocks attractive to investors.

​In 2002, he was charged with 78 counts ranging from fraud to money laundering. Two years later, he made a deal whereby he would plead guilty to two charges of wire and securities fraud in exchange for his testimony against other ENRON executives. Because he was so cooperative, he received a six-year prison sentence and was released in December, 2011. He now works at a law firm in Houston as a document review clerk.

 

Other Players in the Story and the Play

Claudia Roe​ (fictional) – Executive in charge of ENRON’s International Division

a high-powered and short skirt wearing executive in her 40s

While this character is invented by Playwright Lucy Prebble, she represents an amalgamation of several women who played a key role in the ENRON story, most significantly Rebecca Mark, head of ENRON’s International Division from 1991 until her resignation in 2000.

 

Employees/ Traders

The Board

Raptors

Ramsay & Hewitt​ – Law Firm (fictional)

Arthur Andersen​ – Once one of the “Big Five” American accounting firms. Found guilty of criminal charges relating to ENRON’s financial auditing, including witness tampering and destruction of documents. As a result, the firm surrendered their licenses and right to practice.

Sheryl Sloman​ – Analyst, Citigroup - the third largest bank in the United States.

J.P. Morgan​ – The largest U.S. bank by assets and market capitalization.

Lehman Brothers​ – Global financial services firm. Before declaring bankruptcy in 2008, Lehman Brothers was the fourth largest investment bank in the USA.

Irene Gant​ – ENRON employee who lost everything

Skilling’s Daughter

Lawyer

Reporters

Senator

Congresswoman

 
 

Timeline – Historical Context

To better understand and appreciate ENRON the play, it helps to be aware of what occurred or, more precisely, what we know about the rise and collapse of the ENRON Corporation.

1985

Houston Natural Gas merges with InterNorth to form ENRON - the world’s largest gas pipe-line company. The new company has a workforce of 200 people and revenues of $2 billion.

1986

In recognition of his work in the merger of the two companies, Ken Lay becomes Chairman and CEO of ENRON. 

1989

Jeff Skilling joins ENRON.

1990

Andrew Fastow is hired by Skilling to serve as a manager of the ENRON Finance Corporation.

1994

ENRON’s efforts to lobby Congress succeed and the California electricity market is deregulated. 

1996

Skilling is named President and Chief Operating Officer of ENRON.

The company now employs over 2000 people and revenues are estimated at $7 billion.

1998

Andrew Fastow is named ENRON’s Chief Financial Officer.

ENRON suffers huge loses with their water business project and their expansion into Brazil.

1999

The ENRON board approves Fastow’s plan to create shadow companies (special purpose entities) that will buy ENRON’s debts, thereby creating the illusion that the company is still making huge profits. 

2000

There is an energy crisis in California. Electricity prices soar and ENRON enjoys enormous profits. The media and the public at large accuse ENRON of manipulating the system to profit from the shortages.

Dec.

2000

ENRON is now the 7th most valuable company in the U.S.

They employ 22 000 employees and share prices reach their highest level -  $84.87.

Mar. 5 2001

Fortune magazine publishes Bethany McLean’s article “Is Enron overpriced?

This investigative piece suggests that ENRON is a house of cards and ready to topple. Investor confidence in the company begins to wane.  Fortune had named ENRON as "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years - 1996 to 2001.

Aug. 14

2001

Jeffrey Skilling resigns from ENRON.

Ken Lay resumes his former position as CEO.

Oct. 2001

ENRON’s third-quarter financial report reveals a loss of $618 million.

Nov. 2001

ENRON’s revised five year financial statements reveal that instead of being profitable during that period, they had actually lost $586 million

Dec.

2001

ENRON files for bankruptcy protection.

2004 to

2006

ENRON executives are indicted for numerous charges.  Andrew Fastow gets a mere six year sentence in return for testimony against other executives. 

A total of 17 Enron executives plead guilty to charges against them.

Ken Lay is found guilty on the six charges. He dies of a heart attack before he is sentenced.

Jeffrey Skilling is fined $45 million and sentenced to 24 years and four months after he is found guilty for 19 of the 28 charges against him.  He is currently appealing the conviction. 

 

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