Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider

Overview

"Brian Cruver first entered the "Death Star," Enron's office complex, in March 2001. He was twenty-nine years old, an eager MBA ready to cash in as a new hire with one of America's most highly valued companies. But, from his first day - when his new boss warned him, "there was a slight mix-up in the hiring process, but that it was "no big deal . . just think of it like you're adopted" - to his last, when he and his colleagues were given thirty minutes to leave the building, Cruver found himself enmeshed in a business cult that each day grew only
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Overview

"Brian Cruver first entered the "Death Star," Enron's office complex, in March 2001. He was twenty-nine years old, an eager MBA ready to cash in as a new hire with one of America's most highly valued companies. But, from his first day - when his new boss warned him, "there was a slight mix-up in the hiring process, but that it was "no big deal . . just think of it like you're adopted" - to his last, when he and his colleagues were given thirty minutes to leave the building, Cruver found himself enmeshed in a business cult that each day grew only more bizarre." Cruver lays out firsthand: the giddy group-think nurtured by Enron's leadership, whose incessant cheerleading for the company's stock price rendered many Enronians unable to believe they were routinely being spoon-fed lies; the "rank and yank" peer review process that fostered horse-trading among managers over which employees would be given poor evaluations; the traders who made dubious deals to ensure their own lucrative bonuses; and the sinister designs and funding of Enron's fraudulent off-the-books partnerships. As Cruver probes the sleazy escapades that Enron executives milked for personal gain, he introduces us, up close and personal, to such storied figures as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, along with other important Enron personalities like Rebecca Mark; Lou Pai; Thomas White, George W. Bush's Secretary of the Army; Joe Sutton; "Mr. Blue," a disillusioned Enron executive; and Cruver's trading floor neighbor, a machine he christened "Sherman the Shredder" - who was always working overtime.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In the tradition of Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis's blistering portrait of Wall Street in the money-mad '80s, Anatomy of Greed takes you on a roller-coaster ride through Enron's final eight prebankruptcy months, when the company's stock tumbled from $61.00 to $0.61.

Step into the tasseled loafers of narrator Brian Cruver, an ambitious M.B.A. who joined "the Crooked E" when it was still the epicenter of power in Texas, ranked seventh on the Fortune 500 and advertised as "the world's leading company." Cruver exposes Enron's ruthless system of promoting image instead of reality -- a system that led upper management to hide debt in shady deals, to hire employees rumored to have come from the "gentlemen's clubs" of Houston, and to vociferously deny that anything was wrong, right up to the bitter end. Cruver's details of the high-testosterone corporate culture, like the infamous "rank and yank" system of rewarding employees for innovation and aggression, make the company's weaknesses clear. You'll also get an Enronian's point of view of what happened during the last days of the empire, when the corporate officers were nowhere to be found but kegs were commonplace and all video monitors were tuned to CNBC. Best of all, Cruver makes Enron's financial dealings, and Wall Street's conduct, easy to understand for business-challenged readers.

More than just a juicy read, Anatomy of Greed serves as a primer for understanding the long-term consequences that Enron's actions will have on the American economy. Amina Sharma

Library Journal
Having received his MBA degree in 1999, Cruver was hired by Enron in late March 2001 to be part of a bankruptcy-trading group. Through Cruver, we see how a typical Enron employee viewed the company's dramatic collapse. He talks about the initial concerns when CEO Jeff Skilling resigned, worries of layoffs as new falsifications of financial statements came to light, and the idle days of going to work after most operations had ceased. Although expressing resentment at the millions made by top executives, he writes with a wry sense of humor. He tells how, even after he was fired, Enron accidentally kept paying him for months. He also recounts that when he was first hired, some employees jokingly referred to Enron as the "Crooked E," supposedly because of its slanted-E logo. The book's title is deceptive in that the author was an insider only in the sense that he worked for Enron. Except for one unidentified source, most of the book's information about Enron's fraudulent accounting practices came from public sources. Still, because Cruver's fast-paced book puts a human face on the many employees hurt by the Enron and similar scandals, it is recommended for most business collections.-Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rueful memoir by a young Enron acolyte who saw his dreams of wealth go down in flames—and here gets a little payback. Employees of Enron, for a time the nation’s seventh most valuable corporation, were driven by two forces: fear and greed. Within what they called the "Death Star," writes Cruver, fear came in the form of "rank and yank" performance reviews and the periodic purging of whole departments; greed was inspired by "colossal bonuses, millions in stock options," and the promise of influence in the comparatively small pond that was Houston. Fear and greed were also what brought Enron down: paralyzed at the thought of gainsaying the company line, sure that instant wealth lay just around the corner, Cruver and his colleagues chose to ignore warnings that Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and other Enron officers were playing fast and loose with the facts and the books. The collapse of the proposed Enron/Dynergy merger in November 2001 finally shook all but the most ardent company loyalists awake; While sometimes sophomoric and self-satisfied, Cruver’s narrative has several virtues, among them its explanation of how Enron’s culture reflected the personalities and ambitions of Lay, a consummate politician (Cruver guesses that Lay had been preparing for a run at high public office before the collapse), and Skilling, supremely arrogant and "known to himself and others as the smartest human being ever to walk the face of the earth." Cruver is also self-aware enough to know that his is but the first of a likely wave of books about Enron, and that other volumes will bring the depth of analysis that his does not—which does not diminish its value for business-oriented readers seeking tipson how not to run a company. Gossipy and superficial, but a worthy companion to such kindred works as The Late Show, Microserfs, and Barbarians at the Gate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590864494
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Cruver was a senior manager at Enron until the collapse, then was among 4500 workers laid off on December 3, 2001 - the day after Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. He lives in Houston with his wife.
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Read an Excerpt

ANATOMY of GREED

The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider


By Brian Cruver

Carroll & Graf Publishers

Copyright © 2002 Brian Cruver.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-7867-1093-4


Welcome to the Death Star

"Where wealth accumulates, men decay."

Oliver Goldsmith

Monday—March 26, 2001 ENE opening price: $61.00 ENE closing price: $61.48 ENE trading volume: 4,112,900

I wasn't dreaming.

On my first day as a new Enron employee, I could approach 1400 Smith Street as if I really belonged there. Just as you would expect from the epicenter of gas and power trading, the air and the streets were filled with high energy. The type of energy that made you walk faster. As I fell in line with the streams of Enronians heading into the main building, I suddenly realized I was marching double-time. This was it. The pace had been set, and it fit my stride perfectly.

I was built to work at Enron.

Like anyone from Houston and anyone who went to business school in Texas, I had always known that Enron was the ultimate launching pad for a business career. Highly respected, bitterly admired—if you were craving the fast track, you dreamed of working atEnron. Everyone knew it, and everybody talked about it: the people of Enron were simply "the best and the brightest" ... and now, I was finally one of them. On that first day, in a time that seems so long ago now, I remember trying to project the image of brilliance, sophistication, and self-control. But inside Enron's newest manager was a kid, and he was ready to scream, "This place is bad-ass!"

The excitement was mixed with a wave of relief. Finally, I would get instant respect from family, friends, business associates, and complete strangers. Finally I could just say "Enron" and not have to explain where I worked. Everyone would be impressed.

I had taken a couple of risks after B-school.

First I joined a small, babyish trading firm on the other side of downtown Houston. Even though the firm was owned by Shell, it simply couldn't compete (with Enron, that is) and quickly fell apart.

Then I wasted a year of my life creating www.startup-without-money. com. No explanation needed on that one.

With Enron, I finally felt like my days of high risk were over. It was time to get back on track and reap steady rewards from the dues I had paid—the time and money I put toward getting an M.B.A., the years of grinding away at Excel spreadsheets. Finally, I was ready to sprint down the path to my success. I had just hit the jackpot in the form of a safe, secure job at the seventh biggest company in America.

My fat head and I walked up the steps to Enron Center North—fifty stories of mirrored glass, in a shape not unlike a Speed Stick deodorant container. The mirrored glass was part of the plan—we could all glance to see how smart and successful we were as we entered our building.

The first thing I noticed when I entered Enron headquarters was the space-age environment. The lobby was surprisingly small, with simple curves and a dramatic absence of color. Only the red, green, and blue of Enron logos or the images on massive video screens distracted me from the clean, chromed shapes all around. And if it wasn't glass or chrome, it was a soft, gray marble—imported from some distant galaxy.

Security was tight, if not intense. The checkpoints created a pair of bottlenecks, each allowing one Enronian at a time to enter the main lobby. I had heard many times that Enron Corporate Security was ex-CIA, common for large corporations with such a heavy stake in intellectual capital. I wondered if the security guards already knew me. Perhaps they had studied my picture at their last briefing. Perhaps they knew what I had eaten for breakfast that morning.

As a new employee, I was told to go wait in a special area referred to as the New Employee Waiting Area. Wow. A company growing so fast and hiring so many people that they had designated a special area for new employees. About forty of them were already gathered there on that Monday morning.

As I strolled confidently past the checkpoints, I had a telepathic exchange with one of the security guards.

He sent me a message I interpreted as, "Go ahead, buddy. Just try it."

I quickly beamed my own thoughts back at him, "Oh, I have access.... I'm just not quite ready to use it."

I looked up and saw a banner the size of a mobile home: From The World's Leading Energy Company—To The World's Leading Company. The banner hadn't been there a week earlier during my interviews. The company was removing the word Energy from its mission, and the banner was declaring it to the world. Enron was now ready to take over everything.

For about two seconds, I wondered if they had changed it just for me.

As I reached the mass of new hires, I was almost clobbered by an enormous, three-dimensional "E" logo as it rotated with flashing lights. Very nice! A bit disco, but very nice.

I looked around at my new company, eating it all up as fast as I could chew and swallow. It was a constant flow of impressive people; casually dressed, moderately stressed. They all had very serious looks on their faces, but it was more of an "intellectual serious" than a "concerned serious." They were changing the world, creating new markets, and rising to the top—they had every right to be serious.

Next thing I knew—I had turned serious. I cleared my glazed look and tightened my upper lip.

"Cruver!" The voice was familiar.

I turned to see John Weston, an old friend from the M.B.A. program at the University of Texas. He was waiting in the same area as the other new initiates. Today was John's first day at Enron, too—our career paths had just collided.

Ordinarily, this would just be a funny coincidence, but it was more than that. You see, John had an undergraduate degree from Harvard, and he was the guy in our B-school that set the curve. Everyone thought of him as being ten times smarter than the second-smartest person they knew. Now he and I were exactly equal—in time and place—with our careers. Perhaps this meant that people would think of me as being ten times smarter than the second-smartest person they knew, unless they knew us both, in which case ...

A woman with a clipboard interrupted my analysis by announcing directions on how to get to the orientation room. We were all given our first access, albeit temporary, and we formed a line.

This was the moment. I smiled at my new friend the security guard and passed through to the other side: the Enron world.

I distinctly remember my first elevator ride as an Enron employee. I had two thoughts.

Thought one: "I think it would be beneficial to my career if I could stay at Enron for at least three years."

Thought two: "I made it."

Again, I felt the energy. This time, it was flowing through my veins. We reached the orientation room to find a massive table of pastry, fruit, and other breakfast treats. The theme that day was caffeine and sugar, and we were going to need every bit of it—we had eight hours of the Human Resources department ahead of us.

"Blah" describes the day perfectly. Aside from an almost amusing introduction by an Elvis impersonator, the orientation session was pure tedium. My eyes rolled back into my head as the HR department began sucking the life right out of me. I wanted to skip it. I wanted to go upstairs to the trading floor. I wanted to start working on deals.

Handout after handout, speaker after speaker, I was being sold on the Enron values. These "core values" were being drummed into my head: Respect, Integrity, Communication, Excellence.

"Sure," I thought. "Sounds good to me."

Then something really got my attention. We were handed the Enron 401(k) Plan Details. Page four talked about the company matching 50 percent of whatever I put in my 401(k)—wow! Free money! At the top of that same page was a decorative headline quote: "'Lack of money is the root of all evil'—George Bernard Shaw." Okay, now we're talkin'.

After a few hours of paperwork and staring at my watch, it was time for our lunch break. All the new employees went off to grab pizza and mingle with one another, but not me. My boss showed up—was he here to rescue me from this administrative nightmare and take me up to the trading floor? No such luck.

I soon discovered that Greg McLainey was a very likeable guy, even when he wanted to rip my face off. He had a very creative business mind and a background in engineering. Everything in his brain translated to a diagram on a wall-mounted drawing board. His hands told a story of someone who had worked extremely hard all his life—and there was no doubt he expected the same from me. He was a bit older than the average Enronian, with graying hair and a cautious smile. His personality was difficult to read, except for a constant message to the world that time was running out. Was it running out for him? Was it running out for him at Enron? I couldn't tell.

In any case, this guy was not about filler. No bullshit allowed. He would cut to the chase before you even knew he was standing over you.

He had come down during my orientation break to tell me some things before I went upstairs to join our group. McLainey disguised the meeting as "Hey, let's grab lunch," but I could sense it was more than that.

I had been hired by McLainey into one of Enron's newest start-up businesses. After some no-bullshit interviews with him and the head of the group, I was given an offer ... and it was a great offer. A fat salary, plenty of Enron stock options, and the promise of a year-end bonus had all been handed to me; I would have taken much less to work at Enron.

The group I was joining was just a couple of years old, and its focus was on buying and selling credit risk as a commodity. The big challenge for the group was selling derivatives to customers who needed protection against third-party bankruptcies.

The concepts, products, and markets for bankruptcy protection were relatively new to the corporate world. I had been hired to join McLainey and a few others on the development team, which meant we would be responsible for polishing those concepts, creating those products, and lubricating those markets. In other words, the long-term future of this fledgling business (and the hundred or so people that worked in it) was in our hands.

They had hired me because I had started businesses before, and because I had a strategic eye for designing products and creating alliances in the market. I was young, but so was everyone else at Enron. And I had an M.B.A. I was ripe for the job.

And I was overflowing with confidence when McLainey showed up for our surprise lunch meeting.

I thought there had to be something real juicy to tell me, and I knew he wanted to just lay it on me. Instead, he began the conversation with some courtesy small talk. Then the exchange went as follows:

McLAINEY: "There's something I need to tell you about. I'm telling you because I don't want you to be caught off guard."

ME: "All right."

McLAINEY: "There was a slight mix-up in the hiring process."

ME (frozen stare): "This is a joke, right?"

McLAINEY: "No."

ME: "Uhhh ..."

McLAINEY: "It's no big deal. We're going to keep you. I just wanted you to know because some people aren't real happy that you're here. I want you prepared because they'll probably say something to you."

ME: "Are you telling me you didn't want to hire me?"

McLAINEY: "No, I wanted to hire you. It's just that the group really hadn't agreed to hire you."

ME: "Interesting."

McLAINEY: "Just think of it like you're adopted."

At that moment I heard a "pop"—the sound of my bubble bursting. I was thinking that April Fool's Day was not for another week.

The subject quickly changed, but our conversation really didn't seem too enjoyable after that. I was stunned, to say the least. Fortunately I had more orientation that afternoon, which gave me a few hours to simmer down.

Was this guy for real? I just kept thinking it had to be a test. One of those classic "new kid" mind games to see how thick my skin was.

It just didn't make sense. How could Enron be named the "most innovative" company seven years in a row, and then hire someone by mistake? My skin was thick, but not that thick.

Was I on thin ice already? If there wasn't any room for me on the payroll, would they be looking for a way to clear me off?. Shit! My Enron career was four hours old and I was already losing my edge.

The afternoon was a blur; I could think about nothing but my conversation with McLainey. When the time came to head upstairs to my new desk and my new career at Enron, I had a whole new type of energy. It wasn't the "I made it" energy from before, but more of an "I'm pissed" energy. All I could do was bite my tongue and act professional.

One of the best business skills I have is the ability to hide my emotions and what I am really thinking. So when I finally met with the people in my group, I was able to smile and say "Hello," "Hi," and "Nice to meet you"—while in my head I was greeting them with "Bite me."

One of the people McLainey introduced me to that afternoon was Vic Lazarri. He was known as Vic "The Prick," a term I decided never to use. He was a deal man. More specifically, he tried to shove a variety of risk-management products down the customers' throats, whether they made financial sense or not. Lazarri was having a tough year—since his customers weren't convinced that bankruptcy risk was anything they needed to worry about.

He barely gave me a quick nod upon introduction, and then was back on the phones. Two phones, one in each hand, with six flat-screen monitors mounted in front of his face. The screens were filled with Bloomberg charts, news wires, and video feeds of other people like him from around the world. Lazarri was only about one millisecond behind every event that took place on planet Earth. Sometimes it even seemed like he got ahead of it.

Lazarri had the bushiest eyebrows I'd ever seen, and leathery skin like he went to the Caribbean four times a year. He was a bit on the midget side, barely taller than his stacked computer screens. You could actually watch him burn calories just standing there on the phones—as he constantly rearranged himself, and blinked his eyelids like a madman.

Vic was the market adviser to everyone on the trading floor, and ultimately to me as well, although oddly enough he avoided commenting on any specific stocks, with one exception: he was always following ENE (Enron's ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange). He seemed to know exactly where it was headed.

I relaxed at my new desk for about half a second when the phone rang.

"Cruver! Welcome to the Crooked E!" It was another friend from business school who was calling from fifteen floors above. Ron Middleton was working in the Enron group called Risk Assessment and Control, more commonly known as RAC.

The Crooked E? It was true: the Enron logo was the letter E tilted at forty-five degrees, though the tilt was not exactly what he was referring to. That was the first time I had heard the expression, and it made me laugh.

Soon my first e-mail arrived, from a friend at an Enron competitor across the street. He had learned the news of my Enron arrival, and figured out my new e-mail address:

Cruver! ...

So, another Jedi goes over to the dark side ...

—J

While the "Crooked E" nickname was new to me, I had heard the many StarWars references used to describe Enron. In my days at the Shell trading firm, we often discussed Enron using these metaphors, and of course they made perfect sense. For example:

Enron was the Dark Side or the Empire, the dominant force in the energy universe, taking control of everything in its path, relentlessly gobbling up other companies and assets. The Dark Side could manipulate anything—from politicians, to suppliers, to regulators, to entire commodity markets. Other companies were simply helpless against the sheer size and strength of Enron's wicked force.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from ANATOMY of GREED by Brian Cruver. Copyright © 2002 by Brian Cruver. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Interviews & Essays

The Enron Story: A Search for Heroes in a Maze of Victims

The subject of Enron has more facets than Linda Lay’s jewelry box. The fraud, the stock sales, the millionaires, the politicians -- it all adds up to a fantastic story, worthy of a handful of books and at least one movie. It’s just a matter of time before the story is turned into a video game, or perhaps a scratch-and-sniff book about Enron accounting.

But it’s also a story of mounting complexity; one that even a so-called genius like Jeff Skilling might be struggling to follow. So how do we simplify the facts and break things down into good guys vs. bad guys? How do we make the news entertaining?

First, we need a marketable hero.

At the top of that list is Sherron Watkins. A recent Fortune article about the “Wonder Women of Whistle-Blowing” called Watkins the “prominent hero” of the Enron collapse. Members of Congress also praised Watkins’s heroic deeds during her testimony. She wrote an extraordinary memo, and others describe how she “spoke out when no one else would.”

This is where most ex-Enron people like me get confused. Watkins “spoke out” -- or should I say “blew her whistle” -- inside the soundproof walls of Ken Lay’s 50th-floor office. Back in August 2001, when their meeting took place and ENE stock was in the $30s, Watkins gave Ken Lay -- and no one else -- her information. He said thank you and granted Watkins her requested transfer. Watkins went back to her business, which reportedly included selling her own ENE stock.

“She turned around, sat back down, and shut up…I don’t think what she did was right,” said Jeffrey Wigand, in an interview with Fast Company writer Chuck Salter. Wigand is the former tobacco executive who revealed the addictive and lethal truth about cigarettes, and was portrayed in the movie The Insider. When I read in Fortune that “the public learned the extent of the scandal in large part through the actions of a brave woman” -- the gag reflex was nearly uncontrollable. Not because Watkins wasn’t gutsy for approaching Ken, but because the intent of her “brave actions” (the memos) was never to tell employees, investors, or the public. Watkins’s memos were finally revealed via the post-collapse investigation, two months after we lost our jobs and the stock had fallen to 26 cents.

Well, that won’t do!

But every good story needs a hero, so let’s keep looking.

How about the heroic investigators? More specifically, how about some self-assured wiz at the Department of Justice, possibly wearing tights and a cape, tearing through the pile of shredded evidence and tossing all the Enron “wrongdoers” behind bars? Or how about a hotshot young lawyer, busting the overpaid defense team’s strategy in half. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

Uhh, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The truth is that Enron Episode I: The Phantom Earnings has no heroes, no audible whistle-blowers, and certainly no happy endings. New York City firefighters, soldiers on the front lines in Afghanistan, rescuers pulling men out of a trapped coal mine -- these are heroes.

But the Enron story? I don’t think so. And without heroes, our story will need to focus on the saga of the victims.

We’ve seen television talk shows focusing on the most obvious victims, who describe how they have lost everything. Congress has given us a similar exhibition. That’s it -- nice and simple. We’ve got a clearly identifiable and quantifiable set of Enron victims: investors who lost money.

So now we’re ready to make our movie. Lights, camera…

Cut! Not so fast.

In addition to those hoodwinked buyers of ENE stock, there is a perpetually expanding list of others who have suffered as a result of Enron’s difficult-to-punish acts. It’s becoming clearer by the minute that Enron is the biggest -- and most complex -- can of indictable worms ever opened by these investigative entities. The SEC, the DOJ, the courtrooms across America -- they might just have more than they can handle.

This list of victims includes employees of Enron who did nothing wrong, whose careers were dismantled in an abnormal heartbeat. That same story applies to Arthur Andersen, and countless other companies that had close ties to Enron as a supplier or customer. Let’s not forget charities and community centers that are reeling without Enron support. Next we have retirees who lost millions in deferred compensation, as an elite crew of Enron leaders enabled themselves to cash out early -- and that same story applies to the six- and seven-figure retention bonuses handed out in a capricious fashion just days before Enron’s bankruptcy filing. Did I mention California power buyers? Or how about U.S. taxpayers, awaiting the results of the tax fraud investigation? And as soon as the investigators get around to it, there’s the foreign corruption, the human rights violations, the pipeline explosion, the age discrimination, the…

Okay, the victim side of the story isn’t exactly clear-cut; and so far, no saleable heroes have appeared to help them. This story is infinitely complex, and continues to grow like a toxic mold along the Texas coast.

So maybe in addition to a two-hour movie, Enron needs a television series? And don’t forget the sequel a few years from now…Enron Episode II: Attack of the Loans. Brian Cruver

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