Enron Roulette Lesson for All

By Scot Petersen  |  Posted 2002-01-28

This is what has become of the biggest corporate failure of all time: An eBay member named "laydoff" sold an Enron Code of Ethics book for $300 this month. An Enron Risk Management manual was selling for $1,025 as of press time. Personally, I had my eye on the sleeve of Enron-logo Titleist golf balls, but at more than $70, that was too rich for my blood.

Everything among the hundreds of other items seems to be worth more now to collectors than they were to Enron executives. You can bet that bidders spending money on the items are not former Enron rank and file, many of whom had their retirement savings wiped out by the scandal.

Of course, this humiliation on eBay is nothing compared with what federal regulators are prepared to do to Enron officials, board members and auditors from Arthur Andersen, should they find any wrongdoing in the collapse of the company, which is very likely. Andersen has already dismissed the lead auditor in charge of the Enron account for allegedly leading an initiative to destroy incriminating documents.

What does the Enron fallout have to do with us? Plenty, if we want to learn anything about the lessons of the dot-com hysteria of the late 1990s, when stock prices meant everything and accountability and responsible business practices were often an afterthought.

Enron wasnt even a true dot-com but did run an online exchange, and the energy company seemed to be playing by the rules of the New Economy and getting away with it. That cannot fully be pinned on those close to Enron, either, since stockholders, investment banks, Wall Street analysts and the media also missed it. Could that many people be wrong?

Someone I know who used to work at Arthur Andersen feels that only a few erred but that the whole company will pay for their mistakes. Indeed, Enrons board fired Andersen as its auditor on Jan. 18.

The move came too late but so did all rational thought when it came to the companys practices. When the economy picks up and a technology startup or some other highflying business comes onto the stage, we need to remember Enron and the old adage, "Dont do as I do, do as I say."

What will happen to the executives? Write to me at scot_petersen@ziffdavis.com.

Rocket Fuel