Corruption is defined as dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (Merriam Webster). There is perhaps no company in our nation’s history that further exemplifies this word than Enron. Enron’s history of fraud, laundering, and deception is now known world-wide, and stands as the lead example for future companies practicing unethical behaviors. Enron’s corrupted culture, cultivated by CEO Jeffrey Skilling, made some very rich while ultimately leaving thousands in ruin.
The business culture at Enron was about what you would expect from any large, successful, corporation. It was highly a competitive, cut-throat culture that created an environment where workers would do almost anything in order to thrive. Charles Wickman, a former Enron employee, was quoted as saying, “If I’m on the way to my boss’s office, talking about my compensation, and I step on somebody’s throat on the way and that doubles it, well I’ll stomp on the guy’s throat” (The Smartest Guys in The Room). The traders at Enron became the engine that produced most of the company’s profits. “Traders weren’t fired or even disciplined. Instead Enron sent a telex to Borget, please keep making us millions” (The Smartest Guys in The Room). The culture at Enron had become so free reign and focused on astronomical profits, that it absolutely was a contributing factor to the ethics digressions. Ethics became a complete after thought for the company. Skilling and the executives at Enron were making obscene amounts of money each and every day and at that point pure gluttony took over.
The company’s vision became narrowly focused on one thing and one thing only, keeping the absurd profits rolling in, no matter what has to be done in order to do so. Jeffrey Skilling said in his testimony before Congress, “Everything he did was in the interests of Enron’s stockholders.” To me, this statement could not be farther from the truth. While it is true that Enron’s stock was skyrocketing at the time and stockholders were very happy, I don’t believe Skilling cared about anybody’s interests besides his own. Skilling was acting solely in the interest of himself and possibly a select few underneath him. But until the company’s demise, it was all well and good. Skilling was making absurd amounts of money, stockholders were making money, and his workers were happy. It made it very easy for Skilling to make the point after the fact that he was looking out for his stockholders the entire time.
However, I believe Skilling’s sole intention was to get rich quick. He and his team raised Enron’s stock price, cashed out their profits, and left the other stockholder’s to lose their entire livelihoods. There are many people’s interests that Skilling, as a CEO, should have been looking out for. Skilling should have been looking out for the thousands of employees he left in his wake, the citizens of California who were forced to live without power, and also the business goal of the nation trying to obtain nationwide deregulation. Skilling didn’t take any one of these things into consideration, and probably didn’t even give them the slightest thought. Jeffrey Skilling wanted to make Enron into a goliath company that would be talked about for generations. Well congratulations Jeffrey, your company and the principles it abided by will now go down in infamy.