As the courts wrap up the Rigases, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernie Ebbers, and the rest of the sideshows, the mother of all financial-crimes trials
is getting ready to gear up the jurors
I just finished reading Bethany McLean's "The Smartest Guys in the Room"
Eichenwald's "Conspiracy of Fools"[url]. Both were good in their own ways and each complemented the other. They both start off relatively dry but as you get to know the characters it's very hard to put down the story before the train wreck screeches to its inevitable halt.
McLean wrote a lighter story that focuses on the personalities and has lots of pictures. It ends as Enron files for bankruptcy. If you're only going to read one book and you're going to do it at the beach, this is the one. It's a good thing I read it first because it helps to ease into Eichenwald's book.
Eichenwald's is exhaustively researched (one underpaid assistant had to chronologically sort over 10,000 pages into 200 binders and 20 file cabinets) and it focuses on who did what to whom and when. The best focus of Eichenwald's book is the motivations of the major players and the bankruptcy backbiting. His account of the elevator-sharing scene between Jeff Skilling (in handcuffs) and Ben Glisan (in prison coveralls) is priceless. Some characters in McLean's book (like Lou Pai) barely even make it into Eichenwald's. He goes to great lengths, though, to show how most of the main characters didn't even know the basic concepts and routines of corporate finance. He managed to dig up stories & documents that Mclean never mentions, and he includes exhaustive footnotes on how he verified his facts. This is a good book for getting a handle on who's going to trial for what reasons.
Eichenwald also disposes of conspiracy theories like Cliff Baxter's suicide, Enron's part in the California power-deregulation fiasco, Lay's meetings with Cheney, and the freeze of Enron's 401(k) program while changing providers.
Considering the successes of the strategies adopted by the CEO "peers" and his co-workers, it'll be interesting to see how Ken Lay chooses to portray himself!