Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Enron Ethics, Another Oxymoron?, Part II.

"Values are incredibly important to the fiber of this company [Enron]."

--Ken Lay quoted in The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron (2003), by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (p. 353).

In my post on February 14, 2005, I wrote about Enron's statement of values, known by the acronym, "R.I.C.E." Here's the full version:

"RESPECT: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don't belong here.

"INTEGRITY: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won't do it.

"COMMUNICATION: We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another...and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.

"EXCELLENCE: We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we can really be."

--Enron's 1998 Annual Report (reprinted in Smartest Guys in the Room, p. xix.)

The law has an expression: res ipsa loquitur, which means, "The thing speaks for itself".

I have done considerable reading on the Enron debacle, including the following books:
Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron, Robert Bryce (2002); Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider, Brian Cruver (2002); House of Cards: Confessions of an Enron Executive, Lynn Brewer with Matthew Scott Hansen (2002); What Went Wrong at Enron, Peter C. Fusaro and Ross M. Miller (2002); Power Failure, Mimi Swartz with Sherron Watkins (2003); and The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (2003).

For those interested in reading more on this smorgasbord of business ethics issues, each of these books provides a somewhat unique angle to the story. However, let me highlight, Smartest Guys and Power Failure, if you are only going to read two.