The Enron Puzzle (or Mystery)

Malcolm Gladwell has a very interesting article in the current issue of The New Yorker (The link is here, because it may disappear, if I am correct about The New Yorker’s web policy.)  I am not very sympathetic about the whole Enron story, or Jeff Skilling’s plight, but Gladwell, in his usual provocative style, raises some very interesting points.

Then, on his blog, he poses this very brave challenge:

Can anyone explain—in plain language—what it is Jeff Skilling and Co. did wrong?

I’m not asking for an explanation for what they did wrong as
businessmen. That’s plain. They did a mountain of stupid and arrogant
things. Nor is this about what Skilling and company did that was
unethical or in bad faith. There’s a mountain of evidence on that too.
The question is strictly a legal one: according to the way the
accounting rules were written at the time, what specific transgressions
were Skilling guilty of that merited twenty-four years in prison? For
the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that summaries must be three
sentences or less.

As I would expect, a lot of people have jumped at this challenge, to provide very well-stated explanations to the questions Gladwell poses.  In fact, the comments below the post are a case study on why blogs are a phenomenal knowledge management tool.

UPDATE: Gladwell follows on with a new thought on the issue.

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