By Vicky Davis
Last April, Robert Bradley, a former Enron employee presented to the Houston Forum his analysis of the culture at Enron that led to the criminal behavior and the eventual Enron bankruptcy. The title of the presentation was Enron: An Insider’s View. And nobody was closer to the inside than Bradley because Bradley was Ken Lay’s speechwriter.
It was a fascinating peek into the mindset that was driving the company’s ambitions. It can be summed up in two words: Gold Fever. Gold Fever is the all-consuming madness that grabs hold of greedy men and drives them. All rational thought is abandoned. They have tunnel vision with the pot of gold at the end of the tunnel. Getting that gold becomes the single most important thing in life. No cost is too great. No sacrifice is too small. It’s all out - no holds barred - run for the gold.
Quotes from Bradley’s presentation that lead me to that conclusion are as follows:
It’s important to understand the mindset of the Enron crew because that mindset didn’t stop at the doors of Enron, it extends into the highest reaches of government - all the way up to the White House. It infected everybody associated with Enron - or more accurately, the Reagan Administration.
It may be an oversimplification (although I don’t really think so), but I think the Reagan Revolution can be summed up by applying the philosophy, “the world is a market, government is an impediment and must be crippled or preferably Grover Norquist’s solution: “reduce the federal government to a size so small "that it could be drowned in a bathtub”.
With the ‘world is a market’ as the premise coupled with the concept for a universal trading system for all commodities as described by Robert Bradley, it begins to build the picture of the pot of gold that Enron and the connected saw:
In other words, they were attempting to build the Mother of all Procurement Systems. The concept was a global internet-based purchasing system that would provide all commodities - with commodity being defined as entity which means EVERYTHING and anything a person or corporation might want to buy. That would include oil, gas, water, people (labor), products, timber, animals, movie tickets - absolutely everything)- anything a person or corporation would want to order.
It might be easier to think of it as one store in the world accessible only through the Internet. Whatever you want, you order through their system and it is delivered to your door. Their initial focus was on electric services, gas and oil, but they had the fever and thought they could corner the world market in procurement.
At this point, you need to think through the ramifications of a global system like this - if they had been successful. What would be the impact? All middlemen would be cut out - put out of business. The only businesses that would remain in business would be the owners of the source material or product - and the transportation systems that would deliver the material or product to the customer. And therein lies the explanation for the ‘gold rush fever’ to buy up the world’s natural resources and the heretofore inexplicable focus on major transportation systems.