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Fifty Shades of Enron

I was up until four in the morning reading Company Man by Joseph Finder. It was incredibly tense and suspenseful – a tale of a good CEO with a massive secret to hide and the whole world crashing around his ears. It was basically the book I wish I’d written.

Maybe I view things a little bit too much through the Enron lens, but there were two parts of the book that made me think Finder had been studying Enron. Herewith are the examples:

“It freaks potential buyers out if a CEO gets fired right before a sale. Everyone’s antennae go up. Plus, a lot of the key relationships are yours. The smarter move was to hermetically seal you off. As they did.”

“I used to think Todd Muldaur was an idiot, but now I know better. He’s just a prick. Can you explain this side agreement to me?”

Her pruned mouth turned down in a scowl. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks like some kind of deal-sweetener. From what I can tell, it’s a way to speed up the deal, make it happen fast. But that’s just a guess. You might want to talk to someone who knows.”

“Like who? Scott’s the only one I know who understands the really devious stuff.”

“He’s good, but he’s not the only one,” Stephanie said.

Finder, Joseph (2006-03-07). Company Man (p. 409). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Secret side deal?! Enron, amiright?

“There’s a clever non-litigation clause here,” Hutch said, tapping the paper. “Once the deal goes through, no lawsuits are permitted over any representations and warranties made herein, ya de ya de ya.”

“Why in the world would the buyers agree to that?”

“I think the answer is manifest,” Hutch said, looking up again. “It’s in the side agreement. Guaranteeing a seven-figure payout to someone, no doubt a Chinese government official with the ability to speed through the acquisition.”

“A bribe.”

Finder, Joseph (2006-03-07). Company Man (p. 445). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Oh Secret Side Deals, is there nothing you can’t do? Granted, the so-called secret side deals at Enron didn’t guarantee payments to anyone. According to Andy Fastow, they just guaranteed LJM would hoover up Enron’s underwater assets while Enron wouldn’t lose any money, all the while providing a nifty payout for himself. It’s not quite the same thing as a bribe.

This Secret Side Deal meme was repeated in Broadband with the Braveheart deal too. Secret Side Deals are flexible! They can do anything!

This is the first time I’ve encountered Secret Side Deals (TM) in fiction that isn’t my own.

Cara Ellison

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