Monday, August 19, 2002

Enron employee's book becomes TV movie

The Associated Press

        HOUSTON — Enron Corp.'s hypnotic lure of fabulous riches and bold ideas seduced Brian Cruver the second he saw his reflection in the mirrored glass of its Houston headquarters. But only nine months after the 30-year-old trader eagerly joined its fast-paced, often cutthroat culture, he was among thousands abruptly fired when the energy behemoth went bankrupt last December.

        Cruver didn't get mad. He got busy.

        He wrote a 348-page book, “Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider,” that traces his journey from awe at joining Enron's elite to the realization that his launch pad to success ignored the very risk strategies it preached.

        The book doesn't address the web of complicated accounting mechanisms credited with fueling Enron's downfall, nor does it offer views from top executives, including former chairman Kenneth Lay and former chief executive Jeff Skilling.

        “I wasn't trying to write the legal case and how that's going to play out,” Cruver said. “I was writing about my time there this year, from when nothing was wrong in my mind to when I finally got locked out of the computer system.”

        That view attracted CBS to turn Cruver's book, showing up in bookstores nationwide this month, into a television movie, “The Crooked E,” now preparing to film in Canada. The movie title refers to the company's tilted “E” logo that has come to represent corporate malfeasance.

        “He captured the very human face of Enron, from the excesses of Enron culture to the tragedy of the people who lost everything because of the Enron collapse,” said Alys Shanti, executive producer of the film. “Brian is an everyman. He's not a view from the top floor. He's a view from the bottom floor.”

        Enron declined comment on the book.

        Details of Cruver's short life on Enron's trading floor in the book include a massive shredder near his desk dubbed Sherman to the dazzling array of Porches, BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes driven by multimillionaire executives on the first floor of the company's parking garage.

        It also features colleagues disguised by pseudonyms, a college buddy turned Wall Street analyst who questions Enron's financial viability and “Mr. Blue,” an executive who drinks Blue Label whiskey at $50 per shot who claims to have succumbed to Enron's “no bad news” mantra.

        “They're all real people,” Cruver said, who agreed to help him reconstruct conversations and incidents with the promise that they wouldn't be identified.

        Actor Brian Dennehy will play Mr. Blue and Mike Farrell of “M*A*S*H' and “Providence” will portray Lay, Shanti said. Other cast members include Christian Kane of television's “Angel” and “Dawson's Creek” as Cruver; and native Houstonian Shannon Elizabeth of the “American Pie” films as Cruver's wife, Courtney.

        Shanti declined to say when the movie would be broadcast.

        Fresh with an MBA from the University of Texas, Cruver started his business career at a dot-com and then a small Houston energy trading firm before joining Enron in March 2001.

        When he got there, he thought he had arrived. He got married and bought a home in a gated neighborhood in northwest Houston that featured lakes, swans and $230,000 homes.

        He joined a new business, trading bankruptcy risk protection, one of the Enron's many touted innovations that took it beyond its beginnings as a staid natural gas pipeline company.

        He bought stock as it continued its slide from its August 2000 high of $90, believing Lay's assurances that it would rebound. When bankruptcy was imminent, he ordered a Dell computer through a program that provided the machines to employees at company cost the day before the perk was suspended. He wrote the book on it.

        “Here we are, we're the experts,” Cruver said. “We're preaching to the world, we're trying to sell customers on the idea of managing their portfolio of risk. And what are we doing in-house? Disaster.”

        Cruver said he plans to keep writing rather than return to the corporate world — at least for a while.

        Cruver's book isn't the first account of Enron's implosion to hit bookstores. “What Went Wrong at Enron,” by energy consultant Peter Fusaro and risk adviser Ross Miller, was the first out of the gate last month.

        And Sherron Watkins, the Enron executive who tried to alert Lay to Enron's accounting collision course, is working on a book tentatively titled “Power Failure.” Her seven-page memo outlining Enron's accounting problems stayed within the company until it was released by Congress in January.

        Steve Salbu, a business ethics professor at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Austin, who wrote the forward in Cruver's book, said Enron's fall — and the literary wave it has spawned — may seem unusual. But corporate debacles on Enron's scale were common until the Securities and Exchange Commission was created after the stock market crash of 1929.

        “Enron seems unique to us today only because it is unmatched in recent history,” he said.


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