Bethany McLean weighs in on financial corruption and incompetence.
The Enron Story That Waited To Be Told ;
Bethany McLean, a 31-year-old Fortune magazine reporter with an impossibly soft voice, decided to take a hard look at Enron last January.
The Houston energy company didn't like her questions. The CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, called her unethical and hung up on her. The chairman, Kenneth Lay, called Fortune's managing editor to complain. The chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, flew to New York to tell McLean and her editors that Enron was in great shape.
McLean refused to be intimidated. "The company remains largely impenetrable to outsiders," she wrote in Fortune's March 5, 2001, issue. "How exactly does Enron make its money? Details are hard to come by because Enron keeps many of the specifics confidential. . . . Analysts don't seem to have a clue." All this amounted to a "red flag" that "may increase the chance of a nasty surprise."