Bad Bets

Bad Bets

Bad Bets is a new podcast series from The Wall Street Journal that unravels big-business dramas that have had a big impact on our world. This season, we’re delving into Enron, the ‘90s energy giant that later became synonymous with epic corporate fraud. Wall Street Journal reporters John Emshwiller and Rebecca Smith talk to key players who had a front row seat to the big egos and unchecked power within Enron, including a whistleblower who speaks on the record for the first time. Now, on the 20th anniversary of Enron’s collapse, this story is as relevant as ever.

Episodes

November 30, 2021 32 min
Enron was a giant, and its collapse was historic. The company's downfall disrupted energy markets, pushing other power companies into bankruptcy. It prompted hearings by nearly a dozen congressional committees, and it inspired major legislation-the Sarbanes-Oxley Act-to improve the conduct of corporations and their watchdogs. But were the changes enough to prevent a similar scandal? Could there be another Enron debacle looming?

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After years spent building its "lies and choices" case, the Department of Justice's Enron Task Force took Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to court. In this episode, the unprecedented trial that became something of a litmus test for all of corporate America. How much did Lay and Skilling know about the crimes that occurred at Enron, and when did they know it?

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November 16, 2021 38 min
Enron CEO Ken Lay was practically the company's founding father. But when federal authorities began investigating Enron after its collapse, prosecutors had a hard time connecting Lay to anything illegal - and Lay himself insisted that he was innocent. Until: prosecutor John Hueston joined the team, two years into the investigation. In this episode, how the Enron Task Force built its case against Lay.

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November 9, 2021 37 min
After Enron's collapse, a congressional probe and a Department of Justice task force began investigating not just company executives - but also the auditors and banks that had enabled the company's business practices. In this episode, the groups that facilitated Enron's rise. John Emshwiller hosts. The original reporting on which this season is based was done by him, Rebecca Smith and other reporters in the WSJ newsro...

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November 2, 2021 39 min
The biggest problem for Enron wasn't that former CEO Jeffrey Skilling suddenly quit, or that former CFO Andy Fastow was enriching himself. It was that Enron's success was dependent on an image that was partly a facade. After Wall Street Journal reporters pulled back the curtain, it all came tumbling down. In this episode, how Enron fell from Wall Street darling to bankruptcy in just a matter of weeks. Questions about th...

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Enron's stock price rose astronomically in the late '90s, buoyed by investor confidence in former CEO Jeffrey Skilling-and by earnings reports that seemed to show Enron's profits growing by leaps and bounds. But as we now know, those numbers were engineered by a man named Andy Fastow, Enron's chief financial officer at the time. In this episode, we take a look at Mr. Fastow and hear from the whistleblowers who expos...

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October 19, 2021 36 min
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was arguably the face of Enron's meteoric rise in the 1990s. He took a sleepy energy company and turned it into one of the most innovative corporations in the world. By the end, Enron had its fingers in all kinds of projects - including America's nascent broadband networks. In this episode, how Skilling's rise set the stage for Enron's fall. John Emshwiller is the host of this se...

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October 12, 2021 28 min
In 2001, energy company Enron was at the height of its power. Then, out of the blue, CEO Jeffrey Skilling resigned-just six months after he took the reins of a company he had helped turn into an innovation machine. Why? In this episode, we dive into the first cracks in the Enron facade. John Emshwiller is the host of this season of Bad Bets. The original reporting on which this season is based was done by him and Rebecca Smith. Ba...

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October 1, 2021 3 min

Introducing Bad Bets, a new podcast series from The Wall Street Journal that unravels big-business dramas that have had a big impact on our world. We begin with the Enron saga. In the 1990s, the U.S. energy company was a darling of Wall Street. But after the Journal uncovered monumental corporate fraud at Enron, the company quickly descended into bankruptcy, compromising tens of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Now, on th...

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