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The Great Enron Opera

Is it time to record corporate scandals in the lexicon of U.S. culture?

July 9, 2002

Is it time to record corporate scandals in the lexicon of U.S. culture?

For generations, musicals have been one of America’s favorite ways of dealing with its biggest problems — from race relations to social revolution. The lyrics of "The Great Enron Opera" have already been set to music — from Rogers and Hammerstein's beloved Oklahoma!

The choice of Oklahoma! is no accident — America used to be a land of farmers. Fields stretching to the horizon where "the corn is as high as an elephant's eye" captured the imagination of the older generations of Americans — explaining the lasting popularity of this musical.

But the new generation has its own heroes. The cowboys have migrated south, to the energy patch in Texas. Furthermore, one might notice that the straight-up, honest cowboy style of the "Oklahoma" years has been replaced by a murky business culture.

In the spirit of the old U.S. musicals, we offer this update of some of the songs from Oklahoma!. Our new musical is set in the 1990s — and the action takes place between Texas and Washington, D.C.

Broke: Title Song (to the tune of Oklahoma!)
Fastow solo: Oh, What a Beautiful Structure!
Andersen solo: Cain’t Say No
Cast of Characters

(Tune of Oklahoma!)

Brand new Pres! Brand new Pres!
Does what Kenny says!
No more fuel taxing. Rules are for relaxing.
And there are a dozen Clinton orders that need axing.
But of all the ways to help us earn a bit —
None compares with nominating Harvey Pitt!
Better take advantage of it right away —
When the son is President it's time to make hay!

We're hoping to get out before the pension fund.
Fastow's such a rock — he just pushed the stock —
Though he knew the firm was moribund.
But who's complaining? We've rung California dry!
What an easy mark, now the place is dark,
And its geeks are back to getting high.
We know we belong to the land —
and the land we belong to is Grand…
…That's Cayman so-o-o-o-o
— they'll never get our do-o-o-o-ough!
We're only saying, You were just fine, Enron Holdings,
Enron Holdings, K.O.!

(Tune of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'!)

There's a buzz on the Street about Enron.
There's a buzz on the Street about Enron.
The stock won't stay high unless analysts buy,
So I'll recognize losses when elephants fly…
Oh, what a beautiful structure!
Oh, what a beautiful trade!
I've got a beautiful feeling
— Raptor helped Fat Boy get paid.
There's no limit to fictitious trading.
There's no limit to fictitious trading.
When spreads get so tight that Jeff Skilling takes flight
I'll create a fuel shortage to make matters right…
They are closing in on my self-dealing.
They are closing in on my self-dealing.
But while they decode the books I will unload
My bad deals and then execute one for the road…

(Tune of I Cain't Say No)

It ain't so much a question of not knowing what they've done.
I know where they have hidden all their debt.
It ain't as though I couldn't show you ev'ry smokin' gun.
But when I'm their consultant — I ferget!
I'm proud to see their deals roll off the shelf
'Cause some of 'em were structured by — myself!
I'm an accountant who cain't say no, there ain't a thing I cain't fix.
I always say, come on, let's go, just when I oughtter say nix.

When a dealer adds in round-trip trades,
I know I oughtter give his sales a whack!
But when he pays me to make them up,
I somehow sorter wanna pay him back!
I'm jist a fool 'round lots of dough.
If the net income looks faint —
There ain't a pig I cain't paint —
so that it looks like a saint —
I cain't — say — no.
Whutcha gonna do when directors get nervous,
An' start to talk service, an' equity, too?
S'posin' that they say thatcha need more resources,
Auxillery forces, whutcha gonna do?
S'posin' then they say that their options could use a much shorter fuse, what then?
Whutcha gonna say when they ask you to play?
"Maybe" or "when"?

The big question is about the ending. Old-style musicals tended to end on a happy note.

For millions of Enron shareholders and thousands of former employees the ending is likely to be sad. But it will depend on Enron's erstwhile allies whether the real villains of the piece, the company's top management, will get to dance when the curtain falls.

Kenneth Lay: Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Enron Corporation. Mr. Lay resigned in January 2002 as his company imploded due to faulty accounting practices.

Andrew Fastow: Former Chief Financial Officer of Enron Corporation, who personally profited from some of Enron's most fraudulent accounting practices.

Jeffrey Skilling: Kenneth Lay's heir-apparent. Mr. Skilling resigned in August 2001, before accounting scandals at Enron became known to the general public.

Fat Boy: Code-name for Enron's involvement in the California energy crisis.

Raptor: Murky Enron partnerships that served as a cover-up for revenue loss.

Arthur Andersen: This corporation was responsible for auditing the failed energy company.

Enron Corporation: The Houston-based energy giant who played a huge role in deregulating the U.S. energy industry. The company had erased billions of dollars of debt from its books. It collapsed in scandal in January 2002.