At over 700 pages, you won't exhaust this book in one afternoon, but I guarantee you'll have difficulty putting it down.
Unlike creators of the silly TV movie "The Crooked E" (I still can't believe they cast Mike Farrell as the late Ken Lay) or authors of the well-titled, but shallow account "Final Accounting" by Barbara Ley Toffler and Jennifer Reingold. (Yes Ms. Toffler it's true, partners at professional services firms must sell work!) - Mr. Eichenwald delivers substance and accuracy.
|Ken Lay, Wikipedia|
Eichenwald manages to avoid easy stereotypes of all the major players in his meticulously-researched tome. He writes with the verve of a mystery novelist, so you can't turn the pages fast enough, even though you know how the tale ends.
This detailed account confirmed some of my early impressions about the primary players involved in the drama. For example, if one read the news stories it was hard to come away with any sympathy for the defrocked and now incarcerated, ex-CFO Andy Fastow. After reading Mr. Eichenwald's book, that hasn't changed for me. In fact I don't think the word "venal" is too strong a word to describe this guy, or his in-house accounting accomplice, Michael Kopper.
But the fired Andersen partner turned government witness, Mr. David Duncan was (and I suspect still is) viewed in some quarters as an unwitting, sacrificial lamb offered up to the wolves by Andersen's leadership in order to quash the inquiry.
When reading Conspiracy of Fools, readers are reminded that Mr. Duncan repeatedly ignored and possibly distorted advice given from Andersen advisers rendering in-house guidance on push-it-to-the-line accounting matters. Still I have some pity for Mr. Duncan and his family. Like Icarus, he flew way too close to the sun and burned himself...big time. It happens.
I disagree with Mr. Eichenwald's conclusion that Andersen as an entire firm "deserved the death penalty." Andersen was a dynamic, monolithic institution with a rich history and I was proud to be a part of it - if even for a short two and a half years. Eichenwald might feel differently if he (like me and 29,000 other Andersen people in the U.S.) had been displaced by this debacle, because of the actions of a few Houstonians and a hyperactive Justice Department.
All that notwithstanding, I recommend that all interested parties read this fine book.