This is the story of two Wall Street Journal beat reporters -- one covering the energy industry just after the chaotic California electricity crisis; the other chasing stock swindlers. Together these journalists were ideally placed to uncover one of the great cons of the century. Here is a story about the fall of a great company, and the practice of journalism, marked by skill, luck, and determination.
24 Days is the gripping, untold chronicle of the investigative process -- often haphazard but imbued with insight and commitment -- that broke through Enron's stonewalling and exposed its inner workings, setting in motion a chain of events that shook the public's trust in big business, Wall Street, and the accounting profession.
In August 2001, Jeffrey Skilling unexpectedly resigned from his job as CEO of Enron after only six months in the top job. While Smith -- who had been covering the California energy crisis -- was away, the Wall Street Journal Los Angeles bureau chief drafted Emshwiller to interview Skilling. During a rambling conversation, Emshwiller stumbles onto an unlikely admission from the corporate prodigy, which partly confirms the journalists' suspicions that Skilling didn't quit for "personal reasons." This odd revelation raised ominous questions about Enron's much-bragged-about success.
The two reporters pick and pull at the mystery, and with the help of confidential sources, who understood Enron's inner workings, expose an audacious scheme: Andrew Fastow's off-balance-sheet partnerships that hid Enron's failings and inflated its value by billions of dollars. Refusing to be put off by Enron's arrogant dismissal of anyone who questioned the company's practices, Smith and Emshwiller relied on their instincts and common sense to shine a light into Enron's "black box" finances.
Climaxing in the brief period after Enron released disastrous earnings in October 2001, 24 Days gives a reporter's-eye view of the tug-of-war between journalists and a giant corporation. Each day, a new story uncovered another fact. Each day, the company issued denials. When the doubts and questions reached critical mass and momentum, the stock market cast its final vote of no confidence.
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Beat reporters Smith and Emshwiller's investigative reporting on Enron has earned them the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award and the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award as well as awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and the New York chapter of the Society of .About the Author:
Rebecca Smith is a national energy reporter in the Los Angeles bureau of the Wall Street Journal. In 2001 she won the Gerald Loeb Award for beat reporting for her energy coverage. In 1996, she shared a Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished financial and economics reporting.
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