With the collapse of the Eastern bloc, Treverton and others have argued that the situation facing the intelligence community has turned upside down. Now most of the world is open, not closed. Intelligence officers aren’t dependent on scraps from spies. They are inundated with information. Solving puzzles remains critical: we still want to know precisely where Osama bin Laden is hiding, where North Korea’s nuclear-weapons facilities are situated. But mysteries increasingly take center stage. The stable and predictable divisions of East and West have been shattered. Now the task of the intelligence analyst is to help policymakers navigate the disorder. Several years ago, Admiral Bobby R. Inman was asked by a congressional commission what changes he thought would strengthen America’s intelligence system. Inman used to head the National Security Agency, the nation’s premier puzzle-solving authority, and was once the deputy director of the C.I.A. He was the embodiment of the Cold War intelligence structure. His answer: revive the State Department, the one part of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment that isn’t considered to be in the intelligence business at all. In a post-Cold War world of “openly available information,” Inman said, “what you need are observers with language ability, with understanding of the religions, cultures of the countries they’re observing.” Inman thought we needed fewer spies and more slightly batty geniuses.
Enron revealed that the financial community needs to make the same transition. “In order for an economy to have an adequate system of financial reporting, it is not enough that companies make disclosures of financial information,” the Yale law professor Jonathan Macey wrote in a landmark law-review article that encouraged many to rethink the Enron case. “In addition, it is vital that there be a set of financial intermediaries, who are at least as competent and sophisticated at receiving, processing, and interpreting financial information . . . as the companies are at delivering it.” Puzzles are “transmitter-dependent”; they turn on what we are told. Mysteries are “receiver dependent”; they turn on the skills of the listener, and Macey argues that, as Enron’s business practices grew more com-plicated, it was Wall Street’s responsibility to keep pace.
Victor Fleischer, who teaches at the University of Colorado Law School, points out that one of the critical clues about Enron’s condition lay in the fact that it paid no income tax in four of its last five years. Enron’s use of mark-to-market accounting and S.P.E.s was an accounting game that made the company look as though it were earning far more money than it was. But the I.R.S. doesn’t accept mark-to-market accounting; you pay tax on income when you actually receive that income. And, from the I.R.S.’s perspective, all of Enron’s fantastically complex maneuvering around its S.P.E.s was, as Fleischer puts it, “a non-event”: until the partnership actually sells the asset—and makes either a profit or a loss—an S.P.E. is just an accounting fiction. Enron wasn’t paying any taxes because, in the eyes of the I.R.S., Enron wasn’t making any money.
If you looked at Enron from the perspective of the tax code, that is, you would have seen a very different picture of the company than if you had looked through the more traditional lens of the accounting profession. But in order to do that you would have to be trained in the tax code and be familiar with its particular conventions and intricacies, and know what questions to ask. “The fact of the gap between [Enron’s] accounting income and taxable income was easily observed,” Fleischer notes, but not the source of the gap. “The tax code requires special training.”
Samkvæmt hans heimildum lágu allar upplýsingarnar fyrir - það eina sem vantaði var fólk til að lesa úr þeim. Og varla það, því þónokkrir höfðu einmitt gert það og birt niðurstöður sínar löngu áður en Enron lýsti yfir gjaldþroti.. en þá er einmitt spurning um upplýsingamagnið aftur. Hvað les maður og hvað ekki, og hvað leggur maður trú á og hvað ekki.
Gladwell les úr þessu muninn á þraut og ráðgátu (e. ,,puzzle" og ,,mystery", og ég er ekki alveg sjúr á þýðingunni en látum það liggja á milli hluta). Til að leysa þrautina þarftu að finna nýjar upplýsingar, og hver nýr hluti færir þig nær svarinu. En í ráðgátunni liggja þær allar fyrir, og vandinn er að leysa úr flækjunni. Hafi ætlunin verið að fela vísbendingar um glæpsamlegt athæfi í pappírsflóði annars tilgangslausra upplýsinga væri það nokkurnvegin það sama og að halda vísbendingunum leyndum. En samkvæmt Gladwell er ekkert sem bendir til þess að Enron-liðar hafi skapað heysátur upplýsinga til að fela nálirnar sínar. Viðskipti af þessu tagi séu afskaplega flókin og þeim fylgi óheyrilegt pappírsmagn. Maður hlýtur að ætla að svonalagað fyrirfinnist í öðrum fyrirtækjum af sömu stærðargráðu. Og hver er að fylgjast með þeim?
Sjá bara þessa vitleysu:
Enron’s S.P.E.s were, by any measure, evidence of extraordinary recklessness and incompetence. But you can’t blame Enron for covering up the existence of its side deals. It didn’t; it disclosed them. The argument against the company, then, is more accurately that it didn’t tell its investors enough about its S.P.E.s. But what is enough? Enron had some three thousand S.P.E.s, and the paperwork for each one probably ran in excess of a thousand pages. It scarcely would have helped investors if Enron had made all three million pages public. What about an edited version of each deal? Steven Schwarcz, a professor at Duke Law School, recently examined a random sample of twenty S.P.E. disclosure statements from various corporations—that is, summaries of the deals put together for interested parties—and found that on average they ran to forty single-spaced pages. So a summary of Enron’s S.P.E.s would have come to a hundred and twenty thousand single-spaced pages. What about a summary of all those summaries? That’s what the bankruptcy examiner in the Enron case put together, and it took up a thousand pages. Well, then, what about a summary of the summary of the summaries? That’s what the Powers Committee put together. The committee looked only at the “substance of the most significant transactions,” and its accounting still ran to two hundred numbingly complicated pages and, as Schwarcz points out, that was “with the benefit of hindsight and with the assistance of some of the finest legal talent in the nation.”
Samantekt á samantekt á samantektum yfir allar S.P.E. blokkirnar (hvað sem það myndi kallast á ástkæra ylhýra) telur um 200 síður. Bilun.
Annars dregur karlinn fleira skemmtilegt inní þetta; einsog leynivopn Nasista undir lok síðari heimsstyrjaldar, blöðruhálskrabbamein og Watergate-hneykslið. Tékk itt.