Stanley Bing

Enron whistleblower: Worshiping a false idol

Turns out that the Integrity Institute's Lynn Brewer, who's been lionized for years, may not be the heroine that she purports to be.

Stanley Bing

(Fortune Magazine) -- Authenticity junkies and fans of hypocrisy got a hilarious treat recently from USA Today, which reported on the apparently discordant persona of Lynn Brewer, the ostensible Enron whistleblower.

Those in the integrity business have long lionized Brewer, whose colleagues knew her as EddieLynn Morgan. Now the head of her own modestly named Integrity Institute, she's authored a couple of books that take a hard spin around the whole ethics track.

In these, and in speeches to corporate audiences assembled for ritual flogging, she assumes the role of reformed penitent, one who collaborated in deplorable deeds in years past but who has fallen from the horse of evil, blown the whistle of righteousness, and seen the SarbOx light. Most recently, the most august titans of morality in the world, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, announced they were featuring Brewer in an exhibit devoted to freedom of speech. A noble prize indeed!

Except wait. According to America's Newspaper, more than a score of her former fellow workers at Enron say that any similarity between the august Lynn Brewer and their old colleague EddieLynn Morgan is fleeting at best.

Lynn says she had a big role in the nasty doings at the nation's poster child for corporate malfeasance. EddieLynn was reportedly a minor middle manager in a boring if necessary bureaucratic cranny of the organization. Rather than whistleblower, her old pals see her as a horn tooter.

"It's almost comical," Brewer's last boss at Enron tells the newspaper, "how everyone let some opportunist come out and snow every single one of them."

Even if only a portion of this yeasty concoction is what it seems to be, it's really rich, isn't it? It raises a few issues, I think.

First, it shows how gullible people can be about someone who embodies the fictions they hold dear. If the finger-wagging policemen of our meta-corporate culture hadn't discovered a self-promoter of ethics to provide some meat for their table, they would have had to invent one. Maybe they did, in a sense.

Second, it shows that enterprising people willing to reinvent themselves can do very well in any enterprise.

Finally, it makes us think about what each of us could be doing better in that regard. To what degree is our integrity -- in the original meaning of the word, our sense of being a solid, fully integrated person -- an anchor that, while stabilizing our position in the water, also keeps us from swimming upstream, where the mating situation is a whole lot better?

Look, all of us who enter a work location every day pretend, to one degree or another, to be something that we are not. We act as if we are cheerful when we are down in the dumps. We make financial projections we do not believe. If we are in banking, we profess confidence even when we are soiling our shorts.

But what can we learn from the geniuses who ride forth under shifting and refabricated banners? You don't have to be one to gain insights that can help you fool people at an ever higher and more lucrative level. Here are my suggestions:

" Be quick. Brewer began preaching about ethics even before the genuine whistleblower, Sherron Williams, was named Time magazine's Person of the Year. The race is to the swift.

" Be bold. These people have a quality contained in a word that is massively difficult to translate. It's called chutzpah. Part arrogance. Part daring. Part stupid risk taking. They just get out there and do it.

" Be cool. Eventually fakers come under fire. It is then that their true brilliance is seen. They admit nothing. They keep their heads. They make their attackers look stupid. Study the way Ann Coulter responds to decent people outraged by her statements.

" Have no shame. They just don't. It's baggage, and you've got to travel light.

" Breathe your own fumes. I fully believe that Lynn Brewer thinks she is a champion of ethics, an early watchdog in the Enron affair, and a victim of the heartless S.O.B.s who have shamefully attacked her in the pages of that callow newspaper. Hey, maybe she is! Who knows, right? All her enemies have are two dozen people they interviewed. What's that against the word of a world-famous ethicist?

Have a nice day. You've just got to. If you're not, move on! Time's a wastin'!

Stanley Bing's latest book, Crazy Bosses (Collins), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com and on his website, stanleybing.com.  To top of page

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