Business Meetings Dialogues

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METATHEATRE DEFINED – is the amalgam of all the simultaneous theatre that is
going on; it is all the confusing dialog-scripting by many simultaneous characters; the
metascripts are performed on many simultaneous stages, back stages, and this invisibility
theatre (Boal‟s term), I call a metatheatre. Metatheatre is when participation is pretend,
ethics is a sleight-of-hand, and what appears dialogic is really 1st voice trying to lie to
everyone, and convince you that there is “real” participation, instead of deciit.

Enron is Metatheatre in 3 ways.
Sources for these Enron excerpts (Boje & Rosile, 2003, 2004; Boje, Rosile, Durant &
Luhman, 2004; Boje, Smith & Gardner, 2005; Smith, Gardner, & Boje, 2005).
First, Enron is Metatheatre in how it sets out to deceive using façade and illusion. For
example, each year (between 1998 and 2001), an elaborate theatre stage was constructed
on Enron‟s 6th floor to simulate a real trading floor; it‟s expensive theatre, $500 to set up
each desk, and more for phones in this stage-crafted spectacle, and more for the 36-inch
flat panel screens, and teleconference conference rooms; the entire set was wired by
computer technicians who feed fake statistics to the screens. People at Enron did dialog,
but not a very ethical kind.
On the big day several hundred employees, including secretaries, played their rehearsed
character roles, pretending to be „Energy Services‟ traders, doing mega deals, while
Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay played their starring role in the Enron Dramatis
Personae to a target audience of invited Wall Street analysts, who can not tell real from

       According to former Enron employees, on the sixth floor of the company's
       downtown headquarters was a set, designed to trick analysts into believing
       business was booming… former employee Carol Elkin said that it was all
       an act, and that no trades were actually made there. The people on the
       phones were talking to each other.ii[ii]

Second, Enron is Metatheatre as a way to control and motivate employees using the
technology of theatre; several times a year, Enron hired choreographers and dramatists
(Banerjee, 2002)iii[iii] to coach executives in character roles in elaborate corporate
extravaganzas; executives and staff would dress in Star Wars or other costumes;
executives would enter the ballroom riding Harleys or elephants to the thundering
applause of employees and spouses.iv[iv] This is a kind of spectacle use of theatrics.

Finally, Enron is Metatheatre in a much more important sense of Shakespeare‟s “Life is
theatre” a part of our daily lives in work and consumption (Boje, Rosile & Malbogat,
2002). For example Rebecca Mark‟s globetrotting visits on the Enron jet, became a road
show complete with an entourage of WB, WFO, IMF, CIA agents mixed along with
Mark‟s hair dresser, make up artist, and a flock of assistants. When Mark landed, the
force of the Whitehouse landed with her. This is more of the spectacle.

Another good example of metascripting combined with Metatheatre is the early
morning preparations of Tuesday October 23 2001. It is an example of people
gathered around to write the dialog, to put on the role performance so as to spin a
story, one aimed to deceive.

Lay is huddled with a small group of advisors in a conference room adjoining his
50th-floor office suite. They are rehearsing “a carefully worded script” prepared
by Enron‟s publicists and several executives (Witt & Behr, 2002: A01). Lay is to
preside over a live webcast chat with security analysts in an effort to quench the
media firestorm about Fastow‟s role in LJM partnerships. The script “suggested
that no one at Enron was responsible for the LJM partnerships. Failure it would
seem, was an orphan” (Witt & Behr, 2002: A01, bold is mine).

       With minutes to spare before the conference, Ronald T. Astin, a lawyer
       with Enron's outside law firm, Vinson & Elkins LLP, was asked to help
       fix the script. He rewrote it to say that it was Fastow who presented the
       LJM proposal to the board.

       Fastow read Astin's changes and exploded, Astin later told investigators.
       Fastow yelled that Astin was wrong about who was responsible for LJM.
       "It was Skilling!" he shouted.

       At 8:30 a.m. Houston time, financial analysts from Boston to San
       Francisco joined the conference by phone and Internet.

       "There has been a lot of recent attention to transactions Enron previously
       entered into with LJM, a private equity partnership,"

       Lay said, addressing LJM and Fastow head on. "Let me reiterate a couple
       of things. We clearly heard investor concerns earlier this year, and Andy
       Fastow, Enron's chief financial officer, ceased all affiliations with LJM."

       Lay added that Fastow was doing "an outstanding job."

       "We're very concerned the way Andy's character has been kind of loosely
       thrown about over the last few days in certain articles," Lay said. Fastow's
       role at LJM had been monitored rigorously so that Enron's interests would
       never be compromised, he said.

                     DIALOGS AT ENRON


Enron is an excellent opportunity to study processes of antenarrative-dialog production,
distribution and consumption that emerge in corporate as well as congressional theatre.

Antenarrative defined - a bet, a pre-story can transform the world. There are
antenarratives that trouble Enron, and ones Enron construct in dialog, in order to
persuade, or to deceive.

It is through dialogs, including bunkum speech-making and antenarrating that Enron's
dramatis personae was produced and distributed for mass consumption. Dialog is one of
the seven critical Septet elements of corporate theatre. Corporate theatre is defined here
as a performance system of antenarrative production, distribution, and consumption,
suspended in intertextual dialogue with selective events (and texts) antenarratively related
to other times and places. There are different genres of dialogs, such as legal, political,
accounting, and corporate accounting/narrating. It was through seductive and rose-tinted
dialogs that Enron rode the New Economy wave, becoming its superstar, and it is through
corporate gibberish and fanciful rhetoric that Enron was able to float a facade before so
many stakeholders who gladly thought they saw reality in Enron's corporate theatre. It is

through dialogs that Enron trans-morphed its hideous facade and sustained a masquerade
of conspicuous consumption and opulence, while few noticed the cracks in the facade
that let reality shine through a hideous masquerade. Enron is a kind of dialogic
schizophrenia, a way to present seductive predictions in the face of high risk, if not
outright fraudulent corporate practices.

Dialog is constituent to all socialization. Recruits are Enronized (socialized) in into the
dialogs that constitute Enron's corporate culture (values & norms) and idea systems
(ideological frames). They learn to dialog with their Enronite voice; it is a voice that has
been Enronized into Enron dialog practices. Enron's E-terms are what Burke (1966: 50)
calls "terministic screens" that filter and blinker through interpretive vocabularies that
focus our attention on one screen instead of another. And it is through the terministic
screens that Enron accomplishes its alleged fraud in theatrical masquerade and facade.


In terms of Critical Dialogs Analysis (CDA), Enron Dialogs about capitalism chain
together events in talk and texts, into chains of dialogs that are proximate and remote
from climatic or catastrophic events (e.g. the first raptors or LJM partnerships, the
collapse of Enron into bankruptcy, the August 2002 arrest of one Enron executive, the
promised reforms to Capitalism, the inevitability of Enrongate for President Bush).
Enron's raptors (LJM, Chewco, Southampton) realize in the genre of executive meetings,
scripts are edited by PR-types and lawyers, then translated into press releases, annual
reports, as well as into the Metatheatre of Enron, such as the simulated trading on the
sixth floor masquerade meant to persuade Wall Street analysts into believing Lay and
Skilling's stock projections were realistic, and Lay's performed script-readings in
webcasts and ballrooms in Houston and D.C. Enron dialogs were rhetorics that opposed
regulation and advanced the cause of deregulation. Enron published info ads to push its
agenda of energy market deregulation and minimalist government oversight. Enron
recruited a cast of institutional characters to change laws, regulations, and national
policy, not just in the U.S. but around the world.

THE DIALOG OF ENRON: Enron dialogic terms, reports, releases, ads, and speeches,
became part of global discourse. There was a global colonization of Enron language of
energy deregulation, free markets for utilities, and energy trading. that resulted in the
minimization of government oversight to Enron's social practices. There is a dialogic
system of text and talk production, distribution, and consumption that is transformative.
What could not be accomplished with dialog was done with cash and appointments.
Dialogs changed the image of Enron as an "I" character but also the "We" cast of
characters (the network of institutions that dialoged). E-dialogs reshaped government
administration, government regulators, accounting, & Business College) identities (their
dramatis persona in narrative-texts, narrative-talk, & theatric performances). Metaphoric
shifts in the dialogs from asset-heavy to asset-lite, from brick-and-mortar to virtual
corporations, from regulated to deregulated markets co-opted language to transform
Capitalism. Enron rhetors in their dialogs among the institutional cast of characters
changed the practices of global Capitalism. The problem said the E-rhetors was not

corporations who paid no taxes, but over-regulation of corporations in ways that made
energy markets inefficient. In the bandwagon effect of getting with it, learning all the
New Economy rhetoric terms, we forgot history. We forgot the dialogs that brought about
regulation of oil, electricity, and natural gas markets in the first place. We forgot a very
bloody and corrupt set of dialogs of the late 1800s that effected regulation over energy
markets and utilities in the 1900s. We forgot that Robber Barons' predatory and amoral
practices inspired a national dialog that demanded social protection against monopoly
and trust. Trusts are secret networks of partnerships that allow mega-corporations and
their CEO, Robber Barons to subvert capitalism to the ends of a few players. We forgot
the national debate, the conflicting dialogs of the Old Economy, in our fervor to realize
the New Economy dialogs.

E-dialogs about market system reform, pushed along the LJM (raptor off-the-balance-
sheet partnerships) in what Business Week (March 4, 2002: 18) partnership networks in
what is called a “flurry of rhetoric about tighter accounting rules includes the use of
metaphor and more responsible corporate boards. And then a long silence until the next
time.” Until the next Trust-building, off-the-balance-sheet network of secret partnership
agreements. Aristotle (350 BCE: #1549b, p. 5) says, “a good metaphor implies an
intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.” The dialogs surrounding the off-the-
balance-sheet partnerships (except LJM which is explained below) are right out of Star
Wars and Jurassic Park with names like JEDI and its sequel JEDI II (Joint Energy
Development Investments), and the infamous Chewco Investments (as in Chewbacca).
The Jurassic metaphoric names include Condor and Raptor. Enron's dialogs about New
Economy of deregulation and minimalist oversight changed the social practices of
accountants, auditors, regulators, consultants, Presidents, and Business College
professors. These dialogs globalized, diffused and integrated into local economies, into
the diffuse and integrated Spectacles of Enron.

THE GAS BANK DIALOG EXAMPLE - Enron would be intermediary between buys
and sellers of natural gas, exploiting the spread between the buying and selling price. In
this “Gas Bank” antenarrative, “gas producers” were “depositors” in the “commercial
bank” and the “consumers” were the “borrowers”; “Enron” was the “bank” that “pooled
the deposits” (i.e. the supply commitments) to fund long-term (15 year or more)
commitment to gas buyers (the borrowers). What happened with the Gas Bank idea is
also unsettled. In one version, when Skilling presented his “Gas Bank” antenarrative to
the assembled Enron Board and executives, the idea was soundly rejected. However, in
yet another version, Kenneth Lay himself decided to ignore their advice, and give
Skilling a chance to make it work. Others say it was Richard Kinder, Enron's president,
(and not Kenneth lay) who asked Skilling to join the company to run the new Gas Bank
adventure (Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt, 2002). Most storytellers agree that on June 29,
1990 Skilling left McKinsey to join Enron. Skilling described Enron‟s Gas Bank strategy
as, “get in early, push to open markets, position ourselves to compete, and compete hard
when the opening comes” (Kaminski & Martin, 2001).

In 1991, Fastow comes up with a way to get the money, a „partnership strategy‟ called
Cactus. Cactus partnerships took in money from banks and lent it to “energy producers

energy producers in return for a portion of their existing gas reserves” (Barnes, Barnett,
& Schmitt, 2002). Like the Gas Bank antenarrative, the Cactus re-scripting has disputed
beginnings. The dialogs of Enron among institutions (Whitehouse, congress, senate, SEC,
Wall Street, Business College) constituted and constructed the quasi-objects known as
the raptors (e.g. LJM).

Dialog of Congressional Hearings - For Democrats it was payback time, and within such
a frame, dialog is about positioning. "There will be no witch-hunt," says Sen. Joe
Lieberman (D-Conn.), eager as ever to cloak his partisan instincts with the rhetoric of
high-mindedness. Some rhetoric is not persuasive. For example, “I've never seen a better
example of cash 'n' carry government than this Bush Administration and Enron,” said
Democrat Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, “who has received $3,500 in
campaign contributions from Enron and $20,460 from Arthur Andersen since 1995”
(Capital Briefs, 2002: 2).

“ENRON ROBBED the bank, Arthur Andersen provided the getaway car, and they say
you were at the wheel,” Rep. James Greenwood, R-Penn., chairman of the House Energy
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations intoned to former Arthur Andersen
manager David Duncan in late January, at an early hearing about Enron. “Did you give
an order to destroy documents in an attempt to subvert investigations into Enron‟s
collapse?” the chairman asked (Dean, 2002).

Dialogs between Enron and Wall Street Analysts - Seth Libby, an analyst who covered
Enron for Boston-based research firm Yankee Group, said Enron executives were "the
kings of obfuscation." But he also said his counterparts on Wall Street may not have
raised questions because of their firms' financial interests. Wall Street firms with analysts
on staff had large financial stakes in Enron's success. For example, J.P. Morgan Chase &
Co. revealed in December that it is owed $2.6 billion from dealings with Enron going
back at least to 1998.

Sherron Watkins Dialogs with Kenneth Lay and Enron's Law Firm (Vinson & Elkins')
Dialogic Response - Julia Kristeva suggests that each text has an intertextual “trajectory”
that is historical and social (1980a: 36). This is waht I (Boje, 2001a) mean by
'antenarrative trajectory.' Norman Fairclough (1992) adds the idea that the intertextual
trajectory is embedded in hegemonic struggle, in selling and distributing ways of making
sense. A good example of intertextual antenarrative trajectory is Watkin's memo to Lay,
and her followup meetings. She met with Lay on August 22. That is when the seven-page
memo was discussed (cover page plus six page supplemental letter). By all accounts:

The [Aug 22] session was businesslike, and Lay seemed genuinely concerned. Watkins
brought along a six-page letter detailing her worries, and Lay promised to have a team of
lawyers review the controversial deals. But he decided to use Enron's law firm, Vinson &
Elkins, despite Watkins' unease about a conflict of interest. Vinson & Elkins had been
paid for work on Condor and Raptor transactions. But Lay went ahead with the review--
whose scope he kept strictly limited (Duffy, 2002).

The subsequent re-readings and re-citations include Max Hendrick III, of Vinson &
Elkins, letter to James V. Derrick Jr., Executive Vice President and General Counsel of
Enron Corp which is dated October 15, 2001 title “Preliminary Investigation of
Allegations of an Anonymous Employee,” and subsequent Congressional testimony
about Watkins‟ texts. The Vinson & Elkins‟ analysis of the Watkins letter and
supplemental material (7-page text) yielded a nine-page text that is more intertextual in
its dialoguing with Watkins text, quoting prior texts, anticipating being reread, and in its
relations to other texts. Vinson & Elkins‟ text is a permutation of texts, citing and
referencing utterances from other texts that serve to neutralize the Watkins text, just in
time. “There are many events in the womb of time” (Yargo‟s line from Othello). At the
hearings, Watkins indicated she was “disappointed” and “frustrated” that Lay did not take
action to fix the situation before collapse was inevitable. The day after the Vinson &
Elkins letter, i.e. October 16 2001, Enron rewrote its equity downward by $1.2 billion
and declared losses of $544 million.

The Watkins and the Vinson & Elkins texts are a juxtaposition of various voices and
quotes supplemented by narrative interpretations that are written to be consumed by
anticipated audiences. As intertextual systems, the texts are embedded in wider social and
historical networks. The two letters are produced to be distributed and to be consumed.
This production, distribution, and consumption process of intertextuality is also part of a
covert struggle of power and resistance.

The consumption of the Watkins Dialog/Text - We live in theatres of consumptions (Firat
& Dholakia, 1998). As an intertextual weave, the hegemonic aspects of spectacle and
carnival are to present a “ready made” textual interpretation for distribution and
consumptions (Fairclough, 1992). For Congress and the public, Watkins is scripted as a
national folk hero, a manager who dared to tell the truth to the boss. One ready-made
consumption of the Watkins‟ memo is as theatre of confrontation, exposing Skilling‟s
confidence trick, so spectators to the Congressional hearings could now see the „star‟ of
the New Economy was poised on the edge of the abyss, would trip into the abyss and
“implode in a wave of accounting scandals.” Congresspersons would utilize Watkins‟
memo and her dramatic testimony as proof that Enron executives were swindlers; all too
aware of the games they were playing. “Andrew Fastow would not have put his hand into
the Enron cookie jar without the explicit or implicit approval of Mr. Skilling,” Watkins
said at one hearing where she was seated at the same table as Skilling. And Mr. Skilling
she said “put the fox in charge of the hen house.” Watkins is writing a book titled,
“Power Failure” about the Enron spectacles. Further consumption of the Watkins text is
scripted by the media under the heading of heroic resistance (but as we have discussed,
Watkins was not the first Whistle Blower, that is a fictive construction of the U.S. media,
not the foreign press). Carnivalesque Resistance to Spectacle Dialog - Aristotle‟s poetics
is re-crafted by Boal into a Poetics of the Oppressed:

In order to understand this poetics of the oppressed one must keep in mind its main
objective: to change the people – spectators, passive being(s) in the theatrical
phenomenon – into subjects, into actors, transformers of the dramatic action (Boal, 1979:

Enron Popular Culture Dialog - As the Enron megaspectacle scandals replayed on TV
and radio talk shows, in the press, and in Enron jokes circulating on the Web, Enron
attained popular culture cult status. Enron's dialog, the financial techie's, for example, had
a fondness for Star Wars and Jurassic Park lingo --- was just too juicy a dialogue not to
become Enron-mania and the subject of Enron-economic dialog, or Enrononomics. JEDI,
as in Jedi knight, stands for Joint Energy Development Investments. JEDI prospered-the
Force must have been with it-as Enron deftly bought and sold energy stocks, power
plants and other investments, earning a 23 percent annual return (Sloan, 2002). Like the
movie, JEDI had a sequel, JEDI II. The problem for Enron was to keep JEDI I off the
balance sheets while it ramped up JEDI II. “Making JEDI I part of Enron would have cut
the company's reported profits sharply, and increased its reported debt by more than $500
million” (Sloan, 2002). To solve this problem, Enron ginned up Chewco Investments-as
in Chewbacca the Wookiee, a partnership of Enron executives and some undisclosed
outsiders. Condor and Raptor are deal names inspired by Jurassic Park. “Enron had
booked huge profits from these entities while its stock price soared in 2000, despite the
fact that neither Condor nor Raptor had any hard assets” (Duffy, 2002).

Executives may create spectacles that fill passive consciousness with slogans, like “loose-
tight.” Jeffrey Skilling, for example, was recruited from McKinsey consulting, and
named the world of Enron in the “loose-tight” managerial language expounded by other
McKinsey alums, such as Tom Peters and Bob Waterman (London & McNulty, 2001).

Political dialog appropriates Enron rhetorical devices. For example, Daschle, last January
is quoted as saying Bush was trying to "Enron" Social Security and leave seniors without
retirement savings. Enronites, Enronitis, and being En-roned are part of the popular
discourse. To “Enronize” means to hide fiscal shortcomings with creative accounting. An
“Enronic” is a seemingly invincible person who goes down in flames. “Enronica” is the
name given to E-bay items being sold as souvenirs. “Enrontia” is a burning desire to
shred things. “Enronomania” is political scandal and economic fallout. “Enrontropy” is
the the principle that a corporation's greed is directly proportional to how many lives its
failure would ruin (items adapted from Zielbauer, 2002).


Ignore History and the Dialogs Repeat - For example, the dialogic rhetor moves of Enron
parallel those of the Seven Sisters (Sampson, 1975). The Seven Sisters of Oil are Exxon,
Mobil, Shell, British Petroleum, Gulf, Texaco, & Chevron). Kenneth Lay worked for
Exxon before he worked to create Enron; the dialog of Enron is rooted in the dialog of
Exxon. November 1, 1972 Standard Oil Company of New York became the Exxon
corporation date of shareholder approval). In the 1920s America debated in dialogs about
the "free play of self-regulating market[s]" in the aftermath of the Teapot Dome scandal
involving Oil man Harry F. Sinclair (Engler, 1961: 272).

Livesey's (2002) analysis of Exxon/Mobil is relevant to my dramaturgical analysis of
Enron. Livesey's analysis of Exxon/Mobil's public dialogs (discourses) presents a
Burkean analysis of dramaturgy combined with a Foucault analysis of knowledge and

power transformation. Knowledge produced, distributed and consumed by the
Exxon/Mobil cast of characters (including institutional allies) "helped to constitute each
[character] as powerful in particular ways, while their very power helped to legitimate the
knowledge they produced" and distributed for consumption (Livesey, 2002: 14, bracketed
additions mine). Similarly, Enron's cast of characters through dialogs was able to
characterize themselves as heroes of the New Economy, and everyone else as the Ludites
who resisted Free Market capitalism. But, there is a deeper historical chronological
relationship here. Enron's dialogic moves are embedded in the history of the Seven

In the 1880s Oil was a new industry to John D. Rockefeller, just as Natural Gas in the
1980s was a new industry to Kenneth Lay. In 1911 the U.S. government dismembered
the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (called Jersey for short). Jersey had become a
Trust (a network of 322 interlocking corporate partnerships) controlled by a few
executives. The same pattern of cash-for-political-access of Jersey was replicated in
Enron ( with 3500 subsidiaries and partnerships). History recurred. Presidents changed
edicts, legislatures passed laws, energy policies were written by Oil men. And now
energy policies, laws, and edicts are written by Oil men. In both Enron and Jersey, it was
a network of managers, and not the average stockholders who were in control. Enron is
not some new cast of characters that have all of a sudden invented dialogs of
deregulation, cash-for-political-access, or networks of corporate partnerships. This is a
pattern of dialogs rooted in the history of the Seven Sisters. It is a spectacle that recurs.
Like Exxon/Mobil, Enron had an income greater than most countries. This is a long sub-
plot of modern energy history, how networks of government agencies finance third world
energy projects for Jersey and for Enron, how wars are fuelled by dialogs that are not
new at all. Engler (1961: 270) for example says "Oil has sought to establish a privately
intimate relationship with the administrative processes of government." Oil men in the
U.S. government did not begin with George Bush and the cast of Enron characters.

Ida Tarbell did not condemn capitalism itself in her classic History of Standard Oil
Company, but "the open disregard of decent ethical business practices by capitalists."
This is the same debate about the relation between Enron and capitalism. Is it capitalism
or just Enron? See more on this topic at Enron is 7th Sister.

Gretchen Morgenson‟s Talk at NMSU on Sept 30th 2002 – Lecture Notes by David Boje
Oct 1 2002

Today we talk about DIALOG, about corporate dialog and leaderly dialog. I think it is
too full of “Weasel Words.” For example when Enron, Global Crossing, Qwest, etc says
their accountants, lawyers, and executives certify their financial reports are accurate “to
the best of their knowledge,” that‟s Weasel Dialog. Executives and corporations are using
'Weasel Words.' In the Theatre of the Mind, the dialog in their head, they know these
statements to be inaccurate. Enron, for example is all about obfuscation.


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