Enron was a darling of Wall Street. From 1995 to 2000, the Texan company’s revenues rose ten-fold as it transitioned from the sleepy world of natural gas pipelines to energy trading, and beyond.
Fortune even proclaimed it the most innovative company in America for six years in a row. That is, until it couldn’t.
In 2001 Enron filed for bankruptcy. As it turned out, the only real innovation that was happening was in Enron’s accounting department.
At Alphaville we expected Enron to remain firmly enshrined in the past. Apart, from perhaps, the occasional news of its former executives getting involved in crypto.
So, late last week, we were surprised to find that Enron had a page on Glassdoor:
For those who don’t know, Glassdoor is a platform where employees review their businesses anonymously, browse jobs, discuss work benefits and even, perhaps, talk about salaries. As an example, here’s the FT’s page.
Yet Glassdoor launched close to seven years after Enron’s bankruptcy, so why did it even have a page?
We asked Glassdoor, and before we could capture more screenshots, it promptly deleted the site. It told us:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The Enron employer page should not have been on Glassdoor and has been removed.
Glassdoor allows employer pages to remain active after a business ceases to operate to allow past employees to share opinions about their workplace experience. We also encourage our community to help flag employers that have been out of business for several years, for our content and community team to review. After this period and upon review of the employer profile, employers that are no longer in operation — such as Enron — are retired.
Which is a real shame, because the it made for some good reading. For example, one review by a former employee described one of the “cons” at working at Enron as:
Morally bankrupt leadership led to financial bankruptcy
While another described Enron as a “great company with innovative accounting practices”.
Yes, we know all about that.
However what was even stranger than the page’s existence was how some of the reviews spoke in the present. As if Enron was still a trading entity, going about its business of creating a market for bandwidth futures.
For instance, there’s this employee review which we salvaged before Glassdoor scrubbed it clean:
Current Employee — Anonymous Employee
Approves of CEO
I have been working at Enron full-time
Fun, Exciting, training, professional, good office
Bad work ethic, but late nights
And this, from a “director” at the company:
The Wall Street Journal also did a stellar investigation earlier in the year into businesses allegedly boosting their Glassdoor rankings as a form of reputational damage.
Yet the Enron page doesn’t really fit any of these patterns. There’s no incentive for Enron to maintain its reputation, as it literally doesn’t exist. And there’s no reason for employees to manipulate the rankings either way, because, erm, the business literally doesn’t exist. If it’s pure parody, which might be likely, then there’s a whole Boaty McBoatface level of error out there that’s probably been under appreciated.
How the page even came to be is a mystery, Glassdoor say on its site in a myth buster section that:
Every piece of content is moderated through a two-step moderation process: technological and human-eye. Steered by Glassdoor’s community guidelines, our proprietary tech filters and algorithms detect attempted abuse and gaming, as well as multiple other attributes.
Well, at least one very obvious error was missed by Glassdoor bots and bot-beings, so the lesson here is what else has slipped through the net and how much can you trust the site really? (P.S. don’t head to Trustpilot to answer that question please).
How one Chinese company generates reviews on Amazon — FT Alphaville
Amazon and the problem of fake reviews — FT Alphaville
Textual criticism in the Amazon economy — FT Alphaville
Amazon (sub) Prime? — FT Alphaville
Amazon (sub) Prime — Part II — FT Alphaville