UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Corporate performances in space : situating fraud in the Enron case Walenta, Jayme


This thesis concerns the collapse of Houston based Enron Corporation and its ongoing economic, political and legal implications. Specifically, I investigate spaces of corporate fraud to broadly ask, how is fraud located in the varied spatial contexts of the firm? My goal is to demonstrate that the corporation is contingent upon social, cultural and material relationships across space. In this regard, I explore three distinct corporate spaces. They include (1) financial statements, where I discuss Enron’s financial performances in two spatial contexts, what the public saw, and what went on in private, (2) the bodies of workers, where I consider the gendered exposure of Enron’s fraud to the public, and (3) the spaces of the courtroom where I document how the corporation, as a non-bodied entity, became embodied in a courtroom context. In each case, I demonstrate how fraud is situated differently, and in each case, I suggest the implications of corporate fraud play out with differing results for those involved. The research for this thesis involved an archeological and ethnographic approach towards gathering and analyzing narratives around Enron’s downfall. This means I rely on financial documents and other important papers published by the former company, semi-structured interviews with former Enron employees, interviews with key media persons documenting the Enron story, participant-observation of the criminal trial against former CEOs (Chief Executive Officer) Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, media analysis of news articles and other popular culture texts, and finally, journaling. Far from being solely a homo economicus, a rational economic actor guided by capitalist imperatives to extract profit, my data suggests that the corporation is constituted through cultural, social and material agents that are unstable and breakdown. With this, I suggest the use of a new metaphor for the corporation, the corporation as a body. The body I conceive is conceptually drawn from feminist post-structural theory. It is open, porous and embodied. This new metaphor enables me to draw on the corporation’s diverse embodiments as important constitutive moments of corporate fraud.

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