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04/15/2021 - Sherron Watkins: Leadership and Ethics Advocate

Event held: 04/15/2021 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM CST

CFA Society Alabama was thrilled to host Sherron Watkins, former Vice President of Corporate Development at the Enron Corporation and Enron Whistleblower on April 15. Check out the recording of our discussion below.

Sherron Watkins is the former Vice President of Enron Corporation who, in August 2001, alerted then-CEO Ken Lay to accounting irregularities within the company, warning him that Enron ‘might implode in a wave of accounting scandals.’ She has testified before Congressional Committees from the House and Senate investigating Enron’s demise. Lauded in the press for her courageous actions, Time magazine named her, along with Coleen Rowley of the FBI and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, as their 2002 “Persons of the Year,” for being “people who did right just by doing their jobs rightly.” Time concluded that, “Democratic capitalism requires that people trust in the integrity of public and private institutions alike. As whistle-blowers, these three became fail-safe systems that did not fail. For believing—really believing—that the truth is one thing that must not be moved off the books, and for stepping in to make sure that it wasn’t, they have been chosen by Time as its Persons of the Year for 2002.”

Watkins has received numerous honors in recognition of her outstanding demonstration of ethics in the workplace, including the Court TV “Scales of Justice Award” and “Everyday Hero’s Award,” the “Women Mean Business Award” from the Business and Professional Women/USA Organization, and the 2003 “Woman of the Year Award” by Houston Baptist University. Glamour Magazine named her one of its 2002 “Women of the Year,” and Barbara Walters included her as one of the “10 Most Fascinating People” of 2002. The National Academy of Management presented Watkins with their “Distinguished Executive Award” for 2003 and the Women’s Economic Round Table honored her with the “Rolfe Award for Educating the Public about Business and Finance.”

Watkins is co-author, along with prize-winning journalist, Mimi Swartz, of Power Failure, the Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron, published in 2003. Currently, she lectures around the country on the subject of Enron and the erosion of trust in this country’s capitalist system due to many corporate and Wall Street scandals.

Watkins joined Enron in late 1993, initially working for Andrew Fastow, managing Enron’s $1 billion-plus portfolio of energy related investments held in Enron’s various investment vehicles. She held the portfolio management position for just over three years, transferring at the start of 1997 to Enron’s international group focusing primarily on mergers and acquisitions of energy assets around the world. In early 2000, she transferred into Enron’s broadband unit where she worked on various projects until late June 2001 when she went back to work for Fastow in his new area of responsibility over the mergers and acquisitions group of Enron Corp. Ultimately, Watkins resigned from Enron in November 2002.

Prior to joining Enron, Watkins worked as the portfolio manager of MG Trade Finance Corp’s commodity backed finance assets in New York City and in the auditing group of both the New York and Houston offices of Arthur Andersen. A Certified Public Accountant, she holds a Masters in Professional Accounting as well as a B.B.A. in accounting and business honors from the University of Texas at Austin.

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