Enron “Whistleblower” and TIME Magazine “Person of the Year”
Sherron Watkins is the former Vice President of Enron Corporation who alerted then-CEO Ken Lay in August 2001 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.
Ms. Watkins has been lauded in the press for her courageous actions. TIME magazine named Sherron, along with two others, 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 magazine 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.”
In recognition of her outstanding demonstration of ethics in the work place, Ms. Watkins has received numerous honors, including the Court TV Scales of Justice Award and its 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. In 2003, the National Academy of Management presented Ms. Watkins with their Distinguished Executive Award and the Women’s Economic Round Table honored her with the Rolfe Award for Educating the Public about Business and Finance.
Ms. Watkins is co-author, along with prize-winning journalist, Mimi Swartz, of Power Failure, the Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron, published by Doubleday in March 2003. Currently Ms. Watkins is lecturing around the globe on the leadership lessons from Enron’s failure.
Ms. 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 3 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, Ms. Watkins transferred into Enron’s broadband unit where she worked on various projects until late June of 2001 when she went back to work for Mr. Fastow in his new area of responsibility over the mergers and acquisitions group of Enron Corp. Ms. Watkins resigned from Enron in November 2002.
Prior to joining Enron, Ms. Watkins worked for 3 years as the portfolio manager of MG Trade Finance Corp’s commodity backed finance assets in New York City and for 8 years in the auditing group of both the New York and Houston offices of Arthur Andersen.
Ms. Watkins is 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.
Ms. Watkins is married with one child and resides in Houston, Texas.
The Lessons of Enron: The Importance of Ethical Corporate Leadership
Watkins learned firsthand what happens when corporate leaders don’t ensure a sound system of values and ethics in an organization. After discovering Enron’s “off-the-books arrangements,” Watkins sounded the alarm that marked the beginning of the end for the corporate giant. The process of getting to the truth wasn’t easy…but the hardest part was the aftermath. In this insightful keynote, Watkins will reveal what made her decide to speak up about the accounting irregularities at Enron, and how she felt about Ken Lay’s response to the information. You’ll hear about how she handled the spotlight of Congressional testimony and media attention, and then isolation from business leaders in the weeks and months after her name was leaked. She’ll discuss how a company known for innovation, pushed its employees past innovative transactions into fraud, and what she would have done differently if she had the chance to do it all again. Most importantly, Watkins will share her views on how to spot the warning signs of an erosion in values and how, from her experience, she would advise others on the issues of ethics and governance in the context of the current climate of distrust in corporate America.
The Courage of Your Convictions: The True Story of Sherron Watkins, the Heroine who Exposed the Enron Debacle