For that camp that admires the criminal acumen of the likes of Bernie Madoff, the executives of Enron would definitely score as "the smartest guys." For, in this corporation, listed once as the top most innovative company, the executives conducted their nefarious schemes of making profits and sold their stocks and gathered their money before their corporation "crashed." Their accounting was what is sometimes called "creative accounting." That is, the company showed that there were profits when, in reality, there were losses. Other illegal activity went on, such as Enron's CEO, Louis Borget, having been discovered to have diverted company money to offshore accounts. But, again, the executives were able to do these things and profit before the termination of their company.
On the other hand, by ethical standards these executives were unconscionable and criminal as they cruelly manipulated their employees, leaving them to suffer incredible personal losses, and they performed illegal activities, such as the mark-to-market accounting of CEO Jeffrey Skilling that allowed the company
to book potential profits on certain projects immediately after the deals were signed...whether or not those projects turned out to be successful.
Skilling also had lieutenants on the inside of the company to monitor and intimidate employees through a review committe that evaluated them and annually fired the bottom 15% of the workers.
The 2005 film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room certainly portrays the cunning and criminality of the executives of Enron, as well as the tragic results for the unsuspecting employees.