Enron and the California Energy Crisis: The Role of Networks in Enabling Organizational Corruption

Adam Nix, Stephanie Decker, Carola Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We provide an analytically structured history of Enron's involvement in the California energy crisis, exploring its emergence as a corrupt organization and its use of an interorganizational network to manipulate California's energy supply markets. We use this history to introduce the concept of network-enabled corruption, showing how corruption, even if primarily enacted by a single dominant organization, is often highly dependent on the support of other organizations. Specifically, we show how Enron combined resources from partner firms with its own capabilities, manipulating the energy market and capitalizing on the crisis. From a methodological point of view, our study emphasizes the growing importance of digital sources for historical research, drawing particularly on telephone and email records from the period to develop a rich, fly-on-the-wall understanding of a phenomenon that is otherwise hard to observe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-802
Number of pages38
JournalBusiness History Review
Issue number4
Early online date31 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2022. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Organizational corruption
  • analytically structured history
  • digital sources
  • energy supply industry
  • organizational misconduct


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