The Thing Is: Harvard
The words "Harvard Business School" rarely raise a laugh. Respect, maybe. Fear, sometimes. But not a laugh.
That was until Jeffrey Skilling, the chief executive of Enron, gave evidence to the Senate Commerce Committee last Tuesday. Mr Skilling said he was not an accountant, so he did not have an understanding of the manipulation of the energy giant's accounts through special purpose entities. He said he did not know enough to see that there was anything wrong with these deals, which kept debts off Enron's books and made millions for company insiders and their partners.
Senator Barbara Boxer, a Californian Democrat, expressed her disbelief. "Where were you educated?" she asked. "Harvard Business School," replied Mr Skilling, prompting enough laughter to bring the house down.
The Boston-based institution is feted as the best management school in the world; Bill Gates flunked out of it, Sir Martin Sorrell and Greg Dyke were propelled forward by it, and Mark McCormack famously lampooned it in his memoir What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School. Next weekend it hosts a seminar chaired by Warren Buffett.
Mr Skilling studied there between 1977 and 1979, receiving an MBA. The Independent on Sunday has obtained a copy of the curriculum for those years. Among the first year's courses are "Finance", which includes teaching "students to use the standard techniques of financial analysis" as well as "control" which gives "an introduction to accounting as a systematic information system" and "Organizational Problems" (sic). …