Lisa Bromiley Meier had a ringside seat for one of the greatest scandals in corporate history. The former PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant worked for Enron as part of a team of bean counters who oversaw the company's "special purpose entities." Those consisted of the off-balance-sheet partnerships Enron's former chief financial officer, Andrew S. Fastow, used to manipulate earnings and steal $29 million from the company, according to his 2004 plea agreement.
Bromiley Meier says she remembers sending out financial statements for the LJM partnerships -- named after Fastow's wife and two kids -- but had no idea he and his lieutenants owned them. She also had no knowledge of the secret agreements under which Enron bought assets back from the partnerships at guaranteed rates of return.
"We knew we were progressive and pushing the envelope," she says over pancakes at a Houston diner. "Everyone was surprised by what was going on."
Bromiley Meier, 32, can afford to look back on her Enron days with a remarkable amount of candor. She has come far since the company imploded in December, 2001. She got married, to former Enron dealmaker Mark Meier, 35. The pair recently bought a new home in an upscale Houston suburb. "It's the ugliest house on the best lot," she jokes.
She also now serves as chief financial officer of a fast-growing oil-field-services company called Flotek Industries (FTK ). A big part of her job, ironically, entails handling compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the 2002 law designed to prevent future Enrons.
JOINING THE CORPSE.
One major lesson she took from Enron: Always ask questions. One time when she did query a superior about a particular deal at Enron, she quickly got brushed off. "You don't know the other side," he told her. Back then, she says, "You didn't want to be the one saying, 'I don't get it.'"
It took six months and 20 job interviews before employers began to look at her résumé seriously. She finally persuaded one interviewer at oil and gas producer Unocal (CVX ) to give her a chance. "I said to him, 'I am a bargain,'" she recalls. She then went on to a brief stint at Service Corp. International (SCI ), an operator of funeral homes and cemeteries where "I saw a dead body on my first day," she says.
She ended up meeting the new chief executive of Flotek at a neighborhood dog park. The company, formerly based in Canada, was struggling with debt and legal obligations related to previous management. After she signed up as CFO, Bromiley Meier's first job was meeting with bankers and suppliers to explain the company needed more time to pay its bills. Her up-front approach paid off. Flotek managed to improve its shaky finances.
LOVE AT LEISURE.
Now, thanks to five subsequent acquisitions and a booming market for oil-field services, Flotek stock has surged from 85 cents per share to $26 in just 18 months. "She has really done an amazing job," says her husband, Mark, who opened and manages Mirabeau, an antiques store in Houston.
The pair began dating shortly before Enron collapsed but got more serious in the months afterward. "We had no money and plenty of time," Bromiley Meier says, recalling dinners of pasta and inexpensive boxed Chardonnay. "I still look at the fall of Enron with a twinkle in my eye."