Essay Preview: Enron Scandal
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Enron went bankrupt in December 2001 after it was revealed that the company had hidden hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. EnronÐ²Ð‚™s infamous collapse resulted from the disclosure that it had reported false profits, using accounting methods that just did not follow generally accepted procedures.
Enron undertook some creative accounting schemes to avoid reporting its increasing losses and also to give the appearance of rapid earnings growth. For example, they claimed that contracts due in the future were worth more than they actually were. But, most famously of all, Enron hid its losses in Ð²Ð‚Ñšspecial purpose entitiesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ(SPEs). The result was that many of Enrons debts and the losses that it suffered were not reported in its financial statements.
Many companies use SPEs as a common financing system. Companies can cut their risk by moving assets into separate partnerships or a limited company of some type, which can be sold to outside investors. In EnronÐ²Ð‚™s case, assets that were losing money were sold to partnerships. Enron then listed the sales of these assets as earnings. Yet, to be legitimate, accounting rules require that an SPE be isolated from the company that created it. But not in EnronÐ²Ð‚™s case, because the SPEs relied upon EnronÐ²Ð‚™s managers for leadership and EnronÐ²Ð‚™s stock for capital. When the outside auditors told Enron to treat some of the 4,000 SPEs it had created as part of Enron, the company had to take the $1-billion charge against its earnings. (Refer to Figure 1)
EnronÐ²Ð‚™s managers, whose actions brought the company to the rim of devastation, escaped with millions of dollars as they retired or sold their company stock before its price dropped. Insiders and some high level executives at Enron may have known about the companyÐ²Ð‚™s financial secrets and situation for most likely some time. A number of top Enron executives have been charged with fraud. In addition to Enron employees, Arthur Anderson, LLP, the accounting firm responsible for auditing Enron, was convicted of obstruction of justice. Three British bank workers have also been indicted on charges of wire fraud. Michael Kopper, a former Enron executive