Enron and Arthur Anderson were both giants in their own industry. Enron, a Texas based company in the energy trading business, was expanding rapidly in both domestic and global markets. Arthur Anderson, LLC. (Anderson), based out of Chicago, was well established as one of the big five accounting firms. But the means by which they achieved this status became questionable and eventually contributed to their demise. Enron used what if often referred to as “creative” accounting methods, this resulted in them posting record breaking earnings. Anderson, who earned substantial audit and consultation fees from Enron, failed to comply with the auditing standards required in their line of work. Investigations and reports have resulted in finger pointing and placing blame, but both companies contributed to one of the most notorious accounting scandals in history. There remains much speculation as to what steps could and should have been taken to protect innocent victims and numerous investors from experiencing the enormous loses that resulted from this scandal.
Accounting Practices at Enron
Unethical accounting practices involving Enron date back to 1987. Enron’s use of creative accounting involved moving profits from one period to another to manipulate earnings. Anderson, Enron’s auditor, investigated and reported these unusual transactions to Enron’s audit committee, but failed to discuss the illegality of the acts (Girioux, 2008). Enron decided the act was immaterial and Anderson went along with their decision. At this point, the auditor’s should have reevaluated their risk assessment of Enron’s internal controls in light of how this matter was handled and the risks Enron was willing to take The history of unethical accounting practices learned early on set a precedence for what followed.
As Enron continued to expand and post record breaking earnings, Enron executives continued to use their creative accounting practices in the 1990s. As competition increased and the economy started to plunge in the early 2000s, Enron struggled to maintain their profit margins. Executives determined that in order to keep their debt ratio low, they would need to transfer debt from their balance sheet. “Reducing hard assets while earning increasing paper profits served to increase Enron’s return on assets (ROA) and reduce its debt-to-total-assets ratio, making the company more attractive to credit rating agencies and investors” (Thomas, 2002). Executives developed Structured Financing and Special Purpose Entities (SPE), which they used to transfer the majority of Enron’s debt to the SPEs. Enron also failed to appropriately disclose information regarding the related party transactions in the notes to the financial statements.Andersen performed audit work for Enron and rendered an unqualified opinion of their financial statements while this activity occurred. The seriousness and amount of misstatement has led some to believe that Andersen must have known what was going...