How fall of Enron raised concerns about accounting issues Essay

Enron Corporation of Houston was one of the largest companies in the universe. From the start of the 1990s to mid 2000, Enron ‘s stock monetary value increased from about $ 7 per portion to a extremum of $ 90 per portion. By December 31, 2000, Enron reported its turnover of $ 101 billion, and its market capitalisation exceeded $ 60 billion, 70 times net incomes and six times book value. Enron was rated the most advanced big company in the universe. However, it turned to ruin in December 2001 after it was revealed that the company had hidden $ 658 million in debt and exaggerated net incomes of $ 591 million between 1997 and 2000. The stock monetary value dropped down to less than $ 1 per portion. Stockholders ‘ equity was reduced by sum of $ 1.7 billion and 1000s of employees who had their revenue enhancement deferred retirement programs tied to the Enron stock lost wealth. Arthur Andersen, the accounting house responsible for Enron ‘s auditing, was destroyed because of the misdemeanor of following the US GAAP in carry oning an audit and struggle of involvement over the important consulting fees paid by Enron. Enron undertook originative accounting strategies to take full advantages of accounting restrictions in pull offing its net incomes and balance sheet to paint a rose-colored image of its public presentation.

The autumn of Enron has raised wide populace and official concerns about accounting issues and the subsequent revelations of misconduct by its hearer, Arthur Andersen. This study will be delineated the major events of Enron ‘s fiscal prostration and the fiscal coverage issues. Furthermore, it will be considered the issues of accounting criterions and auditing.

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Consequences of findings

Accounting issues

1. Off balance sheet funding ( SPEs )

After probe commenced, it was discovered that Enron used complex constructions which are referred to as Particular Purpose Entities ( SPEs ) to conceal revenue enhancement and debts off balance sheet. SPEs are independent entities created for limited intents. “ Under GAAP regulations, Enron was non required to consolidate these SPEs with its fiscal statements if independent 3rd parties had commanding ( more than 50 % ) fiscal involvement and “ significant ” equity involvement in the SPE, where “ significant ” was defined as at least 3 % of the SPEs ‘ plus. ” ( Benston, 2003 ) Therefore, because of their complex nature, it is easy to be used to pull strings a corporation ‘s fiscal consequences, where most of the misstatements of Enron were associated with SPEs. On October 2001, Enron was revealed that they violated GAAP that require at least 3 per centum of assets to be owned by independent equity investors. There are five of import accounting issues involved in SPEs.

First, Chewco, one of the Enron ‘ s SPEs was created for Enron to get the partnership involvement without acknowledging any extra debt screening on its balance sheet. ( Paul, 2003 ) However, it was found that Chewco was non an independent proprietor, but a subordinate of Enron. It violated the minimal 3 % regulation, but the Andersen who was the hearer of Enron, did non recognize this failure since Enron was at hazard for all of its debt. Second, those SPEs were managed by Enron ‘s main fiscal officer, Andrew Fastow for the intent of transportation money to the Enron ‘s executives as fees. It was merely a existent fraud, and those SPEs were non independent entities which should be consolidated. Third, net net incomes made with those SPEs were non controlled by Enron were improperly recorded on Enron ‘s book. Fourth, Enron sponsored SPEs with its ain stock, taking notes receivable in return. Fifth, SPEs allowed Enron to avoid losingss demoing on its balance sheet, because those SPEs sold Enron put options when its market monetary value declined, the losingss were offset by the put option duties of the SPEs. ( Benston, 2002 ) However, those SPEs were really utilizing Enron ‘s ain stock and fiscal warrants to transport out these hedges.

2. Gross Recognition

In 2000, Enron moved off from supply of gas into “ market devising ” in energy, purchasing and selling sweeping services and taking the hazard of covering with derived functions. This allowed them to sort themselves as “ agents ” of their clients instead than merchandisers. Under US GAAP agents are allowed to describe trading and securities firm fees as gross, although there is no hard currency flow influx to the concern. Besides, some of the SPEs paid Enron fees for warrants on loans made by the SPEs. Enron recorded the up-front payments as current gross. Harmonizing to fiting construct of income finding of GAAP, the gross should be recognised merely over the period of the warrants. Enron violated the demands of GAAP. Furthermore, Benston ( 2003, P.27 ) argued that the company involved several ample “ shame gross revenues ” , where the purchasers at the same time or after a prearranged hold sold back to Enron the same or similar assets at near to the monetary value they “ paid ” . Enron recorded the gross revenues contracts as net income, but did non acknowledge the purchase contracts as an countervailing disbursal. These “ unrealised ” gross overstated the turnover of the concern and understated its hazard.

3. Market to Market

Enron adopted mark-to market accounting footing to value its long-run energy contracts. Under grade to market regulations, the contracts and assets are revalued in market monetary values, and the present value of the hereafter inflows under the contracts was recognized as gross. EITF Issue 98-10 requires energy-trading contracts to be stated at just values that may be determined by estimated net present value. ( Benston, 2002 ) However, there are frequently no quoted monetary values upon which to establish ratings. It is more based on manager ‘s premise instead than market value. Therefore, it is easy allowed troughs to pull strings the net incomes. Enron was revealed $ 763 million of extra net assets in Enron ‘s histories by taging these contracts up to market value, although these were the unfulfilled additions but they were reported as portion of one-year net incomes.

In the position of grade to market footing, it is deserving to look at the just value. As FASB allowed “ the values ” of derived functions to be determined by taging to pattern, even the market value are non determined from arm ‘s length dealing. Many of the instances shows that Enron did non do sensible premises what they should enter the additions. Particular illustrations made by Benston, ( 2003 ) are Enron ‘s broadband investing and joint venture with Blockbuster, Inc. , Braveheart and energy contracts. In 2000 Enron invested more than $ 1 billion in broadband and reported gross of $ 408 million, it besides assigned a just value of $ 125 million even though the venture was merely two hebdomads old and had non generated any net income. For the energy contracts, Enron calculated its entire net income over the life of the contract and record the net income instantly. In October 2001, Enron claimed $ 106 million extra net income generated from pull stringsing grade to market. ( Benston, 2002 )

4. Stock Issued to and Held by SPEs

GAAP does non allow a corporation to enter stock as income additions in the value of its ain stock unless it has been paid for in hard currency or its equivalent. However, JEDI, one of the Enron ‘s SPE, recorded the addition in Enron ‘ stock as income for the sum of the increased market value. Hence, as Enron accounted for its investing in JEDI with equity method, it recorded in its additions as investing return. ( Benston, 2002 ) Then when the market monetary value of Enron stock increased and the SPEs increased their assets, Enron recognized the additions as additions in its equity investings in the SPEs.

5. Inadequate 500 isclosure of R elated- P arty T ransactions and hundred onflicts of I nterest

Enron involved many minutess with its SPEs whose general spouse ‘s managing member Andrew Fastow, a senior officer of Enron. Enron ‘s proxy statements in 2000 and 2001 stated that “ the general spouse is entitled to have a per centum of the net incomes of LJM1 in surplus of the general spouse ‘s proportion of entire capital contributed to LJM1, depending upon the public presentation of the investing made by LJM1. ” ( Benston, 2002 ) However, there was nowhere disclosed the information about how much Fastow received and the relationship of any of those entities to Enron. Enron besides was revealed that it had entered assorted minutess to fudge certain merchandiser investings and other assets with its unconsolidated equity affiliates. Without clear revelations at that place, it was hard for investors and analysts to raise inquiries about these off-balance sheet minutess. ( Ohly, 2002 )

Besides, as discussed above, Enron did non do dealing with its SPEs at weaponries ‘ length. It raised the job of struggle of involvement. Andrew Fastow and the employees who reported to him took their ain advantages from these minutess. They benefited at least $ 40 million from covering with the SPEs which they were general and limited spouses. Benston ( 2002, P.29 ) said “ these patterns appear to hold violated both FASB revelation demands and the SEC demand to unwrap minutess transcending $ 60,000 in which an executive officer of a corporation has a material involvement. ”

Changes after Enron

After the prostration of Enron, US federal jurisprudence enacted an act called Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 to put new and enhanced criterions for US public company boards, direction and public accounting houses, protecting harm from accounting dirts such as Enron. “ The spirit of Sarbanes-Oxley Act is unimpeachably on the side of truth and equity. It is to better the effectivity and independency of audit and to beef up accounting ordinance are all needed urgently. ” ( Brown, 2002 )

One of the inducements in this Act is to guarantee that corporate directors particularly main executives report the fiscal conditions of their companies reasonably and materially in conformance with SEC. ( Benston, 2002 ) It besides requires CEOs to refund any inducement based compensation if net incomes are found to hold been misstated. Criminal penalties up to 25 old ages for deliberate error were founded.

Another obvious alteration is to guarantee hearer independency. It prohibited hearers to carry on non audit services for audit clients. The hearer of Enron, Andersen, earned more from Enron in confer withing fees ( $ 27 million ) than in scrutinizing fees ( $ 25 million ) . It was critically argued that hearers could easy compromise their audits in keeping on to moneymaking non audit service with undue inducements ( Benston, 2002 ) . The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires that merely the audit commissions of boards of managers, instead than the corporate directors, may engage and fire external hearers and that the audit commission be composed merely of independent managers. Brown, ( 2002 ) Sarbanes-Oxley Act besides concern about the rotary motion of audit spouses within the house. Revsine ( 2002 ) said “ Reassignment and steadfast rotary motion convey big independency benefits with apparently tolerable costs and look desirable. ”


The autumn of Enron still has influences for today ‘s preparers and users of published fiscal statements although it has past 10 old ages. Government corporate, professional organic structures and investors lost assurance in company ‘s activities and direction unity. Questions have besides been asked about the effectivity of bing regulations for both accounting and hearers in US. However, the UK ‘s regulators and accounting professions claimed that Enron ‘s fraud and misstatement would non go on in the UK.

Substance over the signifier

US GAAP contains more elaborate regulations and counsel than IFRS, but some of the regulations are inconsistent with the US conceptual model. In contrast, IFRS is described as rule based. It contains more wide guidelines and less specific, case-based counsel.

Under UK or international accounting criterions, some people believed that Enron dirt would non go on, as the regulations are harsher. The rules-based attack to accounting applied by the USA provides companies with an inducement to follow the letters but avoid the spirit of the regulations. However, a more principle-based attack such as UK and IFRS, would non let the remotion of material liabilities from Enron ‘s balance sheet via its SPEs under FRS 5 which requires that the substance of an entity ‘s minutess is reported in its fiscal statements. It allows hearers to concentrate on signifier and non on substance.

True and just position

In the UK, true and just position is more of import than adhering to detailed regulations. “ The usage of the phrase in the UK must be seen in the context of the statutory demand for fiscal statements to show “ true and just position ” which is widely regarded in UK accounting pattern as holding a broader scope than the US phrase “ reasonably present ” . ( Roberts, Weetman, Gordon, 2008 ) In the UK, true and just position bases above any specific set of regulations. It requires corporate directors and their hearers to exert judgements and take more hazard when showing sentiments about the fiscal personal businesss of a company. ( Benston, 2002 ) Therefore, it might deter the company or its hearers from doing fraud.

Convergence between IFRSs and FASB

To extinguish the major differences between these two sets of criterions, IFRSs and FASB announced in 2002 that they would work together to accomplish convergence and do attempt to develop a common set of high quality planetary criterions remains a precedence of both criterions. In October 2004, they besides announced that they would develop a common conceptual model as a foundation for developing principles-based criterions that are internally consistent and internationally converged. ( Roberts, Weetman, Gordon, 2008 )

Auditor independency

Enron ‘s hearer, Arthur Andersen, has been accused of using slack criterions in their audits because of a struggle of involvement over the important consulting fees generated by Enron. ( Pau cubic decimeter and Krishna, 2003 ) After the revelation of the extremely well-thought-of accounting house of Arthur Andersen audited unqualifiedly Enron ‘s fiscal statements, it is pressing to reform or heighten the hearer criterions to keep public and authorities ‘ s assurance in the independent hearers.

In the UK, it is defined the primary function of audit commissions as guaranting the unity of fiscal coverage and the audit procedure by guaranting that the external hearer is independent and nonsubjective and does a thorough occupation, and by furthering a civilization and an outlook of effectual inadvertence. ( Roberts, Weetman and Gordon, 2008 ) It requires hearers to supervise the procedures of doing fiscal statements, review the company ‘s fiscal control and hazard direction systems, proctor and reexamine the effectivity of the company ‘s internal audit map and for external hearers, it develops policy on the battle of the external hearer to provide non-audit services which need to to the full unwrap the audit and consulting fees in the one-year study and histories.

Decision and recommendations

The autumn of Enron raised wide argument non merely what went incorrect, but besides the adequate and sufficient corporate revelation. However, the revelation failures and defects associated with Enron made public attending on accounting and revelation policies in many ways that ne’er have imagined and enhanced the fiscal coverage ordinance and strength regulative inadvertence and corporate administration. In my sentiment, US GAAP was well responsible for Enron ‘s accounting fiasco. It provided inducements for corporate directors and hearers to work advantages of the loopholes of the US rules-based GAAP.

I believe, although the instance of Enron would non go on in the UK, the accounting ordinance can ne’er maintain up with the rapid altering market and there is no certain accounting criterion to do oblique people to be honest. Therefore, hearers, directors, stockholders, analysts, regulators and managers need to literate in fiscal coverage. Furthermore, in my sentiment, UK and IFRSs principles-based criterions are high quality than US GAAP. US standard compositors should put broader statements of rule, applied with good judgement and regard for the substance of implicit in minutess and events.


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