What went wrong? Accounting fraud and lessons from the recent scandals


Abstract
Fraud, speculative bubbles and collapse, plus the resulting bankruptcies and hard times are a continuing part of the corporate environment. The 21st century is no exception, and its first decade has seen more than its share of abuse. This is somewhat surprising, given the level of regulation and oversight required. The focus here is primarily on Enron as a microcosm of all that can go wrong in a sophisticated, high-tech environment. Enron represents the long-term use of greed based primarily on executive compensation incentives; poor corporate governance; executives willing to break the law or overlook others who did; the use of political lobbying; plus accommodating auditors, attorneys, analysts and regulators. Other fraud and abuse cases considered include WorldCom, Tyco, and Adelphi. In addition, the widespread corruption associated with the stock options scandals and the current housing collapse/banking crisis are reviewed, suggesting that the massive regulatory effort of Sarbanes-Oxley and other reforms have not solved the underlying problems
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