Being accountable

Enron, Arthur Andersen
An accountant—so goes the joke—is someone who solves financial problems you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand. Doubtless the accountant jokes have gotten a lot nastier with news that the world’s largest accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, indulged in some unusually lax methods on behalf of the Enron corporation, apparently to retain lucrative consulting fees. Andersen also helped create the “special purpose” partnerships that allowed Enron to move large debts off its balance sheets and thereby sustain its inflated stock value—until the house of cards finally crashed in December. Enron’s collapse erased thousands of people’s jobs, investments and pensions. In this case, the accountants chose to ignore—if they didn’t help create—the financial problems that Enron officials didn’t want anyone to understand.

 

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