Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room Essay

5215 Words May 19th, 2014 21 Pages
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
The Enron scandal, revealed in October 2001, eventually led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston, Texas, and the de facto dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which was one of the five largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world. In addition to being the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history at that time, Enron was attributed as the biggest audit failure.
Enron was formed in 1985 by Kenneth Lay after merging Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth. Several years later, when Jeffrey Skilling was hired, he developed a staff of executives that, by the use of accounting loopholes, special purpose entities, and poor financial reporting,
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When accepting the risk of buying and selling products, merchants are allowed to report the selling price as revenues and the products' costs as cost of goods sold. In contrast, an "agent" provides a service to the customer, but does not take the same risks as merchants for buying and selling. Service providers, when classified as agents, are able to report trading and brokerage fees as revenue, although not for the full value of the transaction.
Although trading companies such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch used the conventional "agent model" for reporting revenue (where only the trading or brokerage fee would be reported as revenue), Enron instead elected to report the entire value of each of its trades as revenue. This "merchant model" was considered much more aggressive in the accounting interpretation than the agent model. Enron's method of reporting inflated trading revenue was later adopted by other companies in the energy trading industry in an attempt to stay competitive with the company's large increase in revenue. Other energy companies such as Duke Energy, Reliant Energy, and Dynegy joined Enron in the

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