Arthur Edward Andersen built his firm, Arthur Andersen & Company, into one of the largest and most respected accounting firms in the world through his reputation for honesty and integrity. “Think straight, talk straight” was his motto and he insisted that his clients adopt that same attitude when preparing and issuing their periodic financial statements. Arthur Andersen’s auditing philosophy was not rule-based, that is, he did not stress the importance of clients complying with specific accounting rules because in the early days of the U.S. accounting profession there were few formal rules and guidelines for accountants and auditors ...view middle of the document...
During the early months of 2002, Andersen became the focal point of attention among law enforcement authorities searching for the parties responsible for Enron’s sudden collapse. The accusations directed at Andersen centered on three key issues. The first issue had to do with the scope of professional services that Andersen provided to Enron. Critics charged that the enormous consulting fees Enron paid Andersen impaired the audit firm’s independence. The second issue stemmed from Andersen’s alleged role in Enron’s aggressive accounting and financial reporting treatments for its SPE-related transactions. Finally, the most embarrassing issue was the massive effort of Andersen’s Houston office to shred Enron audit documents, which eventually led to the demise of the firm.
Enron Corporation—Key Facts
1. Throughout Arthur E. Andersen’s life, “Think straight, talk straight” served as a guiding principle for himself and Arthur Andersen & Co., the accounting firm that he founded.
2. Arthur Andersen’s reputation for honesty and integrity resulted in Arthur Andersen & Co. gaining stature in the business community and growing into one of the nation’s leading accounting firms by the time of his death in 1947.
3. Leonard Spacek succeeded Arthur Andersen as managing partner of Arthur Andersen & Co. in 1947 and continued Andersen’s legacy of lobbying for more rigorous accounting, auditing, and ethical standards for the public accounting profession.
4. When Spacek retired in 1973, Arthur Andersen & Co. was one of the largest and, arguably, the most prominent accounting firm worldwide
5. The predecessor of Enron Corporation was an Omaha-based natural gas company created in 1930; steady growth in profits and sales and numerous acquisitions allowed Enron to become the largest natural gas company in the United States by the mid-1980s.
6. During the 1990s, Kenneth Lay, Enron’s CEO, and his top subordinate, Jeffrey Skilling, transformed the company from a conventional natural gas supplier into an energy trading company.
7. Lay and Skilling placed a heavy emphasis on “strong earnings performance” and on increasing Enron’s stature in the business world.
8. Enron executives used hundreds of SPEs (special purpose entities) to arrange large and complex related party transactions that served to strengthen Enron’s reported financial condition and operating results.
9. During 2001, Enron’s financial condition deteriorated rapidly after many of the company’s SPE transactions unraveled; in December 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy.
10. Following Enron’s collapse, the business press and other critics began searching for parties to hold responsible for what, at the time, was the nation’s largest corporate bankruptcy.
11. Criticism of Andersen’s role in the Enron debacle focused on three key issues: the large amount of consulting revenue the firm earned from Enron, the firm’s role in many of Enron’s SPE transactions, and the...