If you're like most, you've been astonished, disillusioned and angered as you learned of the meteoric rise and fall of Enron Corp. Remember the company's television commercial of not so long ago, ending with the reverberating phrase, “Ask why, why, why?” That question is now on everyone's lips. The Enron case is a dream for academics who conduct research and teach. For those currently or formerly involved with the company, such as creditors, auditors, the SEC and accounting regulators, it's a nightmare that will continue for a long time.
Formal investigations of Enron are now under way, headed by the company's board, the SEC, the Justice Department and Congress. The exact causes and details of the disaster may not be known for months. The purpose of this article is to summarize preliminary observations about the collapse, as well as changes in financial reporting, auditing and corporate governance that are being proposed in response by Big Five accounting firms, the AICPA and the SEC.