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    »What happened at Enron?«

  • TorontoSEO 8:52 PM on September 17, 2007 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Enron, Enron story, , greed, , , , , What happened at Enron   

    What happened at Enron?

    Everyone knows at least a little about the Enron story and the devastation it created in the lives of is employees. It’s a story that belongs in any discussion of ethical accounting processes and what happens when accounting standards and ethics are discarded for personal greed.

    Enron began in 1985 selling natural gas to gas companies and businesses. In 1996, energy markets were changed so that the price of energy could now be decided by competition among energy companies instead of being fixed by government regulations. With this change, Enron began to function more as a middleman than a traditional energy supplier, trading in energy contracts instead of buying and selling natural gas. Enron’s rapid growth created excitement among investors and drove the stock price up. As Enron grew, it expanded into other industries such as Internet services, and its financial contracts became more complicated.

    In order to keep growing at this rate, Enron began to borrow money to invest in new projects. However, because this debt would make their earnings look less impressive, Enron began to create partnerships that would allow it to keep debt off of its books. One partnership created by Enron, Chewco Investments (named after the Star Wars character Chewbacca) allowed Enron to keep $600 million in debt off of the books it showed to the government and to people who own Enron stock. When this debt did not show up in Enron’s reports, it made Enron seem much more successful than it actually was. In December 2000, Enron claimed to have tripled its profits in two years.
    In August 2001, Enron vice president Sherron Watkins sent an anonymous letter to the CEO of Enron, Kenneth Lay, describing accounting methods that she felt could lead Enron to “implode in a wave of accounting scandals.” Also in August, CEO Kenneth Lay sent e-mails to his employees saying that he expected Enron stock prices to go up. Meanwhile, he sold off his own stock in Enron.

    On October 22nd, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that Enron was under investigation. On November 8th, Enron said that it has overstated earnings for the past four years by $586 million and that it owed over $6 billion in debt by next year.

    With these announcements, Enron’s stock price took a dive. This drop triggered certain agreements with investors that made it necessary for Enron to repay their money immediately. When Enron could not come up with the cash to repay its creditors, it declared for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

     

  • »About GAAP«

  • TorontoSEO 8:16 PM on September 8, 2007 Permalink |
    Tags: About GAAP, , , , expense, , , , , ,   

    About GAAP

    While many businesses assume that accountants are bound by generally accepted accounting practices and that these are inviolate, nothing could be further from the truth. Everything is subject to interpretation, and GAAP is no different. For one thing, GAAP themselves permit alternative accounting methods to be used for certain expenses and for revenue in certain specialized types of businesses. For another, GAAP methods require that decisions be made about the timing for recording revenue and expenses, or they require that key factors be quantified. Deciding on the timing of revenue and expenses and putting definite values on these factors require judgments, estimates and interpretations.

    The mission of GAAP over the years has been to standardize accounting methods in order to bring about uniformity across all businesses. But alternative methods are still permitted for certain basic business expenses. No tests are required to determine whether one method is more preferable than another. A business is free to select whichever method it wants. But it must choose which cost of good sold expense method to use and which depreciation expense method to use.

    For other expenses and for sales revenue, one general accounting method has been established; there are no alternative methods. However, a business has a fair amount of latitude in actually implementing the methods. One business applies the accounting methods in a conservative manner, and another business applies the methods in a more liberal manner. The end result is more diversity between businesses in their profit measure and financial statements than one might expect, considering that GAAP have been evolving since 1930.

    The pronouncement on GAAP prepared by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is now more than 1000 pages long. And that doesn’t even include the rules and regulations issued by the federal regulatory agency that jurisdiction over the financial reporting and accounting methods of publicly owned businesses – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

     

  • »What are independent auditors?«

  • TorontoSEO 5:25 AM on September 5, 2007 Permalink |
    Tags: , , audit, , , , , , independent auditors, Indpendent, , , ,   

    What are independent auditors?

    Indpendent CPA auditors are like referees in the financial reporting arena. The CPA comes in, does an audit of the business’s accounting system and methods and gives a report that is attached to the company’s financial statements. Publicly owned businesses are required to have their annual financial reports audited by independent CPA firms and any privately owned businesses have audits done as well because they know that an audit report will add credibility to their financial reports.

    An auditor judges whether the business’s accounting methods are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Generally everything is in place and the financial report is a reliable document. But at times an auditor will wave a yellow or red flag. Some indicators of potential trouble include when the business’s capability to continue normal operations is in doubt because of what are known as financial exigencies, which could mean a low cash balance, unpaid overdue liabilities, or major lawsuits that the business doesn’t have the cash to cover.

    An auditor must exercise professional skepticism, meaning the auditor should challenge the accounting methods and reporting practices of the client in order to make sure that its financial statement conform with accounting standards and are not misleading – in short, that the financial statement are fairly presented. Indeed, the words “fairly presented” are the exact words used in the auditor’s report.

    A good auditor need technical know-how, but also needs to know how to be tough on the accounting methods of the client. His job is to be the agent of the shareholders and other users of the business’s financial report. It’s incumbent on an auditor to strictly uphold GAAP, and not let any irregularities slide.

    There are a number of well-known companies that engaged in accounting fraud recently and that fraud was not discovered by the CPA auditors. Enron is one of these companies. In this case, the auditing firm, Arthur Anderson was found guilty of obstruction of justice because it destroyed audit evidence.

     

  • »What is accounting fraud?«

  • TorontoSEO 5:18 AM on September 4, 2007 Permalink |
    Tags: Accounting fraud, , , , , , profit performance, , sales revenue, , , , , , What is accounting fraud   

    What is accounting fraud?

    Accounting fraud is a deliberate and improper manipulation of the recording of sales revenue and/or expenses in order to make a company’s profit performance appear better than it actually is. Some things that companies do that can constitute fraud are:

    –Not listing prepaid expenses or other incidental assets
    –Not showing certain classifications of current assets and/or liabilities
    –Collapsing short- and long-term debt into one amount.

    Over-recording sales revenue is the most common technique of accounting fraud. A business may ship products to customers that they haven’t ordered, knowing that those customers will return the products after the end of the year. Until the returns are made, the business records the shipments as if they were actual sales. Or a business may engage in channel stuffing. It delivers products to dealers or final customers that they really don’t want, but business makes deals on the side that provide incentives and special privileges if the dealers or customers don’t object to taking premature delivery of the products. A business may also delay recording products that have been returned by customers to avoid recognizing these offsets against sales revenue in the current year

    The other way a business commits accounting fraud is by under-recording expenses, such as not recording depreciation expense. Or a business may choose not to record all of its cost of goods sold expense fore the sales made during a period. This would make the gross margin higher, but the business’s inventory asset would include products that actually are not in inventory because they’ve been delivered to customers.

    A business might also choose not to record asset losses that should be recognized, such as uncollectible accounts receivable, or it might not write down inventory under the lower of cost or market rule. A business might also not record the full amount of the liability for an expense, making that liability understated in the company’s balance sheet. Its profit, therefore, would be overstated.

     
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