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Discuss two alleged irregularities in the actions between sellers of securities and Enron In 1985, Kenneth Lay merged the natural gas pipeline companies of Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth to form Enron.[5] In the early 1990s, he helped to initiate the selling of electricity at market prices and, soon after, the United States Congress passed legislation deregulating the sale of natural gas. The resulting markets made it possible for traders such as Enron to sell energy at higher prices, thereby significantly increasing their revenue.[6] After producers and local governments decried the resultant price volatility and pushed for increased regulation, strong lobbying on the part of Enron and others, was able to keep the free market system in place.[6][7]

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As Enron rose to become the largest seller of natural gas in North America by 1992, its gas contracts trading earned earnings before interest and taxes of $122 million, the second largest contributor to the companys net income. The November 1999 creation of the EnronOnline trading website allowed the company to better manage its contracts trading business.[8]

In an attempt to achieve further growth, Enron pursued a diversification strategy. The company owned and operated a variety of assets including gas pipelines, electricity plants, pulp and paper plants, water plants, and broadband services across the globe. The corporation also gained additional revenue by trading contracts for the same array of products and services it was involved in.[9]

As a result, Enrons stock rose from the start of the 1990s until year-end 1998 by 311% percent, a significant increase over the rate of growth in the Standard & Poor 500 index. The stock increased by 56% in 1999 and a further 87% in 2000, compared to a 20% increase and a 10% decline for the index during the same years. By December 31, 2000, Enron??™s stock was priced at $83.13 and its market capitalization exceeded $60 billion, 70 times earnings and six times book value, an indication of the stock market??™s high expectations about its future prospects. In addition, Enron was rated the most innovative large company in America in Fortunes Most Admired Companies survey.[10]

[edit] Causes of downfall Enrons nontransparent financial statements did not clearly depict its operations and finances with shareholders and analysts.[11][12] In addition, its complex business model and unethical practices required that the company use accounting limitations to misrepresent earnings and modify the balance sheet to portray a favorable depiction of its performance.[13] According to McLean and Elkid in their book The Smartest Guys in the Room, “The Enron scandal grew out of a steady accumulation of habits and values and actions that began years before and finally spiraled out of control.”[14] In an article by James Bodurtha, Jr., he argues that from 1997 until its demise, “the primary motivations for Enrons accounting and financial transactions seem to have been to keep reported income and reported cash flow up, asset values inflated, and liabilities off the books.”[15]

The combination of these issues later led to the bankruptcy of the company, and the majority of them were perpetuated by the indirect knowledge or direct actions of Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow, and other executives. Lay served as the chairman of the company in its last few years, and approved of the actions of Skilling and Fastow although he did not always inquire about the details. Skilling, constantly focused on meeting Wall Street expectations, pushed for the use of mark-to-market accounting and pressured Enron executives to find new ways to hide its debt. Fastow and other executives “…created

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