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Enron: An examination of agency problems

De Lange, P and Arnold, B 2004, 'Enron: An examination of agency problems', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, vol. 15, no. 6-7, pp. 751-765.

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Enron: An examination of agency problems
Author(s) De Lange, P
Arnold, B
Year 2004
Journal name Critical Perspectives on Accounting
Volume number 15
Issue number 6-7
Start page 751
End page 765
Total pages 14
Publisher Academic Press
Abstract In 1912 it was an iceberg that brought about the demise of the Titanic, 89 years later it was the submerged components that sank the 'unsinkable' Enron vessel. The lessons of that fateful voyage cast a stark metaphoric reminder of the difficulties inherent in maintaining the goal congruence of those at the helm with those owners who financed the voyage. The speed and stealth with which the vessels careered into the highly volatile and obscured surroundings of a Bull market made the stakes even higher. As those in the boiler room were asked to stoke the fires for 'full steam ahead', faithfully oblivious to the ubiquitous catastrophes about to unfold, those seeking immediate gains placed enormous pressure on decision makers for high-risk decisions. Decisions made at the expense of longevity, at all costs and with contempt for responsibilities owed to those from whom faith had been entrusted. This article examines how information asymmetry and opportunistic behaviour of agents (executives, auditors and legal firms) and the inability of the principals (owners and agents) to control it, made the Enron collapse more catastrophic. The loss of thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of employee's superannuation funds, including the losses borne by shareholders, creditors and analysts floats like debris around the Enron remains. As the morning light painstakingly illuminated each piece of Enron debris revealing a seemingly unending expanse of revelations and questions remain regarding significant contradictions and failures in the key mechanisms of capitalism; namely market efficiency and corporate governance. This has left us all with the surreal feeling that the enormity of the ramifications of Enron may never be fully revealed.
Subject Accounting Theory and Standards
Keyword(s) agency problems
Enron
bull market
DOI - identifier 10.1016/j.cpa.2003.08.005
Copyright notice Copyright © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
ISSN 1045-2354
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Created: Mon, 09 Aug 2010, 09:02:12 EST by Catalyst Administrator