Financial Accounting Blog

Monday, August 18, 2003 - Enron Banks Dodge a Bullet
"One problem the government faced is that the banks are so big and important that the feds didn't want to risk the serious damage that a criminal prosecution would do to innocent employees and shareholders (think Arthur Andersen). And only a handful of employees at each bank worked on Enron. Prosecuting individual bankers would be a difficult task too. Like many of Enron's other financial tricks, the prepays were clearly deceptive in commonsense terms. Yet in technical terms, thanks to clever contortions of accounting and legal requirements, they passed muster with the experts. How do you prosecute individual bankers when accountants and lawyers gave their consent?

It's this rules-based, rather than ethically grounded, way of thinking that regulators hope to change. As part of the settlement, both Chase and Citi have agreed to modify their business practices in ways that should prevent them from engaging in transactions like the prepays-transactions that help a company like Enron disguise its true financial condition to investors. "