Financial Accounting Blog

Sunday, October 05, 2003

A Post-Enron Lexicon for Wall Street. I found this BusinessWeek article interesting because it's about the new Webster's World Finance and Investment dictionary which lists terms like "Enronitis".
Much has changed in the financial world in the last few years. A three-and-a half-year bear market, corporate scandals, and technology's relentless march have left their mark -- and changed Wall Street's vocabulary. The recently published Webster's New World Finance and Investment Dictionary -- the first ever from Webster -- reflects those changes, with such additions as "Enronitis," "Wi-Fi," "digital piracy," and "special-purpose vehicle" to the financial lexicon.

The following examples probably don't show up in finance and investment dictionaries that are more than five years old (and didn't appear in Houghton Mifflin's 1988 Every Investor's Guide to Wall Street Words, to name one):

• Accounting fraud: "Knowingly falsifying accounting records, such as sales or cost records, in order to boost net income or sales figures. Accounting fraud is illegal and subjects the company and the executives involved to civil lawsuits."

• Chinese Wall: "The separation that should exist between a bank's investment banking department and its research department.... [After the market began to fall in 2000] it became apparent that the Chinese Wall had developed some gaping holes."

• Cooking the books: "A slang term that means illegally falsifying financial statements."

• Off-balance-sheet transactions: "Financial deals and arrangements that can have a material effect on a company but are structured in such a way that they do not show up on a company's balance sheet and do not affect a company's borrowing capacity."