The year 2001 witnessed a series of financial information frauds involving :
- Enron Corporation
- Arthur Andersen (Auditing firm )
- WorldCom (the telecommunications company)
- Qwest and Sunbeam
- Among other well-known corporations
These problems highlighted the need to review the effectiveness of accounting standards, auditing regulations and corporate governance principles. In some cases, management manipulated the figures shown in financial reports to indicate a better economic performance. In others, tax and regulatory incentives encouraged over-leveraging of companies and decisions to bear extraordinary and unjustified risk.
The Enron scandal deeply influenced the development of new regulations to improve the reliability of financial reporting, and increased public awareness about the importance of having accounting standards that show the financial reality of companies and the objectivity and independence of auditing firms.
In addition to being the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history, the Enron scandal undoubtedly is the biggest audit failure. The scandal caused the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which at the time was one of the five largest accounting firms in the world. It involved a financial scandal of Enron Corporation and their auditors Arthur Andersen, which was revealed in late 2001. After a series of revelations involving irregular accounting procedures conducted throughout the 1990s, Enron
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2001.
One consequence of these events was the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, as a result of the first admissions of fraudulent behavior made by Enron. The act significantly raises criminal penalties for securities fraud, for destroying, altering or fabricating records in federal investigations or any scheme or attempt to defraud shareholders.