Enron's legacy

Could more regulation have prevented the collapse of Enron Corporation, the huge energy and online trading company that last month became the largest company in history to declare bankruptcy? That is the question the Senate will pursue in Governmental Affairs Committee hearings that start January 24. The unexpected and sudden failure of the Texas energy giant, the seventh largest company in America, is, in committee chairman Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) words, "an alarm call to all of us in government." Enron was known for the millions it spent buying influence on Capitol Hill as well as for the aggressive pursuit of deregulation and regulatory exemptions in its energy trading business. Questions are being asked about what favors, if any, Enron got from the Bush administration.

The Houston-based company declared bankruptcy just weeks after accountants revealed that Enron had been overstating its profits for four years. Lost were $60 billion of shareholder investment, forty-five hundred jobs, and the savings of thousands upon thousands of workers and retirees.

Pension-fund mismanagement, stock fraud, the breach of fiduciary responsibility in favor of personal enrichment, dubious accounting practices-these are the major lines of inquiry into the complex Enron debacle. Lieberman’s committee promises a full look in order to restore confidence in the public accountability of business and publicly traded stocks...

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