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Enron and Use of Special Purpose Entites

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Enron and the Special Purpose Entity. Use or Abuse? The Real Problem - The Real Focus
Neal F. Newman
Texas Wesleyan Law School

This working paper is hosted by The Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress) and may not be commercially reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder. Copyright c 2006 by the author.

Enron and the Special Purpose Entity. Use or Abuse? The Real Problem - The Real Focus
In December of 2001, Enron Corporation filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code; one of the largest corporate bankruptcy filings at that time. When the investigations commenced and the tangled Enron web was unraveled, it was discovered that Enron had perpetrated a very sophisticated form of accounting fraud through its repeated use of what are referred to as Special Purpose Entities (“SPEs”). In their most basic forms, SPEs are business entities formed for the purpose of conducting a well specified activity such as construction of a gas pipeline, or collection of a specific group of accounts receivable. However, because of their complex nature, SPEs can be used to manipulate a corporation’s financial results, which was the primary use for which Enron employed the SPE structure. As a result, the investment and financial community has cast a dark cloud over the special purpose entity, depicting the SPE as an inherently evil structure whose only purpose is to defraud, obfuscate and manipulate a company’s financial results. The purpose of this piece is to challenge this assumption and conclusion as incorrect. This article shows how the SPE abuse Enron perpetrated was neither an indictment of the SPE or the accounting regime under which Enron was operating, but of individuals who intentionally ran afoul of the accounting and disclosure rules that were...

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